Our culture presents marriage post-baby in a rather negative light. Though shrouded in humor, the media usually portrays life after kids as chaotic, distracted and stressful. While these things are definitely true about parenthood at times, they do not have to characterize families—and they especially do not define Christian marriages.
There is hope for marriage post-baby. Our marriages can be happier, stronger and more fulfilling after kids than they ever were before having little ones. How do I know? First, because Christ is as graciously sustaining in parenthood as He is for singles and newlyweds. Second, I’ve experienced it firsthand.
Marriage after kids is harder, but harder does not mean worse. By changing our mentality toward marriage, the extra effort we put toward our spouse actually makes the little-kid years of marriage far more fun and fulfilling than before. Here are four ways to make that true for you.
1. Communicate your needs.
One of the chief complaints among young moms is that dads don’t help. My own husband, Josh, had this problem when our daughter was born. At first, I was extremely resentful. How could he not see what I needed?
It wasn’t until I humbled myself, communicated my needs and asked for help that I learned the truth: He felt that he couldn’t do things up to my standards, so he was afraid to try. Rather than controlling how and when everything got done, I let him do things his way and thanked him for the help.
This is a progressive journey for us, and it will be the same for you. Perhaps it’s easier to divide the labor and assign tasks. Make an evening routine that you do as a couple. Talk as you wash dishes or while you cook breakfast. Make the needs of your family a team issue instead of pointing fingers at the person who is doing less.
2. Pursue unity.
Oneness in Christ is a status, but it’s also an action. We have to lay down our preferences and comforts every day to honor our spouse and bring ourselves into marital unity. That’s hard! But as I stated before, hard is not bad. Hard can be wonderful if we press through the difficulty and persevere for the sake of the relationship.
A great way to reclaim unity is to pray together at night. Josh and I frequently struggle to find time to pray, so we try to make mealtimes more interesting by praying over specific requests, and also pray together for five minutes at night. This is made easier because we go to bed at the same time, together, each evening—which also cultivates that spirit of oneness.
3. Put your marriage first.
It comes naturally to put our kids first, but that’s not what they need most. They need the security of parents who put their marriage above all else. When we take care of our spouses first, we’re also loving our children. We’re showing them what commitment and perseverance look like.
It can be hard to see the horizon beyond diapers and late-night feedings, but by cultivating our marriages, those things become less of a burden and more a part of your family story. You’re obeying God and teaching your children every time you honor and love your spouse.
4. Embrace your true purpose.
Finally, remember that the purpose of marriage is not personal fulfillment. Marriage is a way to preach the gospel to everyone around us. Our relationship to our spouse reveals the character of our hearts—a scary thing to put on display! What’s more, our marriages aren’t designed to make us happy, but to fulfill the Great Commission. Your husband or wife is your co-laborer for the mission of Christ!
Josh and I recently read the book You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan. We recommend it to everyone we know, because it transformed our view of marriage. We now know that our purpose is to serve the world, preach Christ through our marriage and teach our children who Jesus is. We are called to disciple together, and because of that, our marriage isn’t about us at all—it’s about God. This lifts a huge burden from our shoulders and helps us focus on what really matters.
This season of marriage may be difficult, but hard is not bad. Persevere. Look to Christ. Love one another and embrace the purpose your marriage has on this earth.