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The Contemplative Work of Parenting




I fear that Penelope Trunk is missing out on something. In case you don’t know her she is the author of Brazen Careerist, a thoughtful blog that is all about work and life. She’s intense, smart and very much to-the-point. So much so that some people love her stuff and others…well, you get the point.


I don’t always agree with Penelope but she speaks from the heart and does offer some truly brilliant career advice. This post of hers bothers me though.


She talks about parenting as difficult, occasionally boring and often unsatisfying. She cites evidence of this that she says backs her up.


The Missing Link


What I think Penelope is missing is a sense of contemplation. Contemplation cannot be easily measured just as parenting cannot be summed up in a Harvard Business Review article. I know of no metric that calibrates one's contemplative(ness). Just as it is intuitive that a mom-dad family unit makes the most sense for kids, being a contemplative parent just seems right.  When you develop a pattern of screaming at your kids, you know deep down that there's something that's "off" about what's going on.


I’ve witnessed three child births and while I did not have the “religious experience” that I’ve heard others dads speak of (I was much too nervous for that!), it was nothing short of mind-blowing. To later hold your child and have him/her stare back at you, no blinking necessary, is nothing short of incredible.


Ordinary and Contemplative Moments


Most nights, I will just wash up and go to bed but occasionally, I’m reminded of the treasures that await as I walk upstairs to the children’s rooms. I watch them sleeping for just a few seconds and see the face of God.


As Mother Theresa described the poor as “God in his distressing disguise”, I wonder if parenting provides us with a string of contemplative moments. Moments that allow us to see the very presence of God in something as innocent as a child.


Contemplation is good. It’s been described as “the long, loving look at the real” and it can apply to nature, to one’s work or to the face of a child. It’s probably what each of us can use more of- more frequent loving looks at what really matters in life.  So, for Penelope and any other parent out there who feels stressed or out of place spending time with your kids, see it as a contemplative moment.


Sometimes contemplation is the most important "work" we can do.


*Photo by Carf

Spirituality of Work (Podcast #9)

Christ our Light Cathedral in Oakland, CA