Happy Belated Mother’s Day, friends! Yesterday held many emotions for many people. Some woke up to the smell of slightly burned toast or misshapen pancakes. Some were whisked off to a delightful brunch with all seven of their children and grandchildren. Some pulled the covers up over their heads to enjoy a few more minutes of peace before Dad returned home with the children. And, some pulled the covers up over their heads because they could not face the day. Some crawled out of bed, looked at themselves in the mirror, and then sobbed in the shower. Some washed their face, choked back their tears, and decided they were not going to hurt today. Some tried and some failed.
In this fallen world, Mother’s Day is both a beautiful and bittersweet day.
As a young person, having children seemed like the most natural next step ever. You get married and you have babies – nothing too complicated about that. In fact, before I understood how the whole baby situation worked, I was mad at my parents for not having me exactly a year after they got married. After all, I would have been much older, and therefore, much cooler. ~smile~
As a child, Mother’s Day seemed much simpler too. It was about making mommy smile. Making her cards, pampering her, giving her valuable such coupons as, “You don’t have to make my bed tomorrow.” (Gee thanks, Sweetie.) It was about thanking her for being the best mommy. It was about patting ourselves on the back for not nagging her quite as much as usual. ~smile~
Now Having Grown Up
As an adult, Mother’s Day takes on a more powerful meaning. It makes me think of how much Mom sacrificed so I could have a better life. It reminds me of all the times she traded in being liked for being firm and standing by the truth. It takes me back to the times I heard Mom and Grandma in the distance praying through tear-stained faces.
Then, my mind wanders to the friends who have lost precious babies. It moves to the friend who told me, “Even though I have three children, the one I lost is the one I think about on Mother’s Day.” Finally, my heart aches for the families who have tried, cried, and prayed, and continue to hope for parenthood.
Whether parenthood begins straight out of high school, as a surprise in your first year of marriage, exactly when planned, later than expected, or as the result of a late in life, second chance romance, it is a major part of most anyone’s life. Even those who never become parents are faced with the possibility, the planning, the hoping, the wondering, and the waiting. Parenthood touches us all in some way.
Couples who are skipping towards the altar often discuss children – some in depth and others in only one brief conversation over coffee. However, discussing children is not always the same as discussing parenting. Thinking about their adorable smiles, picking out names, and visualizing their milestones is well and good, but not enough. While talking about children, it is important to also talk about yourselves.
- What do we believe about parenting?
- How do we expect children to change us? How should children change us?
- What will we have to give up to be the type of parents we should be?
- What does God expect of us as parents?
What are your thoughts about parenthood? What are your questions? Take a few minutes and jot down about twenty questions you would like your future spouse to answer about his or her parenting philosophy. Do you have an idea of what parenting means to you but not a clear picture? Are you not sure you want to be a parent?
Everyone lives and grows at different stages. All that matters in this conversation is your honesty. Take the children conversation to a new depth. Talk about the ups, downs, and sideways of parenting – thoughts, fears, questions, concerns, excitements, terrors, and personal experiences. Be willing to look under every stone. And choose not to judge each other for having different beliefs than your own.
Pull Out Your Creed Notebooks, Friends!
When it comes to parenting, new couples can fill volumes with discussion questions. For the sake of time and to get you started, here are several. As usual, get comfortable, pour some coffee or tea, and have some good discussions. If there is a possibility strong feelings or disagreements will arise on this topic, answer the questions alone. Later, when you are calm and rested, come together to talk in a public place.
- Do I wish to be a parent? (Why or why not?)
- What is my philosophy of parenting?
- How important is it to me that the person I marry have the makings of, and the desire to be, a tremendous parent?
- How did my parents raise me?
- How did their parents raise them?
- Which patterns do I want to repeat from how I was raised and which patterns do I want to discard?
- What do I look forward to most about being a parent?
- What is my biggest fear/concern about being a parent?
- What are my parenting deal breakers – i.e., which differences in parenting beliefs would be strong enough to discontinue this relationship?
- e.g., spanking vs. other disciplinary methods, religious and worldview teaching, village to raise a child vs. all parenting between mom and dad, etc.
What Does the Bible Say?
Even when it does not speak explicitly about parenting, parenting wisdom is scattered throughout God’s Word. So, rather than looking only to the verses which point directly to parenting, develop a love of the Bible and seek wisdom from every part – even Leviticus. ~smile~ God wants to impart wisdom to His children.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11, ESV)
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24, ESV)
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15, ESV)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34, ESV)
This passage feels both encouraging and discouraging, does it not? The NIV version says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (emphasis mine) When I read it, I think, “Oh, goodie! It says I will have plenty of trouble so only worry about today’s trouble.” But, it is also encouraging as we tend to worry and lose our joy. Focus on today. Plan for tomorrow but do not lose yourself in fear and trepidation. Do what you can do about today, trust God with tomorrow, and let yourself breathe. Parenting is no joke and it is wise to take it a day at a time. When those trying days come, extend grace to your spouse, your children, and yourself.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)
Some days you will feel like a terrible parent. Some days you will wonder if you are getting it all wrong. In those moments, it is important to remember God is present and adding new mercy to your life every day. Each day is a clean slate. This passage is also a good reminder that we should take the mercy extended to us from our Heavenly Father and extend to our children.
Talk about Parenting Now… Not When You Are Contemplating Divorce
Recently, I watched a sitcom where a young married couple found themselves in the middle of a procreation conversation. One was almost ready to jump on the children train and the other was not quite as eager – as in, he was not sure he ever wanted children. In her horror, the wife responded that if he did not want kids, she wanted to know now. She did not want to start over with someone new late into her childbearing years.
He was understandably taken aback by her admission that not having children might be something over which she was willing to divorce him. Whether or not to have children is deeply personal and central to a person’s heart and being. Withholding your true feelings now, and hoping you never have to admit them, is both unfair and unwise. It is unfair to the person you are marrying (who likely assumes you feel the same way he or she does about having kids) and it is unwise to potentially jeopardize your future marriage by avoiding such an important topic.
Your Couples’ Creed
Unless you are sure you will never have children, parenting (at some level) should be included in your creed as it will likely be a huge part of your story. There is no doubt parenting will change your story. How will it be represented in your couples’ creed?
PSA: It Is Not Too Late to Call Your Mom!
Mother’s Day might be a recent memory, but every day is just as good to honor your parents. Give her a call, send her a gift, or better yet, go see her if you can! No parent is perfect, but they gave us life. Most parents gave energy, money, and cried their share of tears over raising us. Let’s never forget to appreciate them. ~smile~
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12, ESV)
How are you and your significant other preparing for parenthood?