Monthly Archives: January 2012

Wrong Reasons to Have Kids

It’s not about sex today. It’s about marriage and parenting. (I can talk about other things. Really.)

I recently gave some thought to how unprepared I was for mommyhood and how overwhelmed I was in the first few years. I wish I could say that I have always been one of those beautiful Christian women who craved motherhood and handled it with aplomb and constant thanksgiving.

How many of those women are there, though? A lot of moms have discovered the hard way that parenting is not for sissies.

Parenting is not for sissies. Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Parenting is not for sissies.
Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Listen, I am thrilled to be a mommy. However, I am nothing if not a blunt realist when it comes to how challenging it can be at times. So I thought I’d give my take on reasons people sometimes give for wanting children and how oh-so-very-wrong they are.

Having children will bring us closer. Indeed, there were be times when Mommy and Daddy look at each other in that “We’re in this together” or “You’re such a great parent” moment. But for the most part, embarking on parenthood will not immediately bring you closer.

Having children can divide you. For one thing, they sap all of your energy and time. Infants keep you awake at night and stress you with their seemingly endless crying at times, such that you’ll turn into a snapping turtle with anyone who gets in the way of your peace and sleep (e.g., your husband). If you think that they grow out of that entirely, just talk to the parents of teenagers – whose lose sleep from later bedtimes, more activities, and anxiety as their kids are making bigger and bigger decisions.

Your family differences will emerge. He grew up with lenient parents and he turned out okay; you grew up with strict ones and now you appreciate them for it. Or whatever the mix happens to be. He thinks boys should play football, you think that sport is the equivalent of Mad Max’s Thunderdome. He’s Lutheran, you’re Baptist; what about the kids? He waited until Christmas morning to open presents, and your family always opened some on Christmas Eve. Believe me, your families of origin, traditions, and expectations will come into play when children become part of the mix and you have to iron out what kind of family you want to be.

Children themselves will try to manipulate you. Those conniving little munchkins are amazingly good at learning who to hit up for what they want. Growing up, if I wanted a parent to buy me something, I’d ask dad. If I wanted freedom to do something, I’d ask mom. It’s not easy day after day to display a united front, especially if you don’t agree with your spouse’s take on things. Your kids hone in on that like a laser beam.

I want someone to love and need me. They will need and love you . . . for the first several years of their life. However, young children are mostly focused on how much you love them. They want their needs met. And as they grow, your child’s admiration for SuperMommy may fade a bit. By the teenage years, they love you, but they may also be embarrassed for you to show your face anywhere within a one-mile radius of their friends. And when you put your foot down and say NO to them, some kids have been known to say “I hate you!” or “You’re ruining my life.” Yes, they will love and need you, but it won’t always be expressed the way you wish.

I am tired of dealing with birth control, so I’ll let God figure it out. If you can’t be bothered to discuss birth control options and choose a good one for yourselves, you are not ready to be a parent. Believe me, you’ll be far more bothered by waking up at 1:30 a.m. to care for a child whose vomiting reminds you of The Exorcist. If you don’t want to use an external tool, try natural family planning (e.g., Sheila Gregoire’s article discusses the fertility awareness method).

It’s that time in our lives. Everyone around you is having children, or this is the time you wrote on your life calendar that you would be starting a family, so you might as well. This is where your mother’s “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” question is spot on. If everyone in your neighborhood is installing roofs, and you haven’t laid a foundation yet, it’s too soon for a roof. You have to look at your own house and see if it is ready for the addition of children. Remember Psalm 127:1: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

So . . . I make it sound like having children is a fate worse than being stuck at Wal-Mart on Black Friday (without pepper spray), right? It isn’t. Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3). However, it’s best to make sure that our marriages are ready. Indeed, it would be better for couples to prepare their relationships before marriage and work hard in their first months of marriage to ensure that they are ready if God decides to surprise! plop a sweet little one into their laps.

That said, here are some great reasons to become a parent.

We are secure in our marital closeness and want to add our circle. A husband and a wife are a family. They need to be a well-grounded family before they add new members. But most couples who have established a good relationship start yearning to have more in their household – to build the house up with children. Each child will change the dynamics of a family somewhat, but whether one or nine children come through the home, the husband and wife are the cornerstones who remain throughout.

We have overflowing love to give to a child. There really is something to that feeling of “I love you so much, I want to have your baby.” Paul Anka expressed it as well in his famous song, “You’re having my baby, what a lovely way of sayin’ how much you love me.” I adore seeing the traits that warm me about my husband showing up in my children. Many couples also approach raising children as a ministry (which it is because you will spread the Word of God to these little ones in your care). They embark on parenthood as a calling to create a life, then share the love of God with the child and raise her to become a living witness for God’s glory.

