Mike and Alicia Hernon, an Ohio couple who created the Messy Family Project, are visiting Australia for a line-up of talks and events (details below). Their podcast delves into all things parenting and marriage, and has 20,000 downloads a month from people around the world. Tamara El-Rahi, a Sydney mum who is organising the Hernons’ visit for The Marriage Project, asked them a few questions about the Messy Family journey.

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How did the podcast happen?

Alicia: My brothers and sisters were always asking us questions about family life and how we handled things during family gatherings. One of my brothers was involved in a podcast and knew that it wasn’t that hard to do, so he encouraged us.  It took us two years to finally do it!  We started January 2014 on a getaway weekend for our anniversary.  We gave it a shot and recorded three podcasts that weekend.  After that we committed to doing two a month, which we continue to do.  Within a year the audience grew to 10,000 listeners per month and now we are at 20,000 listeners every month… things just grew by word of mouth.  Now we have turned this into a full-time family ministry with resources on our website, courses, videos, as well as the podcast.

The podcast centres on family life – why is this an important theme to talk about?

Family is the soil in which grows the most amazing creation ‑‑ the human person.  All persons come from families.  No school, charity, or organization can have the effect on a child that a family can have.  If we want to renew our world, we must start with the family. 

Every couple is different – how do you take this into account when giving advice on marriage?

This is a very important theme for us.  We realize that we do not have the perfect answer for every problem or the perfect method of doing things for every family.  What we do believe is that EVERY couple has the capacity (the grace, in religious terms) to lead their family and to parent their children in a unique way.  We want couples to believe in each other more than they believe in a method or philosophy.

What would you say is a big achievement in your marriage? 

Having solid relationships with all our children from 23 to six years old is our greatest achievement. It has not been easy, and we have had to think long and work hard to intentionally build this family culture, which we continue to do every day.  Our marriage is the foundation of our family and our children know that. We have tried to communicate that we, together, are a solid bedrock on which our family is built.  

Some key pieces of advice for married couples? 

Be vulnerable in what you say to your spouse and how you say it.  This is a skill that you need to work on.  You will fail, but you have to keep trying.

Never settle.  Many people get into a routine within their marriage and “just get by” but that can’t be good enough.  If you are not actively working on your marriage and it is not growing, you need to realize that you are setting yourself up for temptation.

A quality you admire in each other and why? 

Mike:  I have always admired Alicia’s authenticity.  She is very real and honest.  Sometimes that gets her into trouble! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alicia: I admire Mike’s complete abandonment to the Lord.  He is a very prayerful man who is seeking the heart of God.  That gives me great confidence in him as he leads our family and this ministry with me.  And he has beautiful blue eyes!

Hopes for the Australia trip? 
Mike has always wanted to visit Australia so this trip is a childhood dream come true!  We just want to experience the people of Australia and learn more about the culture and history of this amazing continent that is so incredibly multicultural, much like the US.

Tamara El-Rahi, a former Family Edge editor, writes from Sydney.

Mike and Alicia Hernon of the Messy Family Project are speaking at an event for  The Marriage Project. Find event details here.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.