Parenting is NOT easy. Let me begin by being real and honest with you. You will experience many highs and many lows but the truth is, there will be more lows than highs. In our nearly 12 years of parenting all ages and stages, we have laughed cried, hurