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Losing My Religion While Trying to Find Answers to My Kids’ Deep Questions

Here’s the thing about having kids: once you feel comfortable in any given stage, your kids get older and grow into new and wholly different stages.

So even when I feel like I know what I’m doing, I really don’t. The saying, “Fly by the seat of your pants,” might as well be my mommy-motto. Except, my pants are usually dirty, or are leggings, and are often times still in the washer.

All this said, I’ve gotten rather comfortable flying by the seat of my dirty leggings. Once I accepted that mothering has a huge learning curve and you do the best you can, I settled into a very happy role of learning alongside my kids. I definitely do not have all the answers, but I’m okay with not having the answers, because I know my kids. We will figure it out together. Just like I shape my kids into the people they will be, they shape me into the mom and person I want to be.

Except there’s one thing I’ve been struggling with lately, and I definitely do not have the answer.

I’ve been struggling with religion. Particularly, how do you talk to your kids about religion, especially if you disagree? I guess this is a new stage with a new learning curve.

Growing up Christian

For those who do not know me, my husband, or our childhoods, we both grew up in the same small town in Virginia. We grew up in (different) churches. There was Sunday school, Bible study, mission trips, and more. I was baptized at age 11 and my husband worked the after-school daycare at his church.

We were born and raised Christians. While I grew up questioning everything because, well, that’s just who I am, my husband accepted everything at face value. When we got married, we did so under God by a pastor from my church. We tried out churches in every town we lived in, and even had our son recognized by the church I was baptized in. Our daughter never got around to being recognized, but she and my son were gifted with many Bibles, angels, books about Jesus, and crosses. It runs in both of our families, and in us too. Until it didn’t anymore.

Questioning the faith

I do not know when this change happened. I’m still not sure it happened with me. I have recently messaged my pastor (in the past two weeks) because I am still questioning everything. However, my husband is a nuclear engineer, and damn if his studies do not defy what we’ve both been taught.

Faith is believing without seeing. It means having a deep, existential understanding that what you are taught in the church and read in the Bible are true. My sister has an enviable faith. Between me, my brother, and my sister, I feel my sister has the strongest faith. She always seemed to take church a little more seriously, mission trips a little more to heart, and, as she grew older, she shaped her life and her family around God. Not only does she (pun intended) religiously attend church, but she also volunteers at the nursery, attends weekly Bible study, works nine to five as a child therapist, raises two children under the age of five, houses foster children on any given day, and does everything else a modern woman and wife does. She doesn’t simply claim to be a Christian, she lives as one.

She’s also faced many hard challenges. When you have so much going on in your life, you’re inviting that many more chances for something to go wrong. From the trivial like locking her keys in her car, to the more trying things like sick children, she has never wavered or broken in her faith.

I do not have faith like my sister, but I do watch her, and especially her kids, and see how much fulfillment and peace they find in their religion. At times I envy them. I feel like I should be doing that. My husband felt like he should be doing that. We tried doing that, but we weren’t getting the same results.

Losing our religion

My husband is now a complete atheist. He’s scientific by nature and has traveled too far into the wormhole of astro- and metaphysics to firmly hold the belief that Jonah got swallowed by a whale or a giant got defeated with a slingshot. And, while most of these stories are metaphorical, he asked me what differentiates them between everyday fairy tales: stories that also teach lessons and are metaphorical. I couldn’t answer him.

Bringing all this back to our children, our son is old enough now to where he is making real-world connections to Jesus and Bible stories. He is asking huge philosophical and religious questions and, frankly, I cannot answer them. Some I do not have the answer to, some make me uncomfortable, and some make me mad.

My husband no longer puts on the pretense of being religious in front of our kids. When he is asked the deep, soul-searching questions, he deftly dodges with a noncommittal answer that leaves our kids satisfied. He does not choose the Biblical children’s books we used to read to them at night anymore. Instead, he takes them to space shows at the Children’s Museum and discusses math and science concepts. His perspective is that he’s teaching them the truth, but this truth negates religious truth, which is the truth my children believe in. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle, with no way to answer my kids’ questions, and fearful of committing one way or another.

My son told me a couple months ago that he wanted to die. You haven’t felt fear or sadness until your five-year-old (or any age child, for that matter) tells you that he no longer wishes to live. In a matter of seconds, I went from fear to anger to sadness to defeat to clarity until I could confront and discuss what the hell he was saying.

I’ll never forget this moment. We were both sitting on my bathroom floor and tears began to fill my eyes. I was devastated and heartbroken. He was confused. As it turns out, he had heard that Jesus was so awesome and that Heaven was so cool that he wanted to just go ahead and go. Skip what would hopefully be an extremely fulfilling and successful life so he could sit on the clouds and watch TV with Jesus.

