I had a few shocking revelations when I first became a parent.
First, I grossly underestimated the amount of time and energy these living, breathing, screaming, hungry, sleepless, restless, 100-percent-dependent-upon-us human beings require of us. Even as a counselor and coach, I was ill-prepared for the chaos about to invade our home.
Secondly, until this point, the only place I questioned my salvation was on the golf course.
Finally, the words “easy” and “baby” do not go together in the Straub household. I think God allowed us to have difficult babies so we wouldn’t pull our britches up too high, thinking we have it all figured out.
I’m convinced nothing has the power to simultaneously enliven and exhaust a person more than parenthood. Becoming a dad is the most rewarding task I ever signed up for, but it’s also the most difficult.
Christi and I had our first child a little more than two years after our wedding day. Since every family situation is unique, and parenting itself is so subjective, I don’t believe you can fully anticipate—whether you wait two years or six—what it will require of you until it happens. However, you can set yourself up for a more pleasant experience by answering these four questions:
- What patterns do we need to set now?
When Christi and I first married, we went to go to the gym together immediately following our workday from 5-6pm. She wanted to talk about the day, but I needed time to unwind. Though we worked out separately, we did it together. By the time we finished working out, I was ready to process the day with her.
This is an example of a pattern we set early in our marriage to keep us emotionally connected. Though we no longer work out together everyday, we do maintain our once-a-week date night that we started prior to having children. Without it, I’m not sure what the state of our marriage would be right now.
These patterns of staying connected matter so much because, after kids, you will have:
- Much less time with your spouse
- Much less sleep
- Much less sex
- Much more stress
- Many more bills
I’m not trying to dissuade you from having children. What I’m saying is that the patterns you set now will be critical to how well you stay emotionally connected with one another.
If you have major marital issues or unhealthy patterns of staying emotionally connected, seek a counselor, pastor or mentor to help you get on track.
- How will we handle childcare?
Though this conversation will be a fluid one depending on job situations, maternity leave, and even paternity leave, it’s a discussion that relates back to the first question. There is no right or wrong answer here, except the one that best benefits your family.
One of the encouraging trends today is increased paternity leave. Whether both work, or one stays home with the children, this is a conversation that isn’t just financial, but also taps into identity. Being on the same page about work, and being comfortable with the daycare options available, is an important discussion to have now.
- What is the quality of our support network?
We’re living in what is arguably the most individualistic culture in the history of the world. Yet, we weren’t meant to go through life—especially as parents—alone (see Genesis 2:19; Deuteronomy 6:4-9). We need support.
If you have family nearby to help, that’s a bonus. If not, developing a healthy and safe community around you is critical to maintaining a healthy marriage and family.
Christi and I—may I emphasize, prayerfully and carefully—found family within our church, with adopted aunts and grandparents who help us with our kids. We either mentor, or serve them, respectively, in return.
- Do we have a marital bucket list?
Everyone needs a bucket list of adventures they want to go on as a family. Starting with a marital bucket list is important.
Christi and I put a trip to Italy on our list when we got married. We knew once we had kids, this trip was going to be put on the backburner for a few years. So what did we do?
For our one-year anniversary we joined one of our closest couple friends on a 10-day adventure across the Italian countryside. No anniversary gift has matched it since.