Friday, May 28, 2010

73: marriage and children

-167a Does having children change a marriage?  Is it possible to welcome a new addition to your family without there being major changes to how you interact as a couple (or simply function as an individual?)

Today I’m sharing some of what I’ve been reading about preparing your marriage relationship and lives for the blessing of children.


As soon-to-be-parents, Craig and I are faced with the challenge of adapting to the change in our marriage from being a relationship of two (plus God) to three

When we were first married, my parents gave us a book by Focus on the Family called The First Five Years of Marriage, and Craig and I have turned to it on occasion as a resource for when we are having a constantly recurring fight (anyone else having those?) and we just can’t seem to come to a compromise that works for both of us.  It’s not really meant as a devotional for couples, or something to work through a chapter at a time, but whenever you have a question, such as “how should we divide up the chores?”, “how can we make decisions together?”, “how can we serve God together?” or “how can I cut my spouse’s apron strings?” (all actual chapter titles!), you can seek out an answer written by one of Focus on the Family’s counsellors. 

One chapter I decided to look up recently was titled, “Do Children Really Change Everything?”, and I thought it brought up some good points for couples to use in preparation for the big changes (many good!) coming down the road.  Here is an excerpt from that chapter.

Whether it’s trading sushi for macaroni and cheese or driving to piano lessons for the five hundredth time, you can’t help noticing some alterations when you have children.  They’re a blessing from God, and it’s an honor and privilege to have the responsibility of raising them – but your life will never be the same.

So how do you deal with the changes?  Are they so unpleasant that you should abandon any plans to reproduce?

Here are some suggestions that may help to buffer the shocks of parenthood.

1. Be prepared to adjust your assumptions.  Some parents to be talk about how they’re going to take their kids with them wherever they go.  You can try this approach with an infant or a somewhat older child, but much parenting experience shows that children do better with a routine.  If you’ve assumed that your baby will simply tag along as you follow your usual schedule, you may have to think again.  This may be a time in your lives when you have to give up some of your usual activities in order to provide the structure that your small children need.

2. Be prepared to make sacrifices.  The truth is that you’ll lose some of your freedoms if you choose to be parents.  Most parents find the joys of parenting well worth the sacrifices of redirecting time, money, and energy into their children’s lives, but the costs are still quite real.  If you or your spouse can’t picture yourselves making these sacrifices, right now may not be the time to have children.  It’s one thing to be realistic about the costs of parenting.  It’s altogether different to resent your child because you have to make those sacrifices.

3. Be prepared to work harder at your relationship.  You and your mate will need to adjust your expectations and be intentional about connecting.  Just as your child grows through developmental stages, you’ll grow as a couple.  You won’t know exactly how your expectations will have to change until your first child arrives.  It’s a sure thing, though, that if you’ve been dating, socializing, and hanging out for hours with friends, you’ll need to adjust your timing and plan for childcare.  You’ll still need these outlets, especially dating each other – but they will be different.  You may want to start thinking now about creative ways to locate babysitters. For example, you might find yourself becoming closer friends with other new parents with whom you can exchange child care.

4. Be prepared to see each other at your worst.  Since the wedding, you’ve probably started to see some self-centeredness in yourself and your spouses.  When the two of you are required to fill the stressful role of parents and spouses 24/6/365, you’ll see a lot more of these tendencies.  How can you get ready for that?  Choose now to consider your spouse’s needs as more important than your own (Philippians 2: 3-4).

5. Be prepared to lose sleep.  When your children are infants, they depend on you to meet every need.  For some parents, that means getting up several times a night.  During this stage of parenting, both of you are likely to be sleep deprived.  This can hamper your ability to communicate, among other things.  Watch for ways in which resulting misunderstandings can erode your relationship.

6. Be prepared to feel conflicted.  Sometimes you’ll feel torn.  For example, you may have mixed emotions about leaving for work if you’re employed outside the home.  You won’t want to leave your little one and miss the new things he or she will do today while you’re gone.  Yet your workplace may hold attractions of its own; it’s more familiar, you don’t have to sort through what your baby’s cries mean, and you certainly need to earn a living.

7. Be prepared for things to get easier – eventually.  The demands of parenting change throughout a child’s life span.  As he or she gets older, sleeping through the night may become more common.  But there will still be interruptions: calls to help a little one go to the potty, calls from a first slumber party when your child wants to come home, calls from a date that’s gone awry and requires you to pick your child up.  Parenting will never be stress-free.  But most parents see the challenges as well worth it.  They take satisfaction in watching their children grow and change, encouraging them to know and serve the Lord, and developing an adult-to-adult friendship with them.

So, do children change everything? Absolutely!

Is parenthood worth it to most couples?  Yes!

Children will change you, your spouse, and your marriage.  But it doesn’t have to be for the worse.  Making your marriage a priority is a gift to your kids. Knowing that Mom and Dad are committed to each other for the long haul provides them with the security every child needs.

Now to be honest, I don’t agree with everything in this chapter (for example it seems to put a pretty heavy emphasis on going back to work), however more than anything the chapters in this book have been a catalyst for me to learn more about strengthening our marriage and raising children, and is motivation to start early in making intentional time with Craig a priority (well as much ‘time’ as we can spend together being 10898.1 km apart!).

Do you agree/disagree/have an opinion about what the above chapter says?




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