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Becoming a parent was one of the most incredible things that I’ve ever done. It changed my marriage in beautiful ways and also challenged my marriage in ways that I didn’t quite expect.
I get a lot of questions from people asking how Jesse and I worked through the changes that parenthood created. I also get a lot of questions about preparing for parenthood with my spouse, so I hope to answer both of those questions here.
Jesse and I have grown together so much since we’ve had our boys, but we have had to make some intentional changes in our marriage to ensure that we remain focused on God and focused on one another.
It is clear throughout Scripture that our relationship is our first ministry. The first issue that we’ve seen that can be a stronghold in any relationship is a child-centered marriage.
1. Work Against A Child-Centered Marriage
When you have a newborn, you don’t really have the choice to not have a child-centered marriage for a season. Your baby needs you at all times and there are few hours that you have (if any) where you can completely check out. For this, I would encourage you to stay the course and don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. Prepare your hearts for it and hold onto hope! Jesse and I know that there are likely to be some ‘disconnected’ seasons in our marriage and with a new baby, we don’t always feel as close as we used to. But remember – it is just a season and this too shall pass.
As a few months pass, there has to be an intentionality in setting aside time alone with your spouse. I promise – it does not happen naturally and it isn’t always easy! Jesse and I have always placed great importance on having regular date nights. But with two boys under three, it can be hard to get away (especially because I’m that crazy mom who doesn’t trust people with her kids haha.)
With that said, a lot of our dates are now spent indoors. We have to go through the effort to make it different from every other night. You guys, it’s so easy – I can’t say how easy – to want to just turn on the TV and zone out because you’re exhausted and it’s been such a long day. It even feels like a good thing to relax next to each other and not say a word.
But the enemy has a way of using “good” things to cause further damage. It’s deceiving, to be honest. You and your spouse need that face-to-face time to talk through things and reconnect, but also to do fun things together.
2. Keep Things Light
I have a tendency to discuss the problems, concerns, the needs and desires of my heart whenever I have a chance to sit down with Jesse. But what I’m learning is that sometimes I just need to keep things light with my husband.
What does that look like? It means surprising Jesse with a Nerf Gun war in our house when he comes home from work. That means taking him out to the Battle Axe Room – where we literally just throw axes at pieces of wood because it’s unique and new and apparently a cool thing to do according to men ;-). It means going on walks together and just enjoying one another – not talking about anything heavy nor sharing my struggles of the day.
I’m not diminishing the importance of communication and heart-to-heart talks, because I don’t know where we would be without those. But there is a time and place for those. Choose wisely and be discerning, listen to the Spirit, and do your best to keep things light as often as possible.
3. Remember: You’re Fighting the Same Fight with the Same Goal
This is huge. You MUST actively fight every single temptation to take your exhaustion or mistakes out on one another. You’re not battling one another, you’re battling the situation at hand together. Write this on a sticky note and place it on your bathroom mirror and on your bedside table if it helps to keep this in mind.
This season is new to both of you. Whether you’re parents of one baby or six babies, it is going to be a new experience for your family. In that, you have to choose grace. You have to keep Christ at the center of your marriage in every aspect and that means ensuring that you display mercy and unconditional love to your spouse in this new season.
I can’t count how many times I’ve forgotten the diaper bag at the house or the amount of times that I’ve gone somewhere and Jesse took the stroller out of the car without telling me. Our initial reactions are typically frustration and annoyance, and we have made the mistake one too many times of texting one another and saying something due to that stress.
But where does that get us? It separates us further. Instead of having grace, we’re rubbing mistakes in the other person’s face, even though you’d made plenty of mistakes yourself.
Don’t do it, you guys! Fill your heart and your mind with scripture about grace and mercy and in those moments that you’re tempted to lash out on your spouse because you’re just so exhausted, remember verses about kindness, patience and focusing on the pure and excellent.
4. Choose Selflessness
Choosing to serve and take care of a little human. It’s going to interrupt your free time, date time, work time, etc. You both have to come together to choose selflessness beforehand and know that you will both need to work hard to serve your family through it, even when sometimes it feels like it’s the last thing you want to do.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:4.
5. Love the Heck Out of Your Kids – Together
There is always something you can do in every stage of your kids’ lives. Come together as a couple to plan a fun day each week to love on them and do something fun while showing them the importance of doing things together as a family.
Whether that means going on long walks together in your neighborhood when they’re an infant, to days at the museum, zoo or park as they get a bit older. Bike rides, cooking & baking together and running-through-the-sprinklers days are great for toddlers. Play board games, read books as a family, go on hikes or day road trips – the options are endless!
6. Create a Schedule
With our first son, I used to wake Jesse up every time I had to feed Sutton. I have no idea why, it makes me laugh now, but I just wanted him awake with me even though there wasn’t much that he could help with. However, that just caused both of us to be exhausted.
This time around, we’re taking turns in the way that is best for us. Jesse changed nearly all of the diapers in the first two months as I nursed every 30 minutes to every two hours. It made it feel more like teamwork which took a lot of the stress off of me.
Now that I am up about twice a night with Saxon, Jesse wakes up early in the morning with Sutton and takes Saxon for a little while so that I can sleep in. Now we definitely get more rest than we did with our first baby.
Come together with your husband to figure out what works best for you guys. Most importantly, you both need your rest. You’re both tired, you’re both in a new season of life – so work together to make this as easy of a transition as possible. Also, don’t place the burden on one another solely because you’re too afraid to ask for help.
If you have family, church family or friends in town, ask for help! I can’t express this enough.
7. Where you are Weak…
2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses…”
One of the most important things I will say is that you and your spouse are both incapable of doing this parenting thing perfectly. There will be days where you melt down, argue and disagree. But before you get outraged at their sin against you, it’s important to first come to terms with the outrage you have over your own sin. We tend to judge others on a scale that most benefits us.
There’s a scale that we use to make us feel most righteous and most justified. We avoid looking at the things inside of us that create guilt and shame. But God’s grace changes that narrative. As sin increases, grace abounds all the more.
Sometimes all that we need to do is sit before God, confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness. Ask for Him to guide us in loving Him and our spouse better. Pray for more patience, more kindness and more love.
Ultimately, you can’t do this on your own – but God is your helper and He is here to walk through this new, beautiful, exciting, challenging, wonderful experience with you and your spouse. Receive Him and receive His love!