Wisdom on marriage and parenthood

Back in April, I asked moms of older children to come forth with advice for moms still in the trenches of daily parenthood struggles.  The biggest response I got came from my own mother (she’s my biggest supporter, so it made sense!).  It was so moving and wise, I gave her her very own blog post and got a well-deserved outpouring of support for her words.

And, it got me thinking about other advice.  Sometimes I think each generation feels it’s unique in dealing with the battles of family-rearing.  We think we have to reinvent the wheel.  I’ve been reminded time and again this isn’t true.  For generations parents have been facing similar battles.  Scenery has changed.  Technology has changed, but the underlying challenges have remained.  And one of those challenges is the shift that comes to a marriage once kids are born.  Having children is a total life upheaval.  Statistics on marriages breaking up are higher than they’ve been in a long time because it’s hard.

I have marriage advice I’ve shared before based on my own nearly 13 years of marriage, but I’ve only dealt with balancing marriage and motherhood for a couple of years.  So I went to the best source I know for marriage and parenthood: my own parents.  Their love story began in middle school and hasn’t stopped.  Last month they celebrated 43 years of marriage.  Their life hasn’t been perfect.  They’ve survived my dad being drafted to Vietnam, the birth of two children, stressful jobs, extended family demands and more that I am sure I don’t even know about.  Now they are both retired, thrilled to be grandparents to five beautiful little ones, traveling a lot and happily spending more time together than ever.

And they do well to avoid giving out lots of unwanted advice to my older brother and I.  It slips out sometimes, but I think that happens for any parent.  So, I went to them and told them to let loose.  I gave them a few questions about how to make marriage work in the midst of family and work demands.  They each wrote their own responses and sent them to me separately.  Today I’m sharing my dad’s words.  He answered each question in Q&A form.  Thursday I’ll share my mom’s.  She answered in paragraph form.  Both did an amazing job requiring only minimal editing.  I appreciate their support and honesty.  I also appreciate their love.  As my dad said to me when he agreed to help with this, “If it helps even one marriage then it’s worth it.”

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Q: One of the most common issues among parents today is struggling to find balance between work and family life.  What are your best tips for doing so?  What are some things you guys did to make things work?
A:
With work being so demanding these days and the workplace not having any respect for the family life, it is very difficult to balance work and family.  You can’t do without the means of providing for your family and you can’t make it without your family either.  You have to learn how to capitalize on the time you get.  Every spare moment becomes precious so you use it to the best of your ability.  At times you have to let things go that you know need to be done.  But remember family time in these days is short and work is demanding.  Your life as it was is now about family and you would have it no other way.  But, it is a concentrated effort and you both have to work on it together to enjoy your family.  It cannot be one or the other but both.

Q: How did you work to keep communication lines open while my older brother and I were younger?
A:
One thing that you will find out when you have a family, most of your conversations will be about the kids and what they are

My parents not too long after they got married. They didn't know what life had in store for them with ups and downs along the way, but 43 years later, they're still happily married.

doing and saying and what went on with their day.  But you do have to have adult conversation as well, and you will find that time most generally after the kids go to bed or during their nap times.  You have to make it a concentrated effort.  Don’t just move on to doing whatever is next on the list in your busy day.  Or if you have to, have the discussion of how to make adult conversation a priority and both of you work on it together.
(I had to interject here, that I remember as a kid sometimes hearing my parents talking as they went to bed.  We left our bedroom doors open.  I never heard their actual words, but I could hear them talking as I drifted off to sleep.  It brought me great comfort somehow knowing that they were connecting, though I couldn’t have told you that in those words back then.)

Q: What are some of your best tips for making time for one another in the midst of working and raising children?
A: Utilize grandparents, aunts, uncles or maybe even exchange time with friends.  Parents need time alone just to regain their sanity.  To have a date night is the best thing young parents can have.  Utilize all your trustworthy people to make this happen.  If you can take a couple days and go somewhere, that is even better.  It refreshes you and you can face being a parent once again.
(I’m also adding that I’ve often felt like my husband and I do this kind of stuff more than my parents.  But, I think that’s my skewed perception.  Because when they were off having couple time, I was off having fun with my grandparents or aunts and uncles and never gave it a second thought.  My kiddo is the same way.  She doesn’t suffer because we have couple time.  I didn’t really understand this until I read this advice from my dad that I never felt left out or neglected.)