My first thought was, “Sweet baby boy, Heaven isn’t real.” Then I was shocked all over again. What was I thinking?! Of course Heaven was real. I’d been indoctrinated with that my whole life. I believed it, but suddenly, confronted with the idea of my son taking his life so he could go on a permanent vacation with the man in the sky, I wasn’t so sure.

Finding your own truth

That was a hard conversation. Finding the line between shattering belief systems and getting my point across was like trying to juggle coffee mugs while playing hopscotch barefoot in the gravel. I wanted my son to know the truth, to know what’s real, but that’s a personal thing, isn’t it?

My sister’s truth is different than my husband’s. My own truth is different than both of theirs. As a parent, it’s my duty to teach my children and help mold them into kind, smart, caring people. However, is it my job to tell them what faith to believe or not to believe in? Or, for that matter, to tell them that religion is all a fairytale?

I do not have this answer. At almost 29 years old, I’m still trying to find what I believe. I cannot refute evolution, I believe the world is billions of years old, I think the story of Noah and the Ark is allegorical, but I also believe in the message of Christ. I find importance and power in nature. I cannot label myself wholly as one thing, so am I the best candidate for trying to shape my children in this manner? Me, the lady flying by the seat of her yoga pants that have never seen a yoga position a day in their life? I don’t think so, and that’s okay.

Here it is: I believe that religion, faith, spirituality – whatever you want to call it – is a personal choice. I cannot tell you how to raise your children any more than I can make my children believe in Zeus or Buddha or Christ. How I think it’s best my husband and I raise our children, though, is to let them learn through exploration. It’s important to me that they know these subjects are personal, and that even though Tom preaches his belief as the truth, and Dick has another version, and Harry doesn’t believe in anything at all, that that is okay. None of them are wrong.

Strength and answers together

At the end of an exhausting day of parenting, I want to go to sleep knowing my kids are informed. I want them to have all the options to choose from, so they can find their own way to their beliefs. Religion is a huge thing. It is literally a thing people chose to dedicate their lives to. I do not want to tell my kids some things are true and others aren’t because, well, I don’t know. I don’t want them to be scared or guilted or misinformed and resent me and my husband because we led them astray. I do not have these heavy-hitting answers. My children have moved into a new stage that I am adjusting to. This is one of those stages where we will learn from each other.

My kids do not need to believe what I believe, or what my husband believes, or what anyone else believes. This is a hard road to navigate, but together, I know we will arrive at an answer that strengthens us all, even if it is not found in the Bible, Quran, or even an astrophysics textbook.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When model Mara Martin was one of 16 finalists selected to walk in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swim Search show, she was thrilled to fulfill a lifelong dream. And when she woke up the day after the show to see that she and her baby daughter had made headlines around the world, she was thrilled all over again.

Martin breastfed her 5-month-old daughter Aria while walking in the runway, and the story spread quickly.

"It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least," Martin wrote in an Instagram post Monday. "I'm so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL! But to be honest, the real reason I can't believe it is a headline is because it shouldn't be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that."

SI Swimsuit Editor MJ Day says the breastfeeding moment wasn't planned in advance, but it worked out wonderfully. Day was speaking with the models backstage when she noticed Aria was peacefully nursing away. Having breastfed her own two children, Day recognized this as a powerful moment in the making, according to SI Swimsuit.

"I asked Mara if she would want to walk and continue to nurse. She said 'Oh my gosh, yes! Really? Are you sure?', and I said absolutely! I loved the idea to be able to allow Mara to keep nursing and further highlight how incredible and beautiful women are," Day explained.

Martin hopes that her moment in the spotlight can help other mamas feel comfortable nursing when and where they feel like it, but she doesn't want to overshadow some of the other women who took part in the show.

"One woman is going to boot camp in two weeks to serve our country," she wrote. "One woman had a mastectomy (@allynrose), and another is a cancer survivor, 2x paralympic gold medalist, as well as a mother herself (@bren_hucks you rock) Those are the stories that our world should be discussing!!!!"

And thanks to Martin's powerful motherhood moment, now, people are.

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Dear Jeff Bezos and all who have anything to do with Amazon Prime Day,

I just want to start by saying—I know you are trying to be helpful. I love you all for that. I honestly do. But, you are kind of making me feel a lot of pressure today. Like, in a good way, but also, in an anxious way.

Let me explain…

On any given day, as a mother to three children, I have a certain level of anxiety. While it's not constant, I do have my anxious moments. Why? Because there are various versions of the following: Me asking my two older daughters to get their shoes on what feels like 500 times as I am changing my 9-month-old's very, very, very messy diaper while I am trying to figure out what I can throw on to wear in about five seconds while I am repeating brush your teeth, brush your teeth in my head so I, in fact, don't forget to brush my teeth.

Not even to mention the mental load that weighs on my mind every single day. Remember to flip the laundry, fill out the school forms, cancel that appointment, reschedule this appointment, order more diapers, figure out what we're having for dinner, squeeze in a shower, lock the basement door so the baby can't get down the stairs, find better eczema cream for my middle daughter, get more sunscreen...the list goes on and on and on.

