This is part of a new series I started this year! I often wonder what other mothers find wonderful and challenging about motherhood. I particularly wonder how faith impacts other mothers in their parenting journeys. My faith is centered in the Orthodox Christian Church, so I reached out to other Orthodox women to see if they would share some thoughts about parenting and faith. I’ve been delighted with their responses and I hope–whether you are Orthodox or not–that you find their answers inspiring and encouraging!
This week I’m happy to share wise words from my friend Janine. Our friendship goes back almost fifteen years to when we worked as camp counselors at the Antiochian Village summer camp together! Just thinking about those months spent together brings a smile to my face and a feeling of homesickness to my heart. While we don’t see each other often, it’s rather fun that we started our motherhood journeys around the same time. I’ll let her share more. Enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family:
Hello! My name is Janine Ajalat. My husband is David Ajalat. We have been married for almost 5 years and we have one daughter, Eliana, who is 18 months old. David is a corporate lawyer in Century City, CA and I work part-time as an anesthesiologist in Santa Monica, CA. We live in Santa Monica. We were both born into the Orthodox faith. We attend a mission church called St. Simeon in Santa Clarita, CA and David’s father, Fr. George Ajalat, is the priest there. We enjoy hiking, sports, music, and spending time with family and friends.
What is one of your favorite aspects of parenting?
One of my favorite aspects of parenting is simply watching my daughter grow, change every day, and seeing her personality blossom. She is learning and developing so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. Seeing her happy, laughing, and smiling is one of the greatest things about being a parent.
What is the thing you find most difficult about parenting?
One of the most difficult things of parenting is trying to be consistent with routine, discipline, etc. Sometimes it seems much easier to give in and let my daughter do what she pleases, because after all, that will stop her crying and stop my headache! But giving in, even though it may be easier in the short term, creates a larger problem as time goes on, and makes things much harder. My current struggle is getting my daughter to eat her meal in her highchair. After a couple of bites, she wants out! Yet she still wants to eat, so I end up chasing her around the house with food as she continues to play. Although it may seem like I’m making it easier for me (she’s eating her food, getting nutrients, not unhappy), now every meal is a struggle.
What is your best practical tip for creating an Orthodox home?
Through consistence, routine, and repetition, we are able to create an Orthodox home. My daughter does thrive on routine, so when we can, we try to keep things consistent. We strive to attend church every Sunday. She expects and looks forward to that. Being consistent in praying before and/or after meals and including prayers as a part of our bedtime routine has allowed my daughter to now think of those things as a part of her everyday life, and something may be missing if we don’t do those things. Every time she sees a cross, she kisses it, because she associates that with her bedtime prayers and kissing the cross. The same thing applies with icons. Through repetition, she is starting to make the sign of the cross. We try to teach her kindness and gentleness and talk about Jesus often.
How has your Orthodox faith impacted your parenting?
Our faith has guided us in raising our daughter. We try to practice patience, understanding, comfort, forgiveness, gentleness, generosity, and most important unconditional love.
What is the hardest thing about raising your children in the faith at the stage of life your kids are in right now?
The hardest part is definitely being in church. Right now, our daughter is so active and curious that my husband and I no longer stand in church quietly, but we are constantly running after our daughter who can’t sit still and loves to try to enter the altar during service! We try not to be a distraction to others in church, but selfishly, we would like to be in the church and not spend the whole time in the nursery with her because we want her to experience the liturgy.
What advice do you have for other moms raising their kids in the Orthodox faith?
Have your faith be the core of your parenting and lead by example.
What’s your favorite Orthodox parenting book?
I actually don’t have one! Any suggestions?
What’s your favorite Orthodox children’s book?
Nika Boyd’s ABC book for the Orthodox faith!
I love this so much: “Being consistent in praying before and/or after meals and including prayers as a part of our bedtime routine has allowed my daughter to now think of those things as a part of her everyday life, and something may be missing if we don’t do those things.” I’m sure lots of mamas can also relate to the struggle of being in church with little ones–I know I can! And the Orthodox ABC is a favorite for Josephine, too! Thank you so much for sharing, Janine!