This is part of a 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 excited to introduce you to my friend, Mariah. She and her husband have been friends of ours for years. Since they’ve moved from the Midwest we don’t see them nearly enough, but I am constantly inspired by their family and their faith. So grateful to Mariah for sharing about her life and her kids today; can’t wait for you to read her words, especially her Orthodox/baseball analogy!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
I am mom to three amazing kids, Jonah (5), Nadine (3) and Christian (1). We live in Walpole MA. I am a surgeon and my husband Khalil is an iconographer and stay at home dad. Khalil and I both grew up in the Orthodox church, and love watching our kids learn and grow in their faith.
What is one of your favorite aspects of parenting?
As with many of my fellow Villagers who may be reading this, one of my most rewarding experiences growing up was going to camp and ultimately becoming a counselor. As it turns out, this is just a small taste of the incredible experience of being a parent. You are entrusted with these tiny people who go from being completely dependent on you, to exploring the world around them, to growing up to be their own person with their own values and faith. You have the privilege of guiding and molding and supporting them along the way. It is exhausting, physically and emotionally, but also rewarding beyond words.
What is the thing you find most difficult about parenting?
PATIENCE. Parenthood requires more patience than anything else I have encountered, and I never before knew what a weakness this was for me. Children are masters at trying patience, often unintentionally but sometimes very intentionally, and I have realized that I am (and may always be!) a real work in progress when it comes to this skill.
What is your best practical tip for creating an Orthodox home?
Create an Orthodox home before you have children. Have a routine for prayers before meals, before bed. Be active in your church as a married couple. If it is already at the core of your marriage and home, it will be a natural part of your life with your children too.
How has your Orthodox faith impacted your parenting?
In Orthodoxy we encounter the recurring themes of humility and unconditional love. I’ve realized that these are the same values that make up the foundation of parenthood. It is the most humbling experience, full of mistakes and failures and admitting to yourself and others your own faults and weaknesses; going through this process as an Orthodox Christian your entire life prepares you for parenthood. Conversely the humility we develop as parents carries over to our faith and our relationship with Christ. This humility is complemented by unconditional love, even at our most undeserving moments. We are told at a young age about God’s unconditional love for us, and witness it in various ways throughout our life, but I’m not sure I ever fully understood this concept before becoming a mother. Experiencing that unconditional love for your own children gives you a better understanding of and appreciation for the love we receive from God.
What is the hardest thing about raising your children in the faith at the stage of life your kids are in right now?
Explaining Orthodox theology on their level. Kids come up with amazing questions, and I find it difficult to teach them what I want them to know in a way that they can understand and process the information. Even the most familiar Bible stories sound absolutely horrifying when read to preschoolers (Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac? Christ being crucified on the cross? Joseph’s brothers throwing him down a well then selling him into slavery?). It forces me to fully explore and understand my own beliefs and the lessons these stories are teaching us to be able to break it down for them. It never before occurred to me how difficult this could be!
What advice do you have for other moms raising their kids in the Orthodox faith?
I am not sure that I am at all qualified to give advice! I’m still figuring this out myself, constantly. Ultimately I think the best we can do is to teach by example. I’m going to borrow this perfect analogy from my husband. How do you raise kids to be Ohio State (or Red Sox, or insert any sports team) fans? Not by lecturing them on the importance of the sport. Not by boring them with the history of the game. You watch the games together, you cheer them on as a family, they experience that love and enthusiasm with you and it becomes contagious. It becomes part of who they are. Raising them to become Orthodox Christians is no different.
What’s your favorite Orthodox parenting book?
Parenting Toward the Kingdom, by Phillip Mamalakis. Highly recommended.
What’s your favorite Orthodox children’s book?
H is for Holy, by Nika Boyd.
Thank you so much, Mariah! I especially love your wisdom about creating an Orthodox home before you have kids; such great advice! Also, thanks for the keeping-it-real photos of your kiddos in church–they are precious and perfect!
P.S. You can read the rest of the series here.