Archive for Marriage

The Support Moms Need, Part 2: Dads

Photo Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative

Photo Credit: Mindy Rainey Creative

Yesterday I noted that young moms need support, and that our kids can be part of the solution, not just the cause of our stress.

For most mothers, there is one other built-in supporter: our husband (I’ll talk about supporting single moms and military wives later).  This is a blog for women, but we can’t talk about a young mother’s need for support without pointing out that a young father needs to make some sacrifices for the family, too.  For our family, that meant my husband’s earning potential peaked at 27, when he quit his prestigious law firm job to pursue a career path that would allow for more time with the family.  For another family, that might mean that Dad doesn’t take the promotion that would require him to travel 4 months out of the year.  It might mean not running for public office.  It might mean working a ho-hum job that pays the bills rather than up and moving your family to LA to pursue your dream of making it big in Hollywood (I know way too many of those guys out here!).  It might mean turning down an opportunity to attend a conference so that you can be home on Saturday to coach your son’s soccer team.

Just as motherhood is often not glamorous, fatherhood can seem less exciting than the workforce.  Men can’t have it all, either, and a dad who stays late at work because he doesn’t want to come home and give the kids baths is being selfish and disrespectful to his wife, who has been working just as long as he has by 7 pm.  As a stay-at-home mom, I am ON every waking moment.  My four year old crawls into my bed at dawn to get me up, I’m homeschooling all morning and trying to do chores all afternoon, and on the nights when my husband goes back in to the office to work until midnight, I’m the one sending overtired kids back to bed until 10 pm (I hate you, daylight savings time!!!).  My husband gets up earlier than I do and works a full day, too, but that doesn’t mean that he’s exempt from bedtime duty on the evenings when he’s home.  It’s poisonous to try for a perfect 50/50 division of parenting duties, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater and throw all the responsibility for child-rearing on mom. Kids are a lot of work, and when you choose to become a father, you should expect to participate in that work.

Moms sometimes shoot themselves in the foot here.  They complain that they have to do everything, but then they criticize how their husbands do things: Dad takes the kids out on Saturday morning to give Mom a quiet couple of hours at home, and they come home, announcing that they had a yummy breakfast at McDonalds!!!!  Mom blows up at Dad for feeding her precious snowflakes junk food, and Dad decides that next weekend, he’ll sleep in.  Mom complains to her girlfriends that Dad just doesn’t care about the kids, and resentment grows.  Or Dad gets the kids dressed, and the girls are wearing church dresses to go watch a soccer game.  Mom lights into Dad (who can’t tell the difference between church dresses and play dresses–they all just look like dresses to him), and next week, he sits in the minivan, waiting, while Mom searches for shin guards and dresses children and mumbles about how unhelpful Dad is.  Know what I mean?  In nine years of parenting together, my husband and I have figured out that yes, I do have certain ways we do things because my routines work for our family, but if he does something differently, it’s okay.  I can’t remember which one of us first let the kids put mini chocolate chips in their oatmeal, but you know what, my kids eat oatmeal every single day, and there’s still less sugar in it than in a bowl of cold cereal, at a fraction of the cost!  It’s okay!  There is not one right way to feed kids breakfast!

And then there are my friends whose husbands seem to feel that if Mom is staying home, they don’t have to worry about parenting.  Or the husbands who are really in a crazy time at work (pre-tenure, or leading up to a big case/presentation/conference) and really don’t have the brain cells left at the end of a long day to do much more than kiss the kids and tuck them into bed.  That is tough.  Most of the burned-out moms I know are the ones who have been doing all the parenting and figure if they go back to work, their husbands will have to pitch in more.  One mom I know announced to her husband that she was chucking her home daycare business and going back to an office job because she couldn’t handle their four children plus two extras, all on her own.  Her husband was totally caught off guard and promised to help more, but at that point, it was too late.  She said if he’d spent the last three years helping, she wouldn’t be quitting now.  This is where I think regular dates with our spouses, talking through work stress and family needs, would really be helpful.  (If you’re like me, thousands of miles away from family, the idea of a regular date night probably has you rolling your eyes.  Maybe you can substitute with a 15 minute conversation after the kids go to bed and before pulling up Netflix?)  It’s hard for me to address this issue with my own husband in a way that respects the hard work that he does for our family by bringing home the paycheck but also communicates my need for specific assistance on evenings and weekends.  I totally mucked up a discussion on this very issue recently and had to ask my husband’s forgiveness for my sinful words and attitude.  I get it, girlfriends, it’s hard.