We have planned for our future with a family. Those of you who are already parents, raise your hand if this experience has cost more than you expected. Okay, we are all waving our arms like Superbowl fans here. The time, effort, and money to raise a child will require sacrifice in other areas and a huge dose of responsibility. Take a little inventory on your resources and see if you’re up to the task. Now let me tell you: You are not up to the task. No one is. You can’t wait until everything’s perfect because it never will be. But you do need to have a general plan for feeding, clothing, and caring for the little guy. What you still lack, you can ask God for in (constant) prayer.

It is the right time in our lives. It’s up to you to know when you are ready. Prepare your marriage for it. Plan for it. Pray about it. Then jump in.

I’m wholly in favor of having children. I know some wonderful married people who have chosen not to, and they have been called to other great things. But relationships stretch us. Having children can teach you patience, empathy, and selflessness like few other experiences can. I love my children with parts of me that I didn’t even know existed, and this has taught me a lot about how my Heavenly Father approaches His own children. Moreover, lying next to my kid at night with the kid’s arms around my neck and me brushing the hair back from that sweet face melts my heart into a pulsing puddle.

Plus, we parents want the rest of you to know that joy of watching Barney & Friends, attending a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, and picking up 12,000 Legos or Barbie shoes out of the carpet. Mwahahaha.

So what are the criteria you think are important for having children? What advice would you give to new parents or couples thinking of having children?

Note: Check out a recent report from the National Marriage Project (University of Virginia) about thriving in marriage after the baby comes.

Honors & Hi-Fives

Honors

I feel a bit like this:

Miss America crowning photo

I’m not pageant pretty, but I was definitely honored at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 with some kudos from fellow marriage bloggers. It feels a bit like getting a tiara! (I don’t have a tiara. Even though my sister once asked, “Doesn’t every girl have a tiara?” I do have a banner from my high school prom, but that’s another story altogether.)

Anyway, before I lose focus completely, let me say “Thank you so much!” to:

Grow Your Marriage Award 2011Lori at The Generous Wife who awarded me a Grow Your Marriage Award. She identified “a few blogs that continually stand out to me because of their quality and because of the heart of those who write them.” Seriously, that is tiara stuff, people. I placed in the “Bravery” category (although my husband might label it “Frankness”). This category also includes wonderful fellow bloggers Sheila Gregoire of To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage with Lori saying, “these gals regularly (and with great insight) blog about female sexuality. It’s a tough subject fraught with all kinds of issues and general embarrassment. You go, girls.” Thank you, Lori.

AND TO

Sheila Gregoire at To Love, Honor and Vacuum for including FIVE quotes of mine in her 50 Best Marriage Quotes of 2011. (Who knew I actually said quotable stuff?) Sheila’s list is a great resource, and I recommend you read it all the way through. There is a lot to think about there, and so much wisdom for marriages collected in one place. Thanks, Sheila.

If you haven’t visited The Generous Wife; To Love, Honor, and Vacuum; or Intimacy in Marriage, I love what these ladies do in boldly speaking up for God’s plan for marriage.

Honors out of the way, I proceed to Hi-fives. Some marriage experts and advocates whom I respect have recently come out with resources that you might want to know about. I am giving a hi-five to these folks for going the extra mile and producing helpful material for couples. I am not getting any kick-back for including these here (though if someone wants to throw $$ my direction, I’ll leap for it like a bridesmaid going for the bouquet). Perhaps you’ll add them to your To Be Read List for 2012, just as I am doing.

First Kiss to Lasting Bliss by Lori D. Lowe of Marriage Gems. This book “features the real-life stories of couples across the U.S. Many of them used adversity to improve their marriages. . . .You will get to know the couples and their often difficult journeys, as well as the keys to their now-strong marriages.” First Kiss to Lasting Bliss is available in both print and ebook format.

The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Gregoire at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. This book isn’t out until March, but I’m biting my fingernails in anticipation and you can pre-order it now. I love Sheila’s Wifey Wednesday blog posts; they are frank, profound, and insightful. She boldly advocates for marriage on her site. Mark your calendar and keep your eyes open for its release. I will definitely let you know on my website when it officially comes out.

A Penny for Your Thoughts from Stu and Lisa Gray at Stupendous Marriage. “The Husband and Wife editions of A Penny For Your Thoughts EACH contain 99 questions you can ask your spouse. Ranging from family history to movies to music to sex.” These are conversation starters to increase communication on a range of issues and deepen your relationship with your spouse. Each version (husband and wife) costs only 99 cents! At $1.98 for both of them, that’s less than the vanilla hot chocolate I just ordered at the coffee shop and much more lasting.