Q: What advice would you have for a couple about to have their first baby about how to maintain a connection to one another in the midst of exhaustion and stress?
A:
The first baby in one’s life is a miracle within itself, as is any baby.  Both of you want to do everything for the baby but exhaustion sets in all too soon for both of you and then the realization that you have to do this differently comes about.  Lots of times, especially right after the birth, the mom is taking care of the baby through the week day and night.  Dads should at least do their on the part on the weekend and let mom have a time of recouping.  Doing this will help in both being more rested and feeling like communicating.  Time is the only thing that is going to relieve the stress from the first baby and learning how to take care of it.  Letting trustworthy people help in those first few days to let you rest from the ordeal of birth is also important.  One thing you learn not to do is turn down help when you can get it.

Q: How do the challenges to connect with one another change as kids age?  How did you work to overcome those challenges?
A: You grow with them as your kids grow.  Each year as your kids grow and learn new things as they go from being carried everywhere to walking and doing things on their own it is somewhat of a relief.  At least until they become challenging to you. When they begin to challenge you then you have to become the parent.  Maybe not the one you want to be, but the one that will be best for your child.  It is a growing process for you as it is for your child or your teen or young adult.  Can I say how to deal with certain situations?  No. Each one is different and you will handle it accordingly.  That is why it is a challenge.
(This made me smile.  And I thought my parents always knew how to handle everything!  I’m pretty sure they were like I am and just winging it and figuring it out as they went along!)

Q: What are the type five qualities of a good marriage?
A:
Love, respect, communication, support and trust

Q: What else can you think of?  I’m totally open to whatever you have to include; I just thought maybe some questions would get you working.
A:
Being a parent is one of the biggest blessings that God can give to a couple.  It is up to us as parents to raise our children in the right way and that being in the way the Lord would have us to.  Does that make us responsible for our children?  Only to the age of accountability.  Hopefully what we have taught them will be what they will follow or come back to.  That will be between them and the Lord.

The other aspect is to raise them to know what the real world is like — what to expect, what to watch out for, what not to get involved in.  Not that they live a sheltered life or a hard life, but help them understand what life can really be like if they are not on the look out.

 

1. (a) With work being so demanding these days and the work place not having any respect for the family life it is very difficult to balance work and family. You can’t do without the means of providing for your family and you can’t make it without your family either. You have to learn how to capitalize on the time you get. Every spare moment becomes precious so you use it to the best of your ability. (b) At times you have to let things go that you know need to be done. But remember family time in these days is short and work is demanding. Your life as it was is now about family and you would have it no other way. But, it is a concentrated effort and you both have to work on it together to enjoy your family. It cannot be one or the other but both.

2. One thing that you will find out when you have a family, most of you conversations will be about the kids and what they are doing and saying and what went on with their day. But you do have to have adult conversation as well and you will find that time most generally after the kids go to bed or during their nap times and you have to make it a concentrated effort. Don’t just move on to doing whatever is next on the list in your busy day. Or if you have to have the discussion and both of you work on it together.

3. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles or maybe exchange time with friends. Parents need time alone just to regain their sanity. To have a date night is the best thing young parents can have. Utilize all your trustworthy people to make this happen. If you can take a couple days and go somewhere that is even better. It refreshes you and you can face being a parent once again.

4. The first baby in one’s life is a miracle within its self as it is any baby. Both mom and dad want to do everything for it but matter of exhaustion sets in all too soon for both and then the realization that we have to do this different will come about. With mom taking care of the baby through the week day and night and dad working dad should at least do his on the part on the weekend and let mom have a time of recouping. Doing this will help in both being more rested and feeling like communicating. Time is the only thing that is going to relieve the stress from the first baby and learning how to take care of it and letting knowing people help in those first few days to let you rest from the ordeal of birth. One thing you learn not to do is turn down help when you can get it.

