The Mishna (Nazir 2:7) cited at the end of yesterday’s daf (Nazir 12b), which serves as a springboard for much of the discussion in today’s daf (Nazir 13a), describes a situation where a man or woman proclaims that they will become a Nazir when a child is born to them.
To be clear, the circumstances surrounding this proclamation are not entirely clear – such that it may refer to a man and woman who are hoping to have a child, or it may refer to an already expectant mother or father. Still, what this Mishna seems to describe is the intent of a hopeful or soon-to-be parent to spiritually transform themselves upon the birth of a child.
Having worked with young parents in various settings, it is quite clear to me that having a child is oftentimes used by individuals and couples as a springboard for personal and spiritual transformation. For example, someone who is a workaholic may likely commit themselves to changing their work-life balance once they become a parent. Or someone who doesn’t regularly attend synagogue may make a commitment to start attending once they become a parent. Or someone who may be lax in terms of their kashrut observance may say to themselves that once they become a parent they will be more committed to strictly observe the kashrut laws.
Admittedly, just like the case of the Mishna, there isn’t necessarily an obvious connection between the lifestyle change that a hopeful or soon-to-be parent promises to themselves, and the demands of parenting per se. Still, in almost every situation, becoming responsible for someone else in the world triggers a profound change in the way one sees oneself – which can then be harnessed as a remarkably powerful motivator towards personal and spiritual growth.
However, while this phenomenon occurs, it is important to remember the teaching of our Sages (see Avot 2:4) that we should not delay personal or spiritual change until a given event occurs, in case that event doesn’t occur. Given all this, while parenting can be – and often is – a catalyst for growth and change, and while some people use parenting as a condition for certain aspects of growth and change, the ideal is to grow and change unconditionally – because this is what we wish to do, and ultimately because we will become a better person as a result of that growth and change.