‘Tis the season…for babies! A number of co-workers and friends are welcoming new little ones into their families.While I think most will adapt well to being new parents, some of us have not made that transition to life with a baby so easily or quickly. I’ve often said that getting married was oh-so-natural, but learning how to be a new dad was a lot of work! This was especially the case when it came to my marriage. Dena and I re-centered our lives on our new son, and in the process I found that not only did the baby need new efforts – so did my wife.
From my book, First Time Dad, here are five quick tips for men to help with the many adjustments needed when “baby makes three” (or four, or five…), especially when it comes to keeping your marriage strong:
- Stay connected with your wife. Make room in your schedule for daily talk times and weekly dates. Do things together as a family. Hang out at the park with parents who also have younger kids. Develop routines like Thursday night pizza, or Sunday afternoons. Take family hikes or bike rides.
- Remember your wife is not your enemy. She is the love of your life, and you need to treat her as the shining jewel that she is for you. So don’t get angry with her. Don’t blow up when she is exhausted and needs you to really help out. Extend lots of grace. Follow the Scriptural admonition to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 NIV
- Remember this child is not your enemy. You love this little baby, really, you do! So don’t for a minute think that she is an enemy to your marriage. Yes, she will demand a lot of you and she will extract a lot of your wife’s energies and attentions. But she’s your child, and you have a tremendous responsibility to raise her well. It’s your job to allow her needs to dictate a lot of your life’s choices and activities – for now. And that’ll impact your marriage.
- Share the load. Now is the time to show your wife you love her by sacrificing your pride – or your stubbornness – and really stepping up the contribution you make to her life. Clean the kitchen, or her car. Empty the trash. Change that baby’s diaper. Make dinner. Those domestic duties that you’ve let her handle need to be shared, as she is pretty tired from being a Mom. That means you have to come alongside her and help. Look around, find practical things that need to be done, and get to work. Trust me, your wife will notice, even if she doesn’t say anything right now.
- Get some sleep. Suggestion: Take turns wearing earplugs. Seriously. Buy some Mack’s Silicone Earplugs and learn to love ‘em! I didn’t want to consider these things, but Dena started using them and it became apparent that she was sleeping well – while I didn’t, because our son kept waking me up during the night. So when you are desperate for sleep, wear earplugs. Alternate turns, so at least one of you gets a good night of rest, every night.
Guys, what other tips would you offer?
Ted Cunningham, a pastor, speaker and author, made the audience of around 1,000 people in Dallas gasp. Audibly. He wasn’t particularly dramatic about it, and I’ll admit that I didn’t think much about his comment at the moment. But there it was – and people did have some strong reactions.
Ted told a sweet story about a conversation with his five year-old daughter who asked him a rather innocent question.
“Daddy, who do you love more? Mommy or me?”
Even as you read the question, you’re likely forming an answer of your own. Something a bit vague, but reassuring. Affirming of your love for both. Not too specific…because it seems like kind of a loaded question the more you think about it.
To a man it likely seems like one of those no-win propositions. The old dilemma of answering your wife when she asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Of course, there’s no apparent “right answer!” Reply the wrong way and there could be a really tough time explaining why you said what you said. Dismiss the query and you might crush a heart. How in the world do you answer a question like that?
Despite the apparent conundrum, Ted’s response to his daughter seemed quite reasonable to me. In fact, I thought it was a fine response. It wasn’t particularly shocking – but there were verbal reactions of “Oh my!” from many in the auditorium. And it was mostly women, it seemed, who took exception to his words.
“Well…you’ve got to know, sweetheart, that while I love you a whole lot, I love your Mommy even more.”
In the minds of hundreds in the audience, a rush of thoughts. I could almost hear them.
“Wait a minute, Ted. Are you telling me that you love your wife more than your child? C’mon, man, that’s not what your girl wanted to hear! You’ve crushed her heart.”
Or perhaps, “Yikes, you mean I CAN love my wife more than our kids?”
How did you react when you read Ted’s candid, albeit somewhat unexpected answer to his little girl? Did his response startle you?
Truth is, in every family there are relational priorities. For many couples, the children become the central rallying point for everything – “it’s all about the kids,” you know. That’s what we often hear. It seems that is an approach to family life that is most valued in our culture.
And while it is a commonly accepted norm to make the kids the focus of all our attention and efforts, I think that is wrong and short-sighted.
I’d suggest that the healthiest things for a family man to do is to take Ted’s advice: Love your wife more than your kids. And let your kids know why.
Here’s a radio recording of that moment when Ted caused a lot of folks to gasp. I’d suggest you listen to the entire discussion to catch the context of what Ted was trying to teach, but if you’re in a hurry, start around the 13-minute mark.