When asked how I do it all as a mom of a big family, my answer is always the same:
“Well, I have an amazing husband. We’re a really good team.”
That is the 100% truth. Sometimes I wonder what the person asking the question means by the word “all.” Are they assuming I do more than I actually do? Or maybe they’re simply observing the fact that I’m keeping eight kids alive and am managing to feed them somehow. A feat in itself!
I couldn’t possibly take full credit for the good (or the bad) one might see when they look at how our family functions, or at least how it appears on the outside.
I don’t do it all alone. Far from it. One half of a parenting team was not meant to do the work of both parents.
In an imperfect world wrought with the pain of sin and death, sometimes single parenting becomes a reality. In this instance, and for these purposes, I’m speaking of the partnership of parenting as a married couple.
How does one create and sustain an environment in the home where two parents are working as one unit toward a common goal without completely losing it? As we all know, it’s NOT EASY to parent our children well and create a thriving and loving marriage at the same time. It can be crazy-hard.
Here are a few things we’ve learned in our fifteen years as parents. Most, if not all, of these points were learned the hard way. Through the years, we’ve been impatient with each other and our kids. We’ve placed lots of expectations on each other and our kids. We’ve had to reverse bad habits, hold our tongues while opening our ears, and let Christ renew our minds so we could better relate to each other and our kids as we walk this road together.
I imagine if you’re still reading this, you want to love your spouse and family well. And to do that, we all need to put in the work.
1. Raise this family together. – You made the family together, now it’s time to raise the family together. Men have work to do in life. Women have work to do in life. Neither reality exempts one parent or another from the work of intentional parenting. Serve each other and your children as Christ loved and served us. His love was sacrificial and purposeful, with a commitment to see it through to the end. We were made to do this together. As a team.
2. Make a Plan. – How do you know where you’re going and what your goals are if you don’t discuss them? Sit down and talk about what God wants for you as a couple and for your family, and the traits you’d like your family to possess. It sounds so simple, but the results of actually talking it out can make a profound difference.
3. Grace. Lots of grace. – Both parents bring strengths to the team. Both parents bring weaknesses to the team. Don’t dwell on the differences or weaknesses, but rather let Christ use your strengths to build up your marriage and family unit for His glory. Give the same kind of grace to each other as you would like to receive when your faults are showing. Because they will show. How would you like this to be handled by your spouse? Whatever your answer, act in that way when your spouse’s weaknesses make an appearance. Grace. It’s a beautiful thing.
4. Sin isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Though your unwillingness to admit it might be. It’s no secret that we all sin. Let’s stop trying to cover it up by justifying and coddling it. Sin is an everyday occurrence, but we must handle it correctly if we want any kind of relationship with our spouse and children. Admit your failure before Christ and your family, ask for forgiveness, and draw near to Him while choosing a better way. Show your kids this process from time to time as well. They will only benefit from witnessing your humility and desire to make things right.
5. Friendly and loving interaction. – This one is the hardest when you’re tired. All parents are tired. So this is difficult for all of us. Choosing friendly and loving interactions might be the very thing that pushes your marriage from dry to dynamic. Though it takes a lot of self-control and intentionality — kind words, warm smiles, and forgiving attitudes are an integral part of a thriving marriage. Ask any spouse who feels the sting of an icy husband or wife on a regular basis, and they’d say a little kindness and a smile would go a long way in improving the relationship.
6. Opponents make enemies. Teammates get somewhere together. I’ve never seen two opponents accomplish anything together because they’re always heading in opposite directions. Are we working against each other in our parenting? Always challenging the other person’s actions and ideas, trying to “beat” them with our own? Or are we working side-by-side our spouse toward a common goal?
7. Selfish actions and attitudes will sink the boat. – As you can see, what I’ve shared isn’t really about parenting at all. It’s about selflessly loving each other, so you can be on the same team so you can parent well. Selfishness is at the root of most every unhealthy marriage. So if you want your relationship (and your family) to head in a different direction? Seek the Lord, and take an inventory of all the ways you’re contributing to the selfish parent fund, and see what you and Jesus can do about it.
In which of these areas would you most like to see improvement in your marriage and parenting partnership?
We’re in this together! We’re praying for your marriages and for you as a parenting team. Let us know how we can pray!
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#5. Loving the sometimes unlovable grumpiness. This is a great list and tool for everyday