Also, this past year, Stu and Lisa Gray of Stupendous Marriage and Gina Parris and Corey Allen of Winning at Romance and Simple Marriage respectively started podcasting shows. Both are free downloads. Check out The Stupendous Marriage Show and Sexy Marriage Radio.

What do you think? What resources do you recommend for improving your marriage? What particular book or blog has helped you?

ESPN Comes to the Bedroom

ESPN LogoSo given my quirky sense of humor, I had this odd moment when I started wondering: What if there were sports announcers in your bedroom during your times of marital intimacy? What would they say about your “game”? How would it sound if ESPN sent a statistics guy and a color commentator to cover how it’s going for you and your spouse? Are you having a winning season? Or could you use a little extra coaching?

And then, I started writing! Having a blog gives me space to write out any strange notion I have and see if it can help someone else out there.

Bill Color: Well, Larry, it looks like we’ve got a great game ahead of us today.

Larry Stats: That’s right, Bill. This couple has played 317 times before, and they’ve got their game down pat.

Bill Color: It looks like the same scene we’re used to by now. He’s pretty confident out on the field now. He’s several seasons in.

Larry: He does seem to be swaggering onto the field. Admittedly, he has scored 315 of the 317 times he’s played. Let’s see how it goes this time.

Bill: He’s beginning to interact with his teammate. His start is somewhat predictable. 

Larry: Yes, we’ve seen this move a number of times. It seems like his go-to play. Not a lot of a flare, but I suppose it gets the job done.

Bill: Yeah, but I gotta wonder if he doesn’t have more in him. You know, if he could vary the play a little more and deliver a bigger impact. I’m looking for a little risk-taking here.

Larry: I know what you mean, but I don’t think taking risks is what this player needs. He needs to read his teammate better – figure out what the best move is in the moment. Pay more attention to where she might be the most receptive.

Bill: Well, she doesn’t look that receptive right now. She seems focused elsewhere. I’m not even sure she wants to be in this game right now.

Larry: You’ve got that right, Bill. She’s an inconsistent player. In fact, 223 of the 317 times these two have come up against each other, she hasn’t really been in the game. It’s like she’s expecting him to score on his own.

Bill: This is a team, for heaven’s sake. Where’s the teamwork?

Larry: What this team needs is to listen to their Coach more. Study the playbook. Get a better game plan.

Bill: Sure, technique and a game plan would certainly help, but if players are only in it for themselves . . . They aren’t cooperating like they should.

Larry: Oh no, we have a flag on the field.

Bill: What do think the call is? What happened out there?

Larry: Could be holding. Or blocking.

Bill: It’s called a false start. Apparently, she wasn’t ready at the line, but he thought it was time. He’s antsy. Hard to stay patient, you know. He’s aching to cross that goal line.

Larry: True, Bill. True. This guy is usually focused on the goal line, but this is a down-by-down game. Every play counts.

Bill: Wait. She’s leaving the field, Larry. What’s going on? Doesn’t she know we’re in the middle of a game here?

Larry: She’s called a time out. I guess we’re waiting for the next couple of minutes while she regains her composure.

Bill: That guy looks fidgety. He can hardly wait for her to get back in the huddle.

Larry: Well, at 211 pounds, he is a force to be reckoned with. But he’s also fast on his feet. If she’ll work with him, I’m pretty sure he’ll run this next play all the way to the in-zone.

Bill: She’s coming back in.

Larry: First and ten, Bill. It looks like he’s revving up.

Bill: Wait, Larry. I think I just saw a flash of excitement across her face. She may be in this game after all.

Larry: Her record is mixed, Bill, but she’s worth betting on. He might just help her score as well this time.

Bill: Looking better. Although I don’t particularly understand that last play.

Larry: Well, that’s a team favorite. It doesn’t work for everyone, of course . . .

Bill: They are going for it! Check it out there. It isn’t the prettiest game I’ve ever seen, but I think they are going to score!

It makes me wonder, how important is the finesse, Larry? How important is the heart? What exactly sets this team on fire?

Larry: Well, Bill, while you were talking, they made a goal.

Bill: What? Already?

Larry: Yes, Bill. I think we can put this one in the win column for him, and the show column for her. This level of play isn’t going to get them a bowl invitation. It’s enough to keep them in the running, but not enough to cinch the deal.

Bill: Well, there’s always the next game. We’ll be rooting for them then.

So what do you think ESPN commentators would say about your sex life? What kind of season are you having? How can you improve your “game”?

It makes me wonder, how important is the finesse, Larry? How important is the heart? What exactly sets this team on fire?