Raising a Child Without Religion

Sunday morning my son, like many kids, woke up to a brightly colored basket with books, colored eggs, and a few small toys. This year he had no clue what was going on, only that he liked hanging out in mommy’s bed, shaking the rattle eggs, and giggling like mad at my attempts to sing “Shake it, shake it” with lingering laryngitis.

But some year he’s going to ask what Easter or Christmas is all about, why we celebrate, and what we believe. Frankly, I don’t have very good answers for him.

Like many in my generation, I stopped associating myself with any form of organized religion sometime in my 20s. I don’t remember exactly when, because it wasn’t a formal decision. I never said, “Yesterday I was Catholic; today I’m not.” It happened gradually, and for a variety of reasons. I’m not sure whether I believe in a god or just in the human spirit. And if there is a god, I believe he or she can best be found in the joy of my son’s smile or in the power of an ocean wave, and not inside a building. I’m not into labels, because I believe labels are limiting and part of why there’s so much hate in the world, but if you must stick one on me, I guess I’m a Buddhist-leaning, humanistic, spiritual agnostic. But there’s no box for that on most questionnaires.

Deciding what box to check, though, isn’t my concern. I’m not even really concerned about explaining to my son why we celebrate Christian holidays. For me, that’s easy. Beyond my upbringing and family traditions is the greater meaning of the holidays themselves. The celebrations sprung from religious events and beliefs (as well as many pagan rituals), but they’ve grown to encompass more than that. They’ve become celebrations of family and love and giving and renewal. And those are things I absolutely believe in and want my son to believe in, too.

I also don’t worry he’ll lack morals or values without religion. Recent studies have shown kids raised without religion may actually be more empathetic.* Whether that’s true or not, I have no idea, but I know myself, and I know the other adults who will shape my little man’s sense of right and wrong, empathy, and compassion. He won’t lack for wonderful real-life role models—or good fictional ones, for that matter.

I worry more about the ‘big questions’ I don’t have answers to, especially those that can be scary: What happens after we die? Why do bad things happen to good people? Many religions set out to offer comfort with their answers to these questions, and I will gladly share with little man what different people believe, in hopes he may find an answer that feels right to him. Honestly, though, I never found too much comfort in any answers I was given, and now I realize maybe that was ok. Maybe it’s as important to accept that there are things we can’t know for sure, but still work to be the best we can be.

So maybe my lack of answers is the answer I’ll some day provide. And maybe it’s not such a bad answer after all. I don’t know, little man, how it all came to be or what happens when it ends, but I do know there’s a lot of life, love, magic, and joy to be found in ourselves, each other, and the world. And if some of that comes in the form of opening an Easter basket with mom or believing in Santa, we’ll celebrate it!


In preparing this post I found some books and articles that may be of interest. I haven’t read the books, so I’m not making recommendations, simply sharing what I found.

Online reading: *These articles mention and link the studies referenced in the post. At least one of these studies used parents’ self-reporting on their own kids, which makes me a little skeptical. I mean, who’s going to say her kid is an uncaring jerk? Then again, both the religious and nonreligious families self-reported, so maybe that was taken into account.



Books for Kids

Older than The Stars by Karen C. Fox – a scientific view of who we are

The Belief Book by David G. McAfee – a look at the beliefs of a variety of religions

I Wonder by Annaka Harris – a book about curiosity and accepting that some questions don’t have answers

Books for Parents

Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion by Dale McGowan

Relax It’s Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious by Wendy Thomas Russell


Photo credit: © Evgeny Karandaev | Dreamstime.com

Needed: Honest Mom Friends

Me, making polite small talk with a friend and fellow baby boy mom: So how’s your little guy?

Her, replying in an equally sweet tone: Oh, good, thanks. And yours?

Me: Great… (pause, wondering how this will be received, then not caring, because I really needed to spew) …but he’s kind of driving me nuts wanting to ‘walk’ all the time and not letting me put him down even to pee without freaking out. Weekends alone with him are exhausting right now. I live for naptimes.

Now she could have laughed and tried to convince me it was just a stage, or nodded and said, “Yeah, that must be tough,” leaving me feeling even more guilty about not loving and cherishing every moment I’m home with Little Man.

Instead she shared her own honest feelings about the loveliness that occurs as babies develop their own personalities and opinions (i.e. temper tantrums), and the beauty of increased mobility (otherwise known the as danger-seeking-missile stage). We shared stories, sympathized, and promised to meet up to drink wine in the very near future.

We all can be guilty of being that social media mom whose Facebook page is more accurately a Fakebook page. Some parents might do it mindfully, but most of us just don’t think to stop in the middle of an epic meltdown over sitting vs. standing to snap a photo and upload it. Not to mention, we’ve all been schooled about being careful about what kind of online footprint we’re leaving for our children while they’re still too young to consent to those less-than-perfect pictures. Unfortunately, that sometimes leaves moms wondering, “Am I the only one ok with leaving the baby to go back to work some Monday mornings?” or “Is my kid the only one who does or doesn’t do x, y, or z?”

That’s where the honest mom friends save the day.

I’ve always been a big believer in the need for women to have a strong group of other female friends. Women need other women—to build them up, to have their back, to slap some sense into them, to bitch and rage with, and, of course, to shop for shoes with. But never have I appreciated honesty and openness in my friends, especially my other mom friends, more than since I’ve become a parent.

Motherhood, especially single motherhood, can at times be isolating. Even as a working mom, there often isn’t enough time in the work day to talk with other moms openly about parenting. There’s quick inquiries passing in the hall or lunchroom small talk (and for a nursing mom, there’s not even that). But what moms really need is a few minutes (or more) of straightforward mom-fessions.

