“We literally did zero marketing! We didn't do anything” to promote the podcast, Alicia said.
“We didn’t have time,” Mike added. They were too busy with work and with their own family life.
Sensing a growing need among parents and families for guidance and support, and with the support and partnership with Our Sunday Visitor Institute, Alicia and Mike have decided to expand their podcast into a full-time marriage and family ministry called The Messy Family Project.
In addition to the podcast, the Hernons will now offer their advice, support and encouragement through videos, downloadable resources, and live events such as retreats and workshops.
“One of our taglines is: 'we're not experts' because neither of us have counseling degrees, we're not professors, we're not doctors,” Alicia said. “We are really just older parents who are ahead of most of the people who are listening to us, so what we want to do is just kind of give that encouragement, that practical advice, but without being dogmatic.”
They’ve gained their wisdom from their own families of origin, from years of experience raising their own children (who are now ages 6-23), and from the teachings of the Catholic Church, and from interacting with families through various ministries over the years.
Their mission: “to empower parents, strengthen marriages and bring families to Christ.”
This mission has been on the hearts of the Hernons for a while, Mike said, because “we believe it’s more challenging to raise children today than maybe it ever has been.”
They offer their wisdom as older siblings who have been there, rather than as parents of a different generation, Mike said.
“There are challenges that our parents didn't have,” he said, “everything from technology to all of the cultural issues that are bearing on our children and our family life.”
They wanted to offer their support and advice for Catholic families to build their own unique cultures instead, which will look different depending on the individual family, Mike said.
“We don't try to say - this is the perfect plan. We try to share experiences, also the principles from the Church, because we believe the Church is an expert in humanity, an expert in real living.”
Creating a strong, welcoming and unique family culture, built on a Catholic identity, is one of the best ways to combat the cultural messages that are antithetical to Catholicism and family life today, the Hernons said. “The best defense is a good offense,” Mike said.
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“Our ‘offense’ is creating your own family culture,” Alicia said.
“Families need to not allow their children to be influenced by the world's culture more than by their own family culture, because when you create your own family culture...that culture is a very powerful influence on our children because it’s an unspoken set of beliefs and expectations.”
A strong family culture also allows parents to enforce values without being judgmental of other families, Alicia said.
“Because when a child says, ‘Oh well Susie is allowed to wear that dress to prom,’ you can say ‘Yeah, but Susie's not a Hernon, and this is who we are,’” she said.
Family culture is communicated primarily through relationships, the Hernons said - the relationship of the parents with each other, the relationships parents have with individual children, and then the relationships children have with each other.
“The grace for your family flows from the sacrament of marriage,” Mike said.