I want to preface this by mentioning that this is not an easy post for me to write. Although I’ve been documenting my life as a parent online for well over a year now, it isn’t often that I share intimate details of my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. What I want to discuss tonight is something that’s been weighing heavily on my heart for well over a month and I hope that you’ll allow me the rare opportunity to be vulnerable with you without judgement.
Last month, I had lunch with my incredible friend Bethany. She’s someone I’ve been close with for several years and I was happy for the chance to spend some time with her while she was back in town. As we were eating, we witnessed a father and his young son at a table near us. Before they began eating, they sat together and prayed. It was really moving. But it was also heartbreaking, for me. Heartbreaking because that’s not something that I can share with my own daughter. We’ll never (at least not at this particular moment in our lives) share a moment like that together because I am parenting without faith.
Having grown up in a Christian household, been a leader in my youth group during high school, and active in my religious community during college, I am no stranger to what it means to have faith. While attending undergraduate studies with a major in a religion and culture so vastly different from my own, I began exploring other faith based systems. My journey, thus far, has led me to a place with a lot of unanswered questions. When my husband and I had a child of our own, coming to terms with the fact that we simply don’t know, was even more difficult to accept.
Fast forward to last week when my little family of three was sitting together in the kitchen. My daughter, now almost three, asked my husband (after he let out a loud cough) if he was okay. He replied, without thinking, “I think I’ll live.” Without missing a beat, my daughter said, “I want you to always live. And mommy.” Speechless. As the tears pooled in my eyes, I found myself thinking back to that father and son last month and how I wish, more than anything, that I could provide that same comfort and promise to my own child that this stranger was undoubtedly able to offer his son.
You see, parenting without faith (at least for me and my spouse) is not simply a choice that we’ve made for our family. I want, more than anything, to be able to provide my daughter with answers to life’s biggest questions (Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?) but the truth is, I can’t. We’ve flirted with the idea of attending some sort of religious institution for the sake of giving her a foundation of faith but, for us, that would be disingenuous to where we’re at in our journey and what we believe about life. There is comfort in religion – a comfort my family does not have.
For now, we’re teaching our child that the World is a beautiful place. That life is a precious, precious gift that we should cherish, respect, and enjoy. That we should treat this planet and all of its inhabitants with love and compassion. That people have all sorts of beliefs, ideas, and differing answers on life’s biggest questions and that it’s okay. One day, when she’s old enough, we’ll encourage her to explore and find her own path…wherever that might lead her. While we certainly can’t make any promises about what tomorrow may bring, and as heartbreaking as that may be for us, we’re forced to simply focus on today.
I think it’s important for people to understand that we’re not parenting without faith because we reject God or because we somehow are apathetic or indifferent towards having beliefs. I wish, more than anything, that I could be certain that I had answers. But that’s not my life. We’re not parenting without faith because we don’t care about our child’s future or her (perceived) eternal salvation, we simply don’t have the answers. Parenting without faith doesn’t make us immoral people and it certainly doesn’t mean that our child will grow up to be any less respectful, loving, or compassionate towards herself, others, and the World around her. Our goals, our hopes for our child (and any other subsequent children we may have later on down the road) are the same as yours.
So, please, don’t make assumptions about our lifestyle and don’t assume things about the way we raise our child. I may not be parenting with faith, but I’m still parenting with love.