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I am just 19 and already have a two month old baby boy. My son’s father has abandoned me and I am now a single mother, staying with my parents...

Life is always in transition

I am just 19 and already have a two month old baby boy. My son’s father has abandoned me and I am now a single mother, staying with my parents. I am a little lost with my life, and wonder how to proceed. Some of my friends suggest that I try to go to Australia and send money back for my son. Other friends recommend that I get re-married soon. I want to be a good mother, but don’t know what to do. I feel sad that my life is passing me by and I am doing nothing. Lama, please advise me.

– UT, Thimphu

Well, there is no single format to being a good mother, but as a simple guideline I suggest that you spend as much time with your son as possible. This is the most important aspect for a mother-child relationship.

Personally, I would forget about Australia. Your son needs you, not money. In reality, his ipad and Nike trainers will soon be broken and gone and he probably won’t even remember them when he gets older. Obviously, I’m not saying that you deny your son the latest gadgets. It is just that they will not help him develop the wisdom and social skills that will help him through life. In contrast, spending quality time with you and his family will mould his character and prepare him for adult life. In this respect, there is no substitute for raising a child in a close and supportive family. Money and property are nothing in comparison.

Also, I certainly don’t recommend that you marry quickly just to get the support of a partner. If your parents are prepared to help you, then devote your efforts to raising your baby boy. I know it is tough, but don’t see it as a burden. In reality, being a mother is a precious experience. Each day, for example, make sure your baby is clean. Sing to him and take him out so that he can enjoy fresh air and experience new things. Make him feel that he is cherished and loved.

Slowly, you may meet someone who you like and who you feel will be a good father. Still, I suggest that you don’t rush into a formal relationship and certainly don’t get pregnant again! Instead, take time to get to know the guy and only set up a home with him when you feel that he is fully committed to both you and to your son.

Furthermore, you should consider getting a job when your son starts PP. Kitchen work would be good as it will allow you to develop cooking skills. Otherwise house-keeping or driving might be convenient in terms of working hours. Anyway, take pride that you are providing for yourself, your son and your family and never think that any honest work is below you. Seeing his mother working hard will inspire him, and you will be his life-long role model. Remember it is not the kind of job that gives us dignity as a human being, but how we do the work.

In reality, your present life is not a transition period and that one day in the future you will wake up and suddenly everything will be settled and your real life will begin. Life is always in transition, and this very moment is your actual life. However, to realise this point you need to drop your hopes for the future and instead accept your situation right now. In this respect, when you wake up in the morning, consider how fortunate you are to have a bed to sleep in and food to eat (how many people at this moment are sleeping on the streets or living in refugee camps). Have a sense of gratitude and delight for what you have. Don’t dwell on the things you don’t have, but remind yourself of the things that you do have. Take joy that you are a mother of a lovely baby and do your work in a way that will inspire you and those around you.

Basically, I advise you to not think that you have a problem that needs solving, but instead fully accept your situation and do your very best for your child. You will make lots of mistakes, but that is also part of the journey. I further suggest that you read “Old Path White Clouds”. It is an account of the Buddha’s life, but it is not a history book, but a tale of an ordinary man who faced the ups and downs of life and uncovered his innate wisdom. You will definitely identify with the characters and realise that not only you face difficulties, but that even the Buddha encountered problems.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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