The girls and I had a great time celebrating Spring Break last week. I am, however, excited to get back to our weekly As He Leads Us discussion! We continue this week in talking about marriage. Two weeks ago, we opened the marriage discussion by examining the need to nurture and honor the marriage as the primary relationship in the family. Near the end of that post, I proposed that this season of raising babies can be looked at as a catalyst for increased connectedness and powerful partnering. It is there that I would like to pick up today.
In the months leading up to Dacey's birth over four years ago, I worried a lot about what would happen to our marriage after we became parents. I think many first-time parents share this worry. My chief concern was that motherhood would so consume me that I would have nothing left of myself to offer as a wife. Kyle and I had been married for six-and-a-half years by the time Dacey came along, and our marriage had grown to a place of mostly smooth sailing. I knew the boat was about to be rocked and I was afraid.
I'm just going to be completely honest with you here. The first four or five months after Dacey was born, I was so focused on my desperate attempts to follow what the sleep-training/parent-directed scheduling manuals told me I should be doing that I utterly neglected my marriage. I was constantly distracted by the schedule for the day - analyzing and over-analyzing the exact minutes Dacey slept (or didn’t sleep), calculating the total number of minutes she had spent nursing, and worrying over the bad and decidedly unindependent sleep habits I was allowing her to create. The persistent guilt and consistent frustrations left me completely unavailable to my husband.
The day that Kyle insisted that I close the books and made me promise not to open them again was the day healing and reconnection began between us in our first year as parents. By the time Aliza Joy came along, I found I could see with clarity the three main areas that parenthood has strengthened our marriage - communication, service, and intimacy. Today I just want to speak briefly on communication.
Anyone who has ever written anything on marriage ever has emphasized the importance of communicating with your spouse, so this is nothing new. What I find to be new within me in my second go ‘round as a new mother is a freedom to express to Kyle when I am struggling as a mom without fear because parenthood has forced me to learn and rely on good communication with the man who shares the responsibilities of parenting with me.
Choosing to parent through gentle servanthood can be emotionally and physically exhausting. There is always the temptation to withdraw into isolation or to suffer in silence, yet the yield for these choices is nearly always bitterness, resentment, and anger. When faced with the very real challenges of caring for little ones, each partner has the opportunity to open up to the other about the burden he/she is carrying or an area where support is needed. Wives, don't assume your husband will just know when you need an hour or two out of the house alone - communicate it clearly. Husbands, don't insist that your wife should be able to sense that you are feeling like an outsider - help her to understand your perspective.
As with all things marriage, this is all so much easier to write than to practice. I’ve never felt comfortable with showing sincere vulnerability. I was fully invested in the self-reliant mask I’d created through the years, and the thought of revealing myself as anything less than able fully competent terrified me. As I’ve grown as a mother, I’ve learned there is no shame in revealing my weaknesses, and that my husband is completely trustworthy in his acceptance of my shortcomings. Nothing else in my life had ever caused me to lower my carefully poised I've-got-it-all-together mask like parenting has, and this has opened fresh and powerful channels of communication between Kyle and I that I never would have dared to explore before we had children.
Just as parenting can reveal a need to communicate in the rough spots, it also affords the chance to share unspeakable, exquisite joy with another. In the earliest days, we sat together and marveled at the magnificence of the baby we had created together. Her every sigh set off thrills of astonishing bliss, and we soaked up the wonder of it all together. As the girls have gotten older, we’ve continued to share the delight in the gifts God has given us. I can’t tell you how many nights Kyle and I have laid in bed and just laughed our heads off at the outrageous things the girls have said or done during the day. In fact, this end-of-the-day recap of the highlights of the day is one of the ways Kyle ministers to me the most by directing my mind back towards gratitude for our wonderful, magnificent girls. Communicating our delight in our children is just as important as sharing our struggles.
Laura and I so look forward to hearing your feedback on this aspect of marriage! How has parenting affected the communication level in your marriage? Parents and not-parents-yet alike - what is your best practical tip to keep the conversations going with your spouse?