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Rethinking Parenthood

While this season of celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be a very special time to express and receive gratitude and love, for some, it can be a mixed emotional bag, fraught with a multitude of less-than-joyful emotions.

Moments and memories of the patter of little feet, scrambling to make and deliver breakfast in bed to mom or dad, are priceless for those who have the privilege of enjoying them. However, for anyone who has longed to become a parent, but has struggled with fertility challenges, lack of relationship, or whose dysfunctional family was never represented by the Hallmark commercials, these holidays can be a source of tremendous sadness, uncertainty, and loneliness.

Such challenges of living are indeed realities, but they do not need to leave us feeling helpless or in a place of despair. In fact, when we choose to be sensitive to the diversity of each other’s lives in a nonassumptive way, we can take opportunities of celebration to open our hearts even bigger to increase the possibilities of joy and connection for everyone.

Instead of myopically focusing on our own little world—whether it is full of joy or is heavy with grief—we can shift our inner lens in such a way as to acknowledge the truth of our own and each other’s experiences, and simply make the conscious decision to be inclusive. When our own circle is filled with love, we can share this abundance with others. Similarly, when our cup feels empty, we can allow ourselves to receive the beauty that overflows around us in our community. Most importantly, when we choose to be “real” and compassionate, no one needs to feel alone or left behind.

I like to think of motherhood and fatherhood as being all about service. This service may or may not include the parenting of human children, which is of course the most commonly understood form we are familiar with. As beings on this planet during whatever tenure we have here, every one of us has the opportunity to care for others in a loving way—and hopefully also to be similarly cared for by others as well.

Why not start a new tradition around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day by increasing our sensitivity to those around us and finding ways to enjoy celebrating the loving service of each other? The details of this can look many ways, but by simply tweaking our mindset with a more inclusive perspective, everyone can know that they have a place at the table to celebrate and have something beautiful to share.

Theresa is a kindness advocate, chef, wellness educator, and the award-winning Author of YUM: Plant-Based Recipes for a Gluten‑Free Diet.