My wife Esther and I live in small parsonage next to our church. So does Isaiah. So does Naomi. With biblical names like these, you'd think Isaiah and Naomi would be the ideal roommates. But we've noticed that Isaiah (who just turned three) can be pretty moody, and Naomi (who just turned one) has a powerful set of vocal chords.
I love being a parent, and we have awesome kids. They give me so much joy. But it's not always easy. Having kids permanently changes marriage. You try to have a conversation and you're constantly interrupted; you plan time to connect and you're completely exhausted; you try to plan a date night and then realize how expensive a babysitter is. You get the idea.
Lately, I've been thinking about something my mom once said: being a parent, for all the strains it can put on your marriage, also allows your marriage to grow deeper and richer. It's like going into battle with someone, coming home, and then realizing what good friends you’ve become because you were in the trenches together. So I'm learning to see this challenging season as an opportunity for our marriage, not merely a phase to endure.
After my walk with Christ, nothing should take a higher priority in my life than cultivating intimacy and friendship with my wife — not even being a dad. In fact, I know I can't be the dad God calls me to be unless my marriage is strong. Here are some strategies we've reflected on that might be helpful to other young parents in a similar season of life.
Ten Strategies for Growth
1. Kiss/hug/flatter your spouse intentionally throughout the day.
Let this be the first thing you do when you get home each day. I get mobbed by my kids at the front door, who want to wrestle. I want to give them attention, but I also want them to see that Esther is a priority that nothing can displace. Little daily installments of touch, affirmation, and attention go a long way.
2. Shell out the money for babysitters and vacation, as much as you can.
It's expensive, but it's a worthy investment. When planning a date night, I often think, "Can we afford this?" But when we do it, I always think, "I'm glad we did this — we needed it.” It’s so important to have times of laughter, recreation, and play with your spouse. The old saying is corny but true: "Families that play together stay together."
3. Go on walks.
This has been a game changer for us because our kids are actually quiet in the stroller. We get exercise and sustained conversation, both of which can easily get crowded out when life is busy. If walking doesn't work, perhaps you can pursue another hobby together. For example, if your gym offers childcare and you feel comfortable with it, drop the kids off and work out together.