They’ve served actively. Now they’re married and diving into the “baby business.”
How can young adult Baha’is find avenues of service that fit around parenthood?
Billie Kay Bodie of Burchard, Nebraska, raised these concerns in consultation at the recent 104th U.S. Baha’i National Convention.
Thankfully, she had an example at the ready of someone who is bridging that gap: her daughter, Katie Bodie Cervantes, who lives about an hour north in Lincoln.
The young mother of two — Penelope, 2 1/2, and Dante, 1 — found that after becoming a parent, she had to prioritize her time based on her children’s needs.
“This meant not attending or leaving early from Baha’i activities, scheduling around nap and bedtime, and awareness of my children’s state of being so that we would not disrupt Baha’i activities that required reverence or thoughtful study,” Cervantes reflects.
At first, she says, she was disappointed that her level of involvement in Baha’i core activities and other community life had lessened.
But after prayer and reflection on the guidance and the goals of her cluster, “I asked myself how I could serve the Cause with our current family structure.”
One outcome was a commitment by Cervantes and her husband, Pablo, to nurture their children spiritually within the home.
Among the ideas they picked up in the book Creating a Baha’i Identity in Our Children by Sovaida Ma’ani Ewing: pray and sing together, share and act out Baha’i stories, teach obedience to sacred laws.
Then she widened the circle. Last summer, Cervantes launched a monthly devotional gathering for her friends and their kids.
“It is easy to start a group like this. Any mommy can do it,” she says. “I simply picked an initial date and personally invited a handful of mommies to come to my home for a ‘play and pray’ date.
“I told them that we would share meaningful conversation related to motherhood and children, followed by snacks and play. Each mother was encouraged to bring a prayer or writing related to the selected topic.”
The gathering has grown to average five to eight mothers, with one to three children each, and two pregnant women “soon to pop.”
Several weeks in advance of each gathering, Cervantes sends out an email invitation announcing the topic — they range from spiritual and moral education of children to New Year’s resolutions, health and wellness.
Participants are of many faiths and hail from several lands, including Spain, Russia, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
“Most foreign mommies came to the U.S. for university study and subsequently made Lincoln, Nebraska, their home,” says Cervantes.
“Given that the majority of participants speak Spanish, we often enjoy devotions and conversation in that language, too.”
And the children?
Some listen or contribute to the devotions and dialogue, says Cervantes. Others play quietly in the same room as the adults or play together in another room.
“When the weather is nice, after devotions, we walk to the park together for continued play and conversation.”
Recently, she says, several of the moms have commented on “how much they enjoy having meaningful conversation that stretches beyond typical, day-to-day dialogue.”
“The ladies are starting to open up and share personal and often sentimental thoughts or experiences (e.g. loss of a family member, parenting struggles, marital issues, health complications, work problems, etc.).”
Between gatherings, Cervantes gets together with many of the moms individually “because these women are becoming my close friends.” She and Pablo also are fostering friendships with the dads.
As a result, some of the group have participated in Holy Day observances and Naw-Ruz parties.
“So they are open to attending Baha’i activities,” says Cervantes.
A neighborhood children’s class would seem a natural, but she is proceeding cautiously because many of the moms are involved in Sunday schools at their churches.
More likely to come about soon is a Ruhi Book 1 study circle.