Wives: You’ve gone through nine months of pregnancy, morning sickness, cramps, swelling, weird cravings, difficulty sleeping (and waking), and getting very, very pregnant…
And husbands: Hopefully you’ve gone through it with her as much as physically, emotionally, and spiritually is possible.
You’ve prepared all the essentials: baby room, baby clothes, baby cleaning supplies, baby food, baby carriers, baby waste-disposal facilities, and probably a few more baby knickknacks than you ever cared to know existed.
Then several hours of labor (or a planned C-section), and…“pop!” Here comes the baby (more or less).
You take home your new bundle of joy, and your home now claims one extra dependant at tax time. What now?
I will skim over the intricate details of being a new parent–a.k.a, married with children. If you are a parent, I will assume you struggle through the unpleasant tasks and enjoy the fun cuteness of soft coos and big cute baby eyes. If you are not yet in the parenthood stage, but plan to be eventually, then take this from a preparation standpoint.
One little problem will rise to the surface of your newborn bliss, and if you have been a parent for a while or just became one, you know this or will soon discover it: Your marriage is now under a kind of stress it’s never known before. Adjusting to your new regime of being married with kids can wreak havoc on your calendar and will attempt to induce both mental and physical exhaustion.
If one of you works, the other is dealing with the baby all day, and if both of you work, and you utilize daycare or a family member (thank God for my mother-in-law), you both come home to a baby who still needs what a baby needs. Your usual unwinding and depressurizing rituals will no longer work as they did when you were just “married.”
If you are typical new parents, your normal intimacy, nights out, time with friends, family, and by yourselves are now considered luxuries, all squeezed into the tiny bottle of your schedule. Even church, hobbies, and fun activities can sometimes feel too much like a chore.
So how do you keep your marriage thriving during the unrest? That little helpless person naturally seeks to divide spouses from each other and has the potential to cause an apocalypse in your maturing marital relationship.
In my experience, I believe that some basic practices will help you keep a balanced head on your shoulders for years to come. Here are a few bits of practical advice that will always endure to help husbands and wives thrive and flourish like an oasis in the middle of a desert. Here are three distinct areas to focus on when juggling the new:
1. Staying spiritually synchronized
2. Staying emotionally energized
3. Staying physically intimate and interested
In this installment, I’ll cover the spiritual support that will help you keep a strong foundation in God amidst your postnatal trials.
Pray Together. You know that little verse about being equally yoked (2 Cor 6:14)? Praying together is the first step in applying it. This is extremely important, yet equally hard to do. It can be awkward, especially if you feel obligated to pray some epic, incredible prayer. When that happens to me I start to stutter or pray things that feel contrived or spiritually artificial. Our marriage counselor gave us a way to keep our prayers together simple and true with the following simple three step formula:
- Each person thanks God for something specific about his or her mate
- Each person prays for something specific that is important to his or her mate.
- Each person prays to change something specific about themselves that he or she knows is important to the other.
Regularly attend church. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not forsake gathering together…” My wife and I have found church to be a constant source of encouragement from several sources. One is the main service and teaching. The other, far more profound, is not only the community of fellow believers in general, but specifically our small group. If you can, find a church with a childcare program and Sunday schools with age-appropriate teaching. It is a great feeling to know your little one is cared for while you take a couple hours for more mature adult teaching. That brings me to my next point.
- Get involved in a small group of parents and/or married couples. Our adult Bible fellowship began five years ago and is now mostly a group of young parents of children all under the age of seven. We meet regularly on Sunday mornings and host family friendly social events during the week. Our kids play together while we have adult conversations; everybody shares the load of parenting.
As they say, “it takes a village,” and they are right. It helps maintain your sanity and mental health when you have a strong community of support. Acts 2:42-47 talks about small groups in the early church. Now, as then, spreading deep spiritual roots in a community like that also builds great bonds of friendship and accountability in not only parenting, but in true marital joy.
- Keep your mind and heart centered on God. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the American stereotype of “successful” parenting can easily drown out God’s vision for your family’s life if you let it. Continually realize God is in control. Your babies ultimately belong to Him. Psalm 127:3 says “Sons are a heritage from the Lord. Children are a reward from Him.” So we understand that they should be cared for “as if unto the Lord,” but we’ll still never get everything right. Thinking critically about the small decisions of nurturing your child through to adulthood is best done briefly and shallowly. The best thing you can do for your child is to have a God-centered marriage, which, coincidentally, is also the best thing for your marriage, and your personal faith and future.
This month, focus on developing healthy spiritual practices individually and as a couple, which will strengthen your connections and prepare you to deal with the coming parenthood, or, if you are already parenting, discipline yourselves to develop and maintain a pattern that will spiritually sync you with each other and God. So when the enemy strikes, you and your spouse will be ready.
Next edition we’ll explore how to elevate your marriage’s emotional energy while dealing with the pressures of parenthood.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless your marriage and family!
Written by Marc Sandin. Marc lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife and daughter, and two miniature dachshunds. He writes, designs, pontificates, philosophizes, theorizes, analyzes, and theologizes. Marc runs his own media business, which can be found at www.whosmydesigner.com. Marc also writes regular web content for www.adamcolwellwriteworks.com. Marc can be contacted through his website or at [email protected]