I need to hear other moms tell me they threw out ‘the rules’ or that, like me, they didn’t even know some ‘rules’ existed. I need to know my anxiety is normal, my impatience or dislike of a stage is not a sign I’m a horrible mother, and that one day teething, too, shall end. I need to not be judged, but simultaneously to be told when there’s spit up down my pants. I need someone to please tell me the picture of my living room above looks completely familiar. In short, I need honest mom friends. We all need honest mom friends.

I am so blessed to have friends who were honest with me about motherhood before I even stepped foot in a fertility clinic, and even more lucky to have met new ones since becoming a mom. If I thought motherhood, real nitty-gritty motherhood, looked like it does on Instagram or in a Dr. Sear’s book, I’d be pretty down on myself and my parenting skills. Thanks to my honest mom friends, though, I can be confident that sitting here at 9pm without having (yet) cracked a beer or been peed on makes today, at least, a total mom win.

Meal Delivery Review: Hello Fresh vs. Blue Apron

Cooking as a single woman was easy. If I felt like cooking, I did. If I needed to run out mid-recipe for an ingredient, I could. If I didn’t want to clean up that same night, I didn’t. If I had no motivation to even call out, I dined on the tried and true favorite of single women everywhere: cereal and wine. Life was good—not always healthy, but good.

Now that Little Man is starting to eat real food (lots of it!), I need to up my dinnertime game. Not particularly good at planning meals and grocery lists for the week, or keeping a well-stocked pantry, and definitely in need of some motivation to actually cook even when I buy the right ingredients, I decided a meal delivery service might be good for me.

I was lucky enough to have friends who used the two most popular companies, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, which allowed me to try both free for a week. Then to be fair to each, I tried them both for a second week, as well.

First, let me tell you what meal delivery companies don’t do. They don’t prep the food, watch the hangry baby, cook the meal, or clean up after it. So those parts still suck. You also do need some basic cooking skills. If you can burn boiled water, you probably need more help than these services deliver. They do, however, both indicate which meals are more complicated and time-consuming to make, which allows you to make wise decisions. (If you don’t read this before selecting, you end up making risotto at 9pm for the next night, since you know there’s no way the baby will safely let you stand over a hot pan for 30 mins.)

But getting past my fantasy of having a personal chef, as well as my problem with not reading directions carefully, I found both Hello Fresh and Blue Apron to be time-savers, not to mention I wasted less food, cooked healthier meals, and didn’t stress every night about what I could make for dinner.

These companies work by having you create an account where you put in your preferences, choose meals from a handful of options that match those each week, then pick a day for delivery. When the box arrives, it contains all the ingredients (except a few basic staples like oil and salt and pepper) in the right amounts, with recipe cards for each night’s meal that walk you step-by-step through the cooking process.

Because they only give you what you need, you’re not having to buy extras just to make the recipe, a constant problem of cooking for one (and a half). I also don’t need to sit with three different recipes and create a shopping list and then scour the tiny town grocery store for the one ingredient they are sure not to have. And since I signed up for the two-person, three meal plan, the recipes and ingredients are already portioned out, so I don’t find myself eating the same bowl of chili for weeks on end, as I do every time I pull out the crock pot. Every. Time.

As you can probably tell, I’m sold. Not that I won’t take breaks here and there, especially as grilling and salad season approaches, but another great feature of both Hello Fresh and Blue Apron are that either site allows you to skip weeks whenever you need or want to.

That said, one woman and her baby do not need two meal delivery kits in one week. I learned this the hard way when I accidently forgot to cancel a delivery. Though from this, I learned you can freeze the meats if needed! I also suggest setting a reminder on your phone to remind you to choose your meals (otherwise the company chooses for you based on your preferences) and/or to skip weeks you don’t want deliveries.

But which to choose?

Things that were comparable between Hello Fresh and Blue Apron:

  • relatively easy account set-ups and fairly user-friendly websites
  • price ($59.94 for three two-serving meals)
  • similar plan options for larger families and vegetarians and other dietary needs
  • free delivery with a choice of days
  • additional nutritional and cooking information available online prior to choosing meals

And honestly a lot more. They are clearly competitors and know they have to offer what the other does to keep up.


  • Blue Apron overlaps some ingredients, which somewhat limits your meal choices. Once you choose one meal, it limits what others you can choose based on what ingredients are similar. My top choices of course didn’t line up either of the two weeks I tried it, so I had to pick some meals I wasn’t as excited about.
  • Hello Fresh, on the other hand, gives you six choices (and a seventh breakfast choice, which is new) and you can choose any three. I put in the “fit” preference, so it automatically sends the three healthiest versions unless I go in and change it, which I almost always do, because, of course, the higher calorie choices always sound too damn delicious to pass up.
  • Because Hello Fresh doesn’t overlap ingredients, the delivery contains three small boxes with everything you need except the meat, which both companies package separately on the ice pack for delivery. While some people might not like the added boxes in the fridge, I liked the individual packaging because I could grab a box and go, without having to worry about putting back the remains of certain items for another meal. (I’ve heard people say they won’t do a meal delivery system because of the added waste, but most of the packaging is recyclable, and you’re wasting less food, so it seems no more wasteful than shopping at the store.)
  • I felt like both companies’ meals took a good amount of time to cook and prep, especially that first week, but got somewhat better the next week when I was used to the system. Blue Apron was a bit more time consuming on average, though, and had more unique ingredients, so I feel like I’m less likely to recreate their recipes later on my own.

So my overall verdict: Hello Fresh was the best fit for me. More choice and a little less time to prepare and cook (especially now that I prep the veggies for a couple meals at once during a weekend nap, see pic below).


If you’re interested in trying Hello Fresh, I’ve got three freebie weeks to give away to the first people to share and/or Pin and comment. For everyone else, here’s a link for $40 off your first week!