But then you Amazon Prime Day me and I'm having a lot of feelings about that.

Because you're reminding me of things I need to order, to think about, to be on top of more.

The little potty that's on sale reminds me that I need to step up my potty training game for my 2-year-old. That super cute dollhouse reminds me that I need to think about my daughter's first birthday in two months (WHAT!). That face mask reminds me that I need to remember to wash my face before bed because I forget waaaay more than I remember which is terrible.

But then I realize, these deals are going to save my mental load by fixing my life. Right?

Like, I never knew I needed an Instant Pot until you told me it was only $58. Now I am scouring Pinterest for meals I want to prep in my own. THIS POT IS THE TICKET TO GETTING MY LIFE IN ORDER.

Do we need more plates and cups for the kids? I mean really they only probably need about two plates and two cups each but YES. Yes I do need more cute kids kitchenware. THESE PLATES ARE THE TICKET TO BEING A GOOD MOM.

What would I do if I had five Echo Dots? I don't know, but let's find out because they're only $29! THESE DOTS ARE THE TICKET TO EFFICIENCY.

If I order a Vitamix at 30% off, I know I'll lose the baby weight. Think of all the smoothies I'll mix up! I mean, I just lost a pound even thinking about the smoothies that thing can whip up. THIS VITAMIX IS THE TICKET TO A SEXY BOD.

Buying this trendy, floral dress will step up my mom style significantly. THIS DRESS IS THE TICKET TO KEEPING MY COOL.

Okay, then after I add all the fixers to my cart, I realize… I have 99 things, but necessity ain't one.

I mean, I have everything from waterproof band-aids to bras to dresses for myself and my kids to an alarm clock and books. I basically feel like Oprah—You get an Audible subscription! You get an Audible subscription!—but instead of these products magically being paid for by Queen O herself, the money is coming from my bank account, which is a lot less fun of a game, TBH.

And if I am being honest, I don't need much help with my order-things-from-Amazon-and-pretend-it's-being-paid-for-with-Monopoly-money game as I am quite often coming home to an Amazon package wondering what it could be, opening it with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning—even though I am the exact person who ordered whatever is inside of that Amazon box.

But today, on Amazon Prime Day, you tempt me with all the deals. And yes, my anxiety, blood pressure and adrenaline rise. And yes, my bank account might temporarily decrease—BUT if we are being fair, with the savings I'm getting on things I would buy anyway, I am basically making our account increase overall. Right?

And while these things aren't going to make me skinnier, or cooler, or more put together—I'm okay with that. I am doing a pretty good job on my own. But some of them will actually help my life in a few different ways at a reasonable price, and I am grateful for that—for real.

Now, Bezos, please end this 404 error nonsense and let me purchase all the things!

Thank you for all the savings and excitement,

Mamas everywhere

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Usually when celebrities post swimsuit photos on Instagram they don't exactly look like your average beach-going mom, but former Bachelorette (and mom of two) Ali Fedotowsky posted a series of bikini photos on Monday that are both beautiful and relatable.

"This might be my most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," she wrote in the caption for the photos which show a postpartum belly that looks like a real postpartum belly.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky (who just gave birth to her second child in May) wrote.

In the first photo of the series she's wearing a sarong around her stomach, but in the second and third photos Fedotowsky reveals the kind of stomach many mamas sport: It's not perfectly taut, she's not showing off any abs, but it is definity beautiful.

"If you swipe to see the second photo in this post, you see that my body has changed. My skin around my stomach is very loose and stretched out, I'm 15lbs heavier than I used to be, and my cup size has grown quite significantly," Fedotowsky writes.

The photos are a sponsored post for Lilly and Lime Swimwear (a line made for women with larger busts) but that doesn't mean it wasn't brave. In fact, the fact that it's an ad makes it even more amazing because research shows that when advertising only shows us bodies that don't look like our own, women become "generally more dissatisfied with their body and appearance".

Ali Fedotowsky

On her blog Fedotowsky notes that a lot of comments on her previous Instagram posts have been followers remarking how slim she looks, or how much they wish they looked like she does postpartum. By dropping that sarong and showing her tummy Fedotowsky is showing other mothers that there is nothing wrong with their own.

"While I appreciate the positive comments, you guys are always so good to me, I keep trying to explain that I'm just good at picking out clothes that flatter my body and hide my tummy," she wrote on her blog.

"I bounced back pretty quickly after I gave birth to Molly. But things are different this time and I'm OK with that. I'm learning to love my body and embrace how it's changed. I hope I get back to my pre-pregnancy shape one day, but that may never happen. And if it doesn't, that's OK."

Ali Fedotowsky

It is okay, because our bodies are more than our swimsuit selfies. They the vessels that carry us through life and carry our children and provide a safe, warm place for those children feel love.

Loose skin is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for keeping it real, Ali.

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