I’m a Texan, born and bred. Which means I was raised with U.S. Southern phrases, like the constant use of “sir” and “ma’am,” “fixin’ to” (meaning preparing to do something), and the quintessential plural form of you — “y’all.”
In fact, I don’t know how y’all in other places get along without this fine word. For the first few years of my blog anonymity, when I was keeping pretty much everything specific about myself to myself, one of the killers for me was making sure I didn’t default to the use of “y’all.” In case you’re wondering, it’s simply a contraction of “you” and “all.” (Oh, and never, never spelled ya’ll, but y’all.)
But that’s not the only plural form of you we use. There’s “y’all” and “all y’all.” Yep, that latter one indicates more people and usually gets used with a crowd. It’s not as common, but it’s certainly accepted down here.
Which brings me to my point. (Finally, you say.)
I was thinking about the various prescriptions people give about how to handle prioritizing kids and marriage. Some suggest that children should take the front-and-center role while they are young, because they need constant care. Since they cannot fend for themselves, moms and dads must anticipate and fulfill their needs, guide their actions, and provide a secure, loving home for them to thrive in life. A solid marriage can handle taking the backseat for a bit while the calling of raising godly children takes precedence.
Then there are those who say, “Poppycock!” (Not literally, I would think, because who uses the word poppycock?) These people assert the child-centered home has destroyed marriages, and couples must put these life-suckers into their rightful place — that place being well behind the relationship of husband and wife. Indeed, couples must fiercely protect their together time, making sure they have ample time away from their children and not even discussing those little knee-biters while on dates or romantic weekends. After all, the best thing you can do for your children is build a fabulous foundation of marriage for the family.
Actually, I was re-reading a section of The 7 Principles of Marriage by John Gottman (which I totally recommend) about the challenge of adding children to a marriage. Dr. Gottman, who has studied marriages extensively, reported, “What separates these blissful mothers from the rest has nothing to do with whether their baby is colicky or a good sleeper, whether they are nursing or bottle-feeding, working or staying home. Rather, it has everything to do with whether the husband experiences the transformation to parenthood along with his wife or gets left behind.”
The more I ruminate about this — and yes, how it affects a couple’s marital intimacy — the more I think we Southerners are onto something. It’s not an either/or proposition. As a member of a family, I need to attend to all three forms of the you.
You. It’s important to bring the best you possible into the marriage. For instance, I don’t think you can have a truly happy marriage when one of you is constantly unhappy.
While romantic books and novels claim otherwise, you’re not a half-individual completed by the arrival of your mate. Rather, your marriage will thrive best when you invest in being a full individual — by attending to your physical health, dealing with your insecurities, pursuing a deep relationship with God, developing confidence and joy.
You are a separate person, apart from your husband and children (Galatians 6:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10), and it’s okay to spend time alone and working on yourself. As you grow into being the person God wants you to be, you bring a healthier individual into your marriage and family.
Y’all. You and your husband constitute a “y’all” — the plural you. The Bible says that you become one flesh in marriage (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Ephesians 5:31). You must invest in that marriage to keep it holy and happy.
You need to maintain that identity as the married couple throughout the child-raising years. That means spending time with each other and engaging in conversation that isn’t all about the kids’ activities and the family schedule. It means date nights and vacations away (if you can swing that) and regular sexual intimacy. All of this is actually good for your children — for them to see your loving marriage in action. It gives them a sense of security, provides a solid foundation, and teaches them what godly marriage looks like.
All y’all. If you and your husband added children to the mix, you’re now an “all y’all.” You need that sense of family, and one thing that determines how well your marriage withstands the introduction of children is how you make that transition.
Too often, I see the “all y’all” consisting of mom and kids, with dad feeling left out. Or it could be that dad has a real connection to the kids, and mom feels left out. Some parents also invest so much time in themselves and their marriage that the kids fall by the wayside.
Mom and Dad need to both be involved in child-rearing, even if you don’t see eye-to-eye on every detail (what couple does?!). As much as possible, get on the same page and get involved and foster that sense of family. Include your husband in the mix, or take up an interest in basketball or music or whatever your kid is into that has left you feeling out of the loop. Have the frank discussions together, with both husband and wife there.
Your kids will be blessed by seeing their parents working together, another moment of modeling loving and respectful marriage. It’s an “all y’all” that benefits everyone.
You need all three — you, y’all, and all y’all — to experience the best for your marriage and family. And of course, you need a very big HE, as in GOD, to infuse all of these parts.
How have you invested in yourself, your marriage, and your whole family? What benefits have you seen with each of these priorities?