In case you need to be caught up, here are the links to the previous 6 steps.
step 01 // narrow your playing field
step 02 // don’t victimize yourself
step 03 // make yourself a priority
step o4 // get away
step 05 // put down your phone
step 06 // break routine
step 08 // share the care
step 09 // wait
step 07 // go to church
WAIT!! If you are not religious or do not have any theistic leanings, please, just hear me out before you desperately jump to the back button. I am not trying to preach here and my only intensions are to share my experiences and how they have been beneficial to both our family and me. I ask that you have grace and patience with me as I embark on a deeply personal and often times emotional topic.
There are four reasons I feel people should participate in a religious community, whether religious or not, to keep a child from ever ruining their lives. I believe these are vital components of society that have been lost with modernity and the dawning of the suburbs that most religious communities have managed to preserve in some way, shape, or form. There are no other social forms in our society that I can think of that fulfill all these roles at the same time.
First, free childcare. Yes, your child can play and socialize while you sip your coffee in peace for at least an hour and you don’t have to fork over a penny. Find a community where you know that every single volunteer has had a rigorous background check, thorough training and has a standard procedure that children or students will never be left alone with a single adult at any moment (you should have these same concerns with any childcare situation). Having this free hour of head space will make room for my second point, which is so vital to living an aware and balanced life.
Second, centering and mindfulness. There are all kinds of faiths and communities with different perspectives and expressions. Find somewhere where you feel safe and comfortable to center yourself, reset for the week, and focus on how you are living your life. Where are you wasting energy? How can you better yourself? Slow down your mind and breathe slowly, inviting the universe into every deep inhale and letting out the stresses of life with each exhale.
Third, familiarity with children. If you are not a parent, when was the last time you held a baby? Or how often do you have the opportunity to play with children? Are most of your friends your age and in the same stage of life as you? We once lived in a society where generations were mixed. We helped each other raise our children. We looked to our elders for wisdom and guidance. The idea that someone would never be around children was unthinkable. Today we live in a generationally segregated society. In our young 20’s and 30’s we aren’t around children very often and if we are it is from a distance. We leave our friends house in relief when their kids get out of hand, am I right? It should come as no surprise that many of us believe that having children will ruin our lives. We aren’t around children enough to know any better! In most religious communities the generations are still mixed. There is a unique opportunity to be in the same social setting with people of all ages, offering a unique opportunity to learn and grow from every generation, including children.
Lastly and I feel most importantly, community. A place of worship is a place where people take care of each other and the world. They come around each other to offer friendship, love, a shared table of food, care when you’re ill and good thoughts when you ask for them. They gather together to feed the needy, care for the earth or join in solidarity with the suffering. When you have a baby, and are losing your mind with frustration and fatigue, they stop by your house with a hot meal and a few tricks on how to soothe an upset newborn. It is this kind of community that is so vital for human life but is completely anemic in our society. This is why I feel it is so vital to join yourself to some sort of faith community.
There is nowhere else you can find all four of these things, free childcare, mindfulness, intergenerational interaction and a sense of community than in a religious community. Even if you don’t have faith in God, most religious communities will love and accept you as you are, admitting their own lack of faith in the process. If you take the risk to participate in a religious community, your life will feel less shattered by the arrival of a child and more fully whole.