I believe that the responsibility of parenting is an extremely big thing. It isn't just about feeding a little body until it grows big or teaching them life skills, academics, and basics of Islam. It is about modeling Islam for them every day of their little lives so that it is the most natural thing in the world for them. It definitely is a subject that can be viewed from the cost and debt approach.
I once wrote a post, How Our Children Help our Islam, and this post ties in with that...with a very specific difference. This one is about our responsibility to model Islam correctly, even if we don't feel it. I have a couple of examples that are extremely prominent in my mind: hijab and social situations.
I have, all thanks to Allah, worn the hijab for 22 years now. I have also worn niqaab for the past 7 years, but in this case it is not relevant, because I'm only talking about hijab - the minimum obligatory Muslim female cover. For sisters who wear niqaab, however, I suggest you include it in the term of hijab. While my mode of covering has changed over the years, I have worn a loose overgarment on top of my regular clothes and a hijab that comes down over my chest ever since marriage (at the least) and that is what my children know of me. They have learned, according to their level of understanding, why women cover and that it isn't a choice, it is a must.
So what happens if I have a crisis of faith, (may Allah protect me from such misguidance and trial - ameen!), and I feel like removing my hijab? Absolutely nothing. I am the primary model of Islam for my children, and regardless of my feelings, inshaa'Allah I will continue to wear the hijab for their sake. I do not want to send a message to my child that if they don't like a thing that Allah has made fard for them, that it is okay on their own whims to discard it. I don't want to show them a manifestation of weak faith. What is inside me, what I struggle with, will be between Allah and myself.
What is the result of my "faking it"? My children have that same, consistent role model and I am not outwardly disobedient to Allah. Even if I had a candid talk with my children and told them about emaan increasing and decreasing, I would be able to tell them that what goes on inside us doesn't mean we can disobey Allah's commands. Regardless of my inner turmoil, I don't have the sin of zina or tabarruj to carry alongside it. In protecting the example my children look to, I protect myself.
Anas, radhi Allahu anhu, reported that the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said,
"Islam is public, whereas iman is in the heart." (Ahmad)
Allah, azza wa jal, says,
"The desert Arabs say, 'We have iman.' Say: 'You do not have iman. Say rather, "We have become Muslim," for iman has not yet entered into your hearts. If you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not undervalue your actions in any way," (Surat al-Hujurat: 14)Although their iman was weak, adherence to Islam showed enough iman for their actions to be accepted.
This also relates to social situations, because our children's Islamic confidence comes greatly from seeing how we conduct ourselves publicly. I lived in a city where there were perhaps only 3 or 4 niqaabis. I never saw any on the street and I was the only woman in my college with hijab, let alone niqaab. As I homeschooled my children, often we would be free to take a walk during the day to the park, the library, or the thrift shop. I drew plenty of attention and was questioned by people in supermarkets, at the park, and even from their front porches about why I cover my face.
I have always welcomed the chance to explain hijab and niqaab, so in my short, simple, and friendly way I would explain. However people looked or reacted, I went about business as usual with my daughters and purposely spoke to the librarians, shop keepers, other mothers in the park, and cashiers. Hearing my accent alone dispersed preconceived ideas. Being my usual friendly and bubbly self further lowered the walls, until the cashiers started asking my advice about healthy foods and the librarians warmly welcomed our sunshiny smiles.
I have attended school functions, the only niqaabi and my daughters the only Muslim children. When school picnics came around, we packed up our basket with all manner of healthy, halal foods because we knew we weren't eating the hotdogs. Other families commented on how delicious our food looked, and we offered around homemade cookies, bread, etc.
Of course, there have been a few negative moments that I've had to simply sail along and ignore. When my daughter asked why people always had their music blaring, I calmly explained to her that they put music as an essential priority in their life. Much like we remember Allah in all that we do, they listen to music. I explain that for us, remembering our Creator benefits us now and the aakhirah, but for them, the music is only an enjoyment in this life. Our walks are endless opportunities for comparing and contrasting. They are valuable learning experiences.
Do I always feel confident and look forward to those events? No. I often dread them, considering how I will make the experience enjoyable for my children, represent Islam well, and not compromise our practice or morals. Most surely I could avoid the social situations and save myself the effort. However, I must do all this because my children need to see me act with confidence and conviction. They need to see me take questions in stride and explain our practices engagingly and effectively. They need that for their own self-confidence and conviction that pleasing Allah is foremost, something to be proud about, and not to be compromised.
My modelling teaches them how to act with conviction, not only around non-Muslims but also around Muslims who don't have the same standards or practices. For every question and every life practice and behavior, they are given proof in the form of Quran or hadith. In this way, they too will know how to establish an unshakeable foundation with the ability to answer questions without fear or intimidation, inshaa'Allah.
By practicing Islam you benefit your children, and by having children they help you practice your Islam. Maintaining your outward Islam frees your mind and heart to nurture your inward emaan.