5. You grow with the as your kids grow. Each year as your kids grow and learn new things as they go from being carried everywhere to walking and doing things on their own it is somewhat of a relief. At least until they become challenging to you. When they begin to challenge you then you have to become the parent. Maybe not the one you want to be, but the one that you want to be that will be best for your child. It is a growing process for you as it is for your child or your teen or young adult. Can I say how to deal with certain situations? No. Each one is different and you will handle it accordingly. That is why it is a challenge.

6. Love, Respect, Communications, Support, Trust1.    (a) With work being so demanding these days and the work place not having any respect for the family life it is very difficult to balance work and family.  You can’t do without the means of providing for your family and you can’t make it without your family either.  You have to learn how to capitalize on the time you get.  Every spare moment becomes precious so you use it to the best of your ability.  (b) At times you have to let things go that you know need to be done.  But remember family time in these days is short and work is demanding.  Your life as it was is now about family and you would have it no other way.  But, it is a concentrated effort and you both have to work on it together to enjoy your family.  It cannot be one or the other but both.
2.    One thing that you will find out when you have a family, most of you conversations will be about the kids and what they are doing and saying and what went on with their day.  But you do have to have adult conversation as well and you will find that time most generally after the kids go to bed or during their nap times and you have to make it a concentrated effort.  Don’t just move on to doing whatever is next on the list in your busy day.  Or if you have to have the discussion and both of you work on it together.
3.    Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles or maybe exchange time with friends.  Parents need time alone just to regain their sanity.  To have a date night is the best thing young parents can have.  Utilize all your trustworthy people to make this happen.  If you can take a couple days and go somewhere that is even better.  It refreshes you and you can face being a parent once again.
4.    The first baby in one’s life is a miracle within its self as it is any baby.  Both mom and dad want to do everything for it but matter of exhaustion sets in all too soon for both and then the realization that we have to do this different will come about.  With mom taking care of the baby through the week day and night and dad working dad should at least do his on the part on the weekend and let mom have a time of recouping.  Doing this will help in both being more rested and feeling like communicating.  Time is the only thing that is going to relieve the stress from the first baby and learning how to take care of it and letting knowing people help in those first few days to let you rest from the ordeal of birth.  One thing you learn not to do is turn down help when you can get it.
5.    You grow with the as your kids grow.  Each year as your kids grow and learn new things as they go from being carried everywhere to walking and doing things on their own it is somewhat of a relief.  At least until they become challenging to you. When they begin to challenge you then you have to become the parent.  Maybe not the one you want to be, but the one that you want to be that will be best for your child.  It is a growing process for you as it is for your child or your teen or young adult.  Can I say how to deal with certain situations?  No. Each one is different and you will handle it accordingly.  That is why it is a challenge.
6.    Love,  Respect,  Communications,   Support,  Trust
7.    Being a parent is one of the biggest blessings that GOD can give to a couple.  It is up to us as parents to raise our children in the right way and that being in the way the LORD would have to.  Does that make us responsible for our children?  Only to the age of accountability.  Hopefully what we have taught them will be what they will follow or come back to.  That will be between them and the LORD.  The other aspect is to raise for what the REAL WORLD is like.  What to expect, what to watch out for, what not to get involved in.  Not that they live a sheltered life but what life can really be like if they are not on the look out.

7. Being a parent is one of the biggest blessings that GOD can give to a couple. It is up to us as parents to raise our children in the right way and that being in the way the LORD would have to. Does that make us responsible for our children? Only to the age of accountability. Hopefully what we have taught them will be what they will follow or come back to. That will be between them and the LORD. The other aspect is to raise for what the REAL WORLD is like. What to expect, what to watch out for, what not to get involved in. Not that they live a sheltered life but what life can really be like if they are not on the look out.

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