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Once when our son was about two, my husband took him out of church to the restroom. I watched as they re-entered the sanctuary, with Cole’s head barely seen, bobbing above the seats several paces behind my husband. When they got to the steps leading to the lower part of the sanctuary, Ken didn’t help Cole down as I would have. In fact, he didn’t even look back. When Ken slid into his seat beside me, he still hadn’t noticed Cole was back making his way down the aisle, about eight Ken-sized paces back.
But not to fear! I had my neck craned and was watching every step the little guy took. I was also ready to scramble over every last person in our row at the first sign of a “you left me” whimper.
I think Ken and I are probably typical of many parents. I’m the one who is protective and watchful, and Ken is the one stepping out with confidence, not worrying about what might be happening behind him and certainly not coddling.
After eighteen years of parenting, here’s what I’ve learned: We’re both right, but I sure didn’t think so back then.
Back when our kids were little, I thought my husband was careless. Not about everything, just parenting. He would let the kids watch scary things on TV. He wouldn’t cut up their food in tiny enough chunks. He would take them outside without jackets. I worried constantly about the things that he might not worry about! As a result, I began taking control.
Now that might seem harmless or even maternal, but I assure you, becoming a Control Girl mom was not helpful in my marriage or for my kids. As we added kids, dogs, new houses, jobs and responsibilities, my control issues began to mushroom. I was exhausted, trying to control everything. My heart was constantly full of with anxiety, stress, anger and frustration. The more controlling I got, the more miserable we all were. However, God wanted to set me free.
God never designed me to carry the burden of trying to control everything. He’s in control! He invites me to trust Him. Little by little, God’s been teaching me to surrender both big things and small, especially in regards to my children.
How I wish I had known what tension and strain we would have avoided if I had learned to surrender to God when my kids were little. I’m not saying I should have let them wander into the street or play with matches. A responsible mom takes control of what she can, but a godly mom leaves the rest in God’s hands. This practice, more than any other I’ve discovered, breathes peace, security, and joy back into both parenting relationships and marriages.
If you’re a mom who tends to take control, I’d like to offer five reasons to invite your husband to share the parenting, rather than doing it all yourself, even when the kids are little.
1. It’s respectful. You might not see taking control as disrespectful (I didn’t), but your husband sure does. On the other hand, when you say, “Honey, what should we do about her throwing fits?”, you’re respecting him enough to get his input. This pleases both him and God. Win-win!
2. It breaks the pattern. The more you control, the more you want to. Control can be like an addiction, and we all know incredibly controlling women are overbearing and no fun. Instead, choose to let your husband lead, even if he wants to let the dog lick the baby’s face clean. Giving up control, even of little things, breaks the hold control can have on your heart.
3. It prevents resentment. When you’re doing it all, it means he’s doing nothing. When that’s the case, there’s huge potential for you to become resentful and for him to become defensive. Instead, humbly ask for his help, then show you appreciate it, even if he puts the baby’s sleeper on inside out.
4. You’re laying a foundation. Believe it or not, your baby will one day be driving and dating, and trust me, you’re going to want your husband’s help. However, if you’ve spent sixteen years slapping away Dad’s help and taking charge yourself, your child isn’t going to buy it when you suddenly say, “Listen to your father!” Inviting Dad to lead starts now.
5. Out-of-touch leaders aren’t good ones. When you take control, your husband checks out. When you take charge, he leaves the room. He’s not needed, obviously. Why would he stay? Good leaders are involved, and they know the difference between Sophie’s sleepy cry and her defiant cry.
Bottom line: husbands and wives are better together. God designed for it to be that way. When you take control, you’re missing out on the wonderful gift of having your husband share in parenting.
Shannon Popkin is a writer, speaker and Bible teacher who combines her gifts for humor and storytelling with her passion for Jesus. She is a regular contributor for the Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman blog and author of the book Control Girl. Popkin and her husband live the fast-paced life of parenting three teens in Michigan.