As a mother of two young ladies, I approached learning motherhood as a science. The Baha’i Faith helped me see that motherhood is as serious as a career path where you need to study, reflect, and apply an evidence-based approach.
Many of the images of motherhood I witnessed as a teenager were marked by the culture I was born into and did not reflect the teachings of my faith, the Baha’i Faith. I was born and raised in a culture that viewed the role of men and women in society, and what is expected of each, as drastically different. Meanwhile, other so-called “modern” portrayals of womanhood belittled the role of motherhood, encouraging extreme individualism and materialism. They reduced the value of manual labor of raising children.
Early on, Baha’i principles like the independent investigation of truth helped me become an independent young woman who loved science and scientific discoveries, and who looked for an equal partner in marriage. Many years ago, when my husband and I first explored the idea of marriage, we studied the compilation “Baha’i Marriage and Family Life” together. I remember those conversations very clearly because they changed many of the early ideas I had about my role as a woman and as a mother. It showed me how mothers have a key role in bringing peace and great victories to the world.
In many ways, society only gives lip service to the importance of motherhood. There is social pressure for all women to become mothers, but very few social protections or realistic expectations for mothers and their children. The Baha’i Faith clarifies how we can bring harmony and progress to society by raising the moral standards for both men and women. Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote:
The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be. The Baha’i Faith emphasizes the importance of educating and protecting women, and highlights their key role as the educators of the world.
I was impressed by the words of Abdu’l-Baha indicating that women have to be educated, precisely because we might become mothers and therefore the trainers of the new generation. Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “…it is incumbent upon the girls of this glorious era to be fully versed in the various branches of knowledge, in sciences and the arts and all the wonders of this pre-eminent time, that they may then educate their children and train them from their earliest days in the ways of perfection.” This emphasis on the education of women outlined what was expected of me as a mother. I understood that I should read and study. I should make conscious decisions, backed by the holy writings, about my kids’ education at home and at school. I should, as Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it,” and to raise my children “even as a gardener tendeth his young plants.” And I should appreciate fellow mothers who also shoulder this heavy responsibility.
The Baha’i Writings give great importance to couples’ decision-making for the good functioning of the family. Learning to have meaningful conversations as I advance in the journey of motherhood has allowed me to increase my understanding and strengthen the education of my children. Just as I pursued my college education and my career as a science educator, constant consultation, and evaluation of the results allowed me to improve little by little in my role as a mother.
Those early studies of the Baha’i Writings shone a light on the important role my husband had as a father: his responsibility to provide financial support, his duty to ensure his children learn to read and write. The writings showed us how involved the father has to be in the education of his children, and explained that being the breadwinner of the household does not imply an oversized importance or authority, thus avoiding resentment on either side, as happens in many societies. I realized that I should ensure that my children benefit from their father’s presence, and ensure that my husband felt free to have a role in the education of our children, even if cultural norms tend to limit his role to just that of a breadwinner.
These are only a few examples of truths found in the Baha’i Writings that illuminated my life when I started my family. Studying made it clear to me how empowering it is to reflect on my own upbringing and consciously choose what I wanted to bring into our new family, and what I needed to leave behind. Studying and consulting helped me create a new vision of motherhood. I’m honored and humbled by the challenge, but at the same time proud of my role.