Perhaps the most important way Dad can be part of Mom’s support network is with his words.  Even though I blog about the importance of full-time motherhood, I can get pretty discouraged on the days (weeks!) when I see no fruit from my work.  When my husband comes alongside me and and praises me for the invisible things I do each day, I feel so built up and encouraged.  In our excellent pre-marriage counseling, our mentors specifically told my husband he would need to do this–a lot–when I was home with a houseful of kids.  Of course, this not-taking-your-spouse-for-granted thing goes both ways: how often do I praise my husband for getting up and going to the office day in and day out, year after year?  Not enough.  If any husbands are reading this, I encourage them to praise their wives today.  And for the discouraged moms reading this, I encourage you to tell your husband that he can help you by praising you for your efforts with the home and the kids.

 

How does your husband support your work in the home?  Do you believe that men can’t “have it all” either?

Posted in For New Moms, Having It All, Marriage, Parenting | 2 Comments

On Jonah Days, I Bake Cookies

It had been one of those days. The kids were screaming and crying, I found myself yelling as I tried to prep dinner, it was raining too hard to send the kids outside, no one could agree on what to watch or listen to, the house was a mess, and I was counting down the minutes until my husband came home. As I pulled dinner out of the oven at his normal arrival time, the phone rang. I said out loud, “If this is him telling me he hasn’t left the office, I’m going to cry.” Sure enough, a stressed voice on the other line told me that he didn’t know when he’d be home—tons of students had stopped by to talk, the faculty meeting had gone long, and he had a lot left to do. He was having a rough day, too.

Has this happened to anyone else?  So I had two choices at this point. I could get mad because I’d exerted myself on a bad day to make a special meal for him, and if I’d known at 3pm that it was just the kids and me for dinner, I would have made boxed mac and cheese. Instead, I chose plan B. I fed the kids their gourmet meal, set them loose in the trashed family room, and called my mom for an attitude adjustment. I described the situation, she empathized and encouraged, then I told the kids we were making chocolate chip cookies for Daddy. They had fun (and a great incentive to clean up the house and get into jammies in time to sample one before bed), I was able to channel my energy into something positive, and the atmosphere in the house cleared.

I don’t make cookies every time my husband is late from work!  And I’m not saying that homemade cookies are essential to a good marriage.  But we are a chocolate-loving family, baking from scratch is my love language, and the kids never turn down a chance to help me bake.  I’m blessed in that random late nights are the exception for my husband these days, not the rule (as with a previous job). It probably wouldn’t be healthy if we were baking cookies every other night!  But I’ve found that on Jonah Days (as Anne of Green Gables would say), cookies always go over better than complaints.

What do you do on days so bad that your usual witching hour tricks aren’t working and your husband is working late?

Posted in Home Life, Marriage | 3 Comments

Life with Special Needs: Q&A

To finish out my special needs series, I’ve got a couple questions that I’d like to answer.

How have you managed religious training/Sunday School with your daughter, especially if she can’t understand what’s going on, or is disruptive to the class?

We are fortunate in this way. We are members of a relatively small church, and every nursery worker knows our daughter, and what to expect from her. It also helps that her 4-year-old sister comes down to the nursery for the second half of the church service–if anybody needs help translating my daughter’s speech, they can ask her sister. I’m not really sure what the future will look like in this area.

