Raising Children, Protecting Marriages
Make no mistake, I know parenting can be an all-encompassing, sacrificial enterprise. We want what's best for our children from the moment they are conceived. But our culture seems a little off kilter in support of parenting these days. With terms like "helicopter parenting" being the norm, when do mom and dad get a break, let alone have time for each other?
I would be remiss as a mommy blogger to solely focus on my children and child-rearing. Yes, that's what my blog Vocational Mothering is most about, but what that ministry actually rests upon is the construct and stability of the family.
Growing up, my father impressed upon me the importance of prioritizing the husband-wife relationship. He described it as the base of the pyramid the rest of the family is built upon. If there is a crack in the base, everything else is affected. Eleven years of marriage and two little kids later, I remember his words. In the fog of the baby phase amidst complete sleep deprivation, I remember them. In exhaustion from the long days of running around during the toddler years, I remember them.
Remembering his words means my husband and I intentionally plan dates. It means we sometimes avoid a glass of wine on those dates for fear of falling asleep in our food in order to get quality conversation time in! It means that although I'd love to look like I just stepped out of a magazine on those dates, sometimes just a change of clothes and a quick coat of lipstick are good enough.
I have heard some moms say it has been years since they have been on a real date with their husbands. I'm sad to hear it. I know time and money can be limiting factors, but there are solutions. Dates do not have to be a three course dinner. Can we get creative? If money is a concern, I know a couple who combines forces with another like-minded one. One couple watches all of the children while the other is on a date, and then vice versa. There's no cost, and two families benefit.
I have been reading the book Trophy Child this fall. Author and Pastor Ted Cunningham has some insightful words to share about marriage. Rather than time or money for dates being a concern, he is convinced parents' attention to their children instead of their marriage is the real one:
"Loving parents who prioritize their children over their marriage give all of their time, energy, money, and words to the kids and give each other the leftovers. This is an unloving act for everyone involved. The greatest gift you can give your children is a mom and dad who love and enjoy each other. It provides kids with a support structure as they receive nurturing, care, and security from parents in a thriving marriage. The bond between husband and wife is to be stronger than the bond between a parent and a child (Gen. 2:24)."
Cunningham counsels couples frequently with this problem. He encourages parents look to each other for their needs, instead of investing everything in their children and then having unhealthy expectations for their performance in return.
I like how Cunningham ties his argument back to Genesis. The verse he references is about a husband and wife becoming one flesh. We all know this theologically, but challenging ourselves to live it out is the next step. We know that any good thing needs tending, and life is too full of challenges to neglect giving heart and real effort to the foundations of our families.
I also like how Cunningham does not limit his argument to married couples, but he addresses single parents too. He instructs, "Be open to marriage or remarriage and other relationships rather than giving all of who you are to your child. It will help you and your child for the rest of your lives." I cannot imagine the pain that is associated with ending a marriage, but it's important to remember that children are just one of our miracles. We are the other one, and God cares about our needs too.
Any good ministry gives out of overflow. I am learning child-rearing is no exception. When I am a balanced woman, committed wife, and intentional seeker of Christ, I am a better mother too. Living in response to God's call allows us to give and be renewed at the same time. We can run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31). And we can not only catapult each other into God's best, but also have the privilege of shining that light to others. Imagine the kind of modeling we can do as parents when we live like that.
Question: How do you intentionally protect quality time with your husband? Do you have a creative solution that you could share with others? Please comment below - I'd love to hear!
Note: The full title of the book mentioned above is Trophy Child: Saving Parents from Performance, Preparing Children for Something Greater Than Themselves by Ted Cunningham. The quotes are from pages 33-34 in the paperback version that was copyrighted in 2012 and published by David C Cook.
Noelle Kirchner has served and preached in churches throughout the New York metro area. Her current position is Parish Associate at the Presbyterian Church at New Providence and stay at home Mom. She believes motherhood is a vocation, a special ministry, and explores its joys and struggles in her blog. She is the mother of two young boys and enjoys writing when her wrangling skills aren't needed! You can find Noelle at her website, on Twitter , and on Facebook.