Let me say this right up front. I am not going to be writing about how to be a successful parent. This is not 5 keys to raising perfect children. My plan for that came up wanting in so many ways. What I am going to be sharing with you is how your marriage can survive the demands of parenthood. Now some of you may be thinking, “Why make such a big deal over this parenting thing?” Chances are no one who is a parent has thought that.
The point I’m trying to make is that children are a huge investment of time, emotions and money.
SO IS MARRIAGE. The challenge is that both of those relationships compete for limited resources. So what can you do to ensure that enough of the resources continue to flow to your marriage in such a way that it not only survives, but thrives? I want to make basic suggestions from personal experience and scripture. Six actions that will help your marriage survive parenthood.
1. Accept the fact that life as you knew it is now over.
There comes a point where you stop thinking about the way your life used to be and you realize that this is it. This hits some people very hard when the reality sets in. It takes years for some of us to realize that life as they have known it is over. We want our schedules to be the same, We want our houses to be the same, We want our spouses to be the same, but things are not the same after kids, and they never will be.
That’s why the key word here is “accept.” You’ve got to change your expectations. You’ve got to accept the fact that you’ll be forced to compromise and adjust for at least two decades. No matter how much you love your kids, they’re still confining, stinky, messy, and expensive. And they keep you up at night. I remember one morning at around 2:30 I was walking a fussy Clayton up and down the hallway. He was only about 3 months old so I whispered into his sweet little ear, “One day, when you are older, I am going to tear your behind up and remind you of this night.” Folks, children radically alter your life. That’s why it’s frightening to hear someone – usually a wife – say something like, “Our marriage is going through a tough time. Maybe if we had a baby we could solve some of our problems. We’d be closer.” What! Really! That idea has been around since the beginning of time. Listen to this story from the book of Genesis.
So Leah became pregnant and had a son, Reuben (meaning “God has noticed my trouble”), for she said, “Jehovah has noticed my trouble–now my husband will love me.” She soon became pregnant again and had another son and named him Simeon (meaning “Jehovah heard”), for she said, “Jehovah heard that I was unloved, and so he has given me another son.” Again she became pregnant and had a son, and named him Levi (meaning “Attachment”) for she said, “Surely now my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him three sons!” Genesis 29:32-34 TLB
I love to hear Dr. Phil ask someone whose plan for life has obviously failed, “How’s that working for you?” If you read on, you find out that Leah’s plan for saving her marriage didn’t work. And it doesn’t work today.
So let me gently raise a warning for some of you: Never have a child to fix something that is broken.
It won’t work because children intensify all of life, both good and bad. I have four wonderful children – and I say that in all seriousness – they ARE wonderful. Those children have brought out the best in me and the worst in me. They’ve brought out the best and the worst in Larke. Our kids have made our marriage richer in many ways, but they’ve also made it harder. That’s why the next five suggestions are so important. It’s 12:35 a.m. so I am going to bed for now. Wait, I don’t think I ever did give Clayton that spanking. All I’ve got to say is, he better not wake me up tonight!