Hard work and raising children – these are two experiences most married couples will have in their lifetimes. Even if your job is not particularly difficult, your marriage likely will be – at least, at times. I have yet to meet anyone who made it through life without some rough patches somewhere.
So, in the spirit of preparing for marriage, we encourage you and your sweetie to work hard by babysitting together! Watching someone else’s kids is not the same as raising your own, but it does give you a taste of the responsibility. How does your sweetie interact with kids? How do you work together when there is a problem? Could you both use some parenting practice? ~smile~
Eric and I did not receive this valuable experience, and the first time we “babysat” together was a few years into our marriage. I am not sure Eric even realized we were babysitting, probably because he was upstairs reading when everyone else left the house. My sweet, six-week-old niece was sound asleep and all was well… until she woke up and started screaming.
The next twenty minutes felt like an eternity. I could not do anything to calm her down. Inexperienced and frantic, I walked her around, bounced her, and tried everything to stop her from screaming. Eventually, Eric descended from his chambers to inquire about all the noise. He made the following hilarious statement I will not soon forget: “She kept crying and I thought maybe you were asleep or something.” What?!?! Sleeping?!?! You think I could sleep through this?!?!
It is funny now, but at the time I am pretty sure I wanted to pound him in the face. There is nothing like a baby’s colicky cry to bring out the anxiety-ridden bear in all of us. ~smile~ As short term of an experience as it was, I am thankful we had it. It gave me a taste of what could be coming, and now I can prepare for it a bit better – though nothing fully prepares us for parenthood!
Here are some ideas you two can consider in this adventure!
- Volunteer to Work with Kids Together at Church – Flex those parenting muscles in a controlled environment. ~smile~ At church, you have the opportunity to take care of children while also teaching them lessons from God’s word. There is more to parenting than keeping the kids healthy. There is instruction and character building as well. Enjoy time with your special someone, learning to relate better with children, and building your co-working skills all in one fell swoop.
- Volunteer with an After School Program – There are many children out there who need someone to care about them – even if just to play basketball and give them some high fives, atta boys, and atta girls. Is there a child care program with which you and your sweetheart could work a time or two each week? Would you be interested in starting one? It would be a difficult job, but a meaningful one if God has laid such a venture on your hearts.
- Babysit for a Couple Who Needs a Date Night – Want to experience some day in and day out parenting? Feeding children dinner, cleaning them up, and putting them to bed is the ultimate in daily grind parenting. ~smile~ If you and your sweetie are fine, upstanding, responsible young people, I am confident there is a couple out there who would gladly allow you the opportunity to build your parenting muscles, especially in the evening hours. ~smile~ Bed time seems to be the hardest time of the day for many families. Why are we so afraid we will miss something?! I still have a hard time going to bed! ~smile~
- Babysit for a Single Mom or Dad Who Needs a Few Hours to Breathe – This is where you can mix your desire to prepare for parenthood and your desire to shower love on others. Parenting is the hardest job many people will ever know. Imagine having all that responsibility on your own. You and your sweetie can be a magnificent blessing to a single parent who just needs a few hours to regroup. Even a leisurely trip to Kroger – alone – seems like a vacation when you are always on the go. Not only that, but young people growing up in single parent families can deeply benefit from connections with other adults who care for them enough to give them time and attention.
- Coordinate a Date Night for the Parents at Your Church and a Play Date for Their Kids – Our church has done this a few times, and it has been a hit! It does take coordination, so maybe you and your sweetie can organize one for your church. Depending on the size of your church, make sure you have enough volunteers before you announce it! ~smile~ You can tweak it to fit your church’s needs, but basically you and your helpers agree to watch the children at your church for a small fee per child (enough to cover the cost of materials and snacks) so the parents can have an inexpensive night out while the kids enjoy some fun with friends! Obviously, receive permission from the leadership in your church before “renting out” the church facility. ~smile~
- Read, Pray, and Practice – There are some tremendous parenting books on the market today – Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas, Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp, and any of Kevin Leman’s books on parenting. Reading does not give us the hands on training we need, but it does get us thinking and discussing. Prayer prepares our hearts for the challenge ahead, and practice helps us think through what works and does not work – what kids need and how to connect with them in a positive, spirit-building way.
Babysitting together is a quality experience you can both use before marrying and becoming parents yourselves. Whoever you marry will be the other parent of your children. Get a glimpse into how he or she interacts with children now!
Have you and your sweetie worked together with children? Was it a valuable experience?