I am a stay-at-home mom, a household manager, a CPO (Chief Parenting Officer) – call it what you want, but I have found it to be one of the most challenging roles I have ever filled. My daughters light up my world on a daily basis, sometimes with the joyous grins on their faces as they put on dance performances or play tag and sometimes with the lightening that accompanies their hurricane-like behavior that leaves my world spinning. Josie and Lily are 3 and 1 respectively and both are very loving and affectionate – true snuggle bugs. And yet, these same snuggle bugs can tear a room apart in 3 seconds flat and make me question my decision to be a stay-at-home mom. They are strong-willed which simultaneously makes me proud and makes me shiver in my boots– what will this mean when I have 2 teenage girls in the house??? For the record, I am not doing this parenting gig alone. The Hubs, aka Jay, is a master at play and willingly dons princess tiaras and sips “tea” while sitting in tiny chairs at a tiny table. The girls love him. I love him. But, as in most families, one parent bears more of the parenting responsibilities and, in our family, that parent is me.
Parents bear great responsibility to raise their children to be self-sufficient, responsible, and, hopefully, empathetic and caring individuals. Growing up, I think my mom did a bang-up job of teaching my brother and me to care about others and try to make a difference whenever possible. Many of the lessons she taught us were through church-sponsored programs and had some sort of religious tilt to them. Now, let me be clear about this: we were not a die-hard, church-every-Sunday, pray-before-meals kind of family. Most times she herded us kicking and screaming out of the house to our place of worship or bribed us with breakfast out afterwards (yes, I was a sucker for New Jersey diners growing up.) When I was old enough to make the decision, you know, the ripe old age of about 15, I stopped attending church. I never went back – aside from the occasional funeral mass or baptism that one encounters in adulthood. Sound familiar? I know others exist out there. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has dubbed us “Nones,” a clever play on our answer when asked about our religious affiliation. Read more about their findings here. So, Nones, are you out there? And, are you feeling what I am feeling?
Lately, I have been feeling conflicted about the idea of raising my children without religion in their lives. So, I began to think about what it was I thought my girls would be missing by not attending a church or other form of organized religion. And it dawned on me that the most important lessons I learned were not at all exclusive to religion – in fact, I have been practicing them for my entire adult life without any “help” from religion at all. EUREKA! I do not need to feel guilty about raising non-religious children. But, to be the best CPO I can be, I do need a plan to bring to life my dream of raising well-adjusted, civically-engaged, independent women. Will you join me on this journey? I will be searching for fun, family-friendly ways to teach my kids lessons about “giving back.” Hopefully, I’ll learn a thing or two along the way. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll inspire another family to take this journey too. Wouldn’t that be amazing?!