Has having a special needs child been hard on your marriage?

Yes. There’s a reason that divorce rates are higher in families with special needs kids. It takes an extraordinary emotional toll on your marriage. I think some couples are able to weather the storm well, being drawn closer together; others are not. Quickly, I have two thoughts on this:

1. Go seek counselling from a pastor. They are there to help. They can help referee ongoing fights, and point out hidden areas of bitterness against your spouse that manifest in many different ways. Be ready to give answers to hard questions, and receive rebuke for your sin–it’s the only way forward.

2. As much as you think you want to run away from your spouse, leaving the past behind and making a fresh start, it never works that way. The two of you became one when you married, and there is no way to undo that. Between custody battles, alimony battles, and the emotional toll, divorce will only make a bad situation worse. It’s worse for you, it’s worse for the kids. It just is. Not only that, but you have now lost the one person who went through your suffering with you. Even when you think you can’t stand him, and things will never be ok, it’s worth it to put in the effort to reconcile. You’d be surprised the wounds that time can heal.

Wrapping up, I’d like to share an article my friend Michal sent to me, addressing how the disabled bring glory to God. It was encouraging to me, and helps to answer some of those ‘why’ questions.

Part 1 I Part 2 I Part 3 I Part 4

Posted in Marriage, Special Needs | 1 Comment

On Supporting a Friend’s Marriage

My baby brother just got married last month.  It was the perfect wedding–a beautiful church, unseasonably warm Missouri weather for December, hordes of adorable child attendants, a handsome Marine groom, a beautiful bride, smiles and joy everywhere.  But the reality is that my brother and sister-in-law have a tough road ahead: deployments, defying the odds that most USMC marriages end in divorce, not to mention the struggles we civilians face: adjusting to life together, finances, and Lord willing, parenthood (especially in the physically draining early years).  Our pastor preached a rock solid wedding sermon in which he challenged all of us there to support and protect this new marriage.  If a Christian marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church, then we’d better make sure the world is getting the right idea by providing accountability and encouragement to our married friends.

So how can we be supporting our friend’s marriages?
thoughts on supporting a friend's marriage

Pray for them. Don’t say you’ll pray for them and forget it. Really put a post-it on your fridge/mirror/steering wheel, and pray for their marriage. Back when I had a prayer journal in my organized college days, I had a whole list of married friends I cycled through praying for. I’m not that together anymore, but I do try to pray for marriages whenever they come to mind. (In fact, just writing this post has made me stop and pray for several of my friends!)

Don’t fall into the trap of encouraging your girlfriends to complain about their husbands. If a friend has a legitimate need for encouragement and prayer, listen, but call her out when she falls into whining.

If you hear that a couple is struggling, pray for them, offer to watch their kids so that they can have some adult time together (taking all the kids to an enclosed park is easy and fun), bring them a meal, or maybe even come to visit them if you’re not local. I’ll never forget that one day late in my first pregnancy, I shared with Anna that I felt so disconnected and discouraged while my husband was putting in super-long hours at school. I’d heard about someone back home who had walked out on her husband, and for the first time in my life, I understood that maybe she had started by feeling the same way I was feeling. Anna and her husband—busy with grad school and kids themselves—immediately planned a visit and loaded up their two kids and crashed our one-bedroom (!) apartment for the weekend. I wouldn’t exactly call it an intervention, because we weren’t on the brink of divorce or anything, but it was a well-timed visit of encouragement to press on (together). It meant so much to me to get to spend a few days laughing with friends who had known us as long as we had known each other, who had seen our relationship dynamics back in college, and who were just a couple years ahead of us in the school/work/family balancing act.

Bonus: While you’re all still taking in what a great friend Anna is, I found a picture from that very weekend! This is what we looked like eight kids ago (or six, if you count the two in utero at the time)…

Eight Kids Ago

Whose marriage can you pray for today?

Posted in Friendship, Marriage | Leave a comment
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