The first day that screaming bundle of joy enters this world… ours are eternally changed. In that moment we assume a new title that, no matter the age and stage of our children, will forever be part of who we are. What are the first things to be considered as one begins the role of parent? This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. The comparative length of this post shows how important the early years of parenting are. Of course anything can be undone, but what you do in the first few years will set you up for success or failure throughout the parenting experience.
It is likely that most, if not all, of my readers are familiar with the way in which one becomes a parent. If you are not, perhaps you can ask yours. For the rest of us, the discussion surrounding the choice to become a parent is monumental. As with all of today’s sub-categories, I will push hard for partner agreement. You should only make the decision to attempt to become a parent when both of you agree that the time is right. This is not insignificant. Unity here will lead to unity elsewhere… and vice versa.
Because I believe that God is the author and sustainer of life, I also believe it is a good idea to consult him regarding the appropriateness and timing of the decision to become a parent. Just because you have the ability to pro-create doesn’t automatically mean that you should.
A word about birth control: with modern advances in medicine, we have been able to have some potential input into the timing of our parenthood. Some churches and religious groups teach that this is a sin. The Bible does not.
As mentioned earlier, the day you first become a parent will alter your life forever. What will certainly follow are a series of seasonal adjustments that will come about as a result of your new title… parent. Every individual and family is different. And, as Arby’s used to say, “different is good.” Because of this fact, I find the next two sub-categories difficult (if not, impossible) to particularize. That said, I do think we can find some help in thinking out loud about the umbrellas under which these things fall.
If you have the privilege of a partner to share life with, I would again highlight the need for agreement. Do not suffer these adjustments in silence. It is likely that the singular decision that has most benefitted our marriage has been the decision to talk about everything. Adjustments are no exception. Acknowledging that we are making an adjustment is the first step to doing it with grace and understanding.
Keep yourself first… but not how you might think. As my buddy Socrates used to say, “Know thyself.” But know yourself through the lens of humility. Humility is having a proper view of who you are. For the Christian, it is seeing myself as God sees me. As this relates to the adjustments children demand, it will almost always mean sacrifice. That said, put your partner second. Having children can quickly ruin romance, but only if you let it. Before you have kids, determine that your spouse will be in line ahead of your them (referenced in the previous post). One example of this that we had to decide on very early in our parenting was how we would deal with nap time and/or bed time as it conflicted with events we were considering. I have some pretty strong feelings about this one, but acknowledge that they are just feelings. We determined that nap and bed times would not prevent us from participating in the types of things we did before we had kids… and often at great expense. Because we were on a pretty regimented schedule, it meant hauling the pack and play along with all of the sleeping gear. The trade off was worth it. Though clearly we had an adjustment to make, the path we chose allowed us to continue friendships and not feel isolated as parents.
Roles & Responsibilities
I admit that this area cannot be detached from the aforementioned adjustments. Frankly most, if not all, of the adjustments will be related to the roles and responsibilities we assume as parents. Once again I will steer away from assigning certain roles to individuals mainly because people and families are so different from each other. But also because some of the gender-based assignments of other eras are simply not valuable or helpful in today’s context. I am of the opinion that each couple should take into account their own schedules and gifting and graciously work out who does what. Finally I believe strongly that only bad things can come from assigning value or total percentage of the work amount done to parenting tasks. The job of parenting is a 100/100 proposition (when there is the advantage of a two-person situation). As partners our willingness to serve each other should be the driving factor, instead of a 50/50 mentality. By way of example, there have been periods of time when either my wife or I have had to completely take over a parenting task that the other was previously responsible for, simply to relieve the other.
My heart in all of this has been to emphasize talking about everything and learning to agree as to what course of action is best in a given situation. Parenting is painstaking and pleasureful, but should not be undertaken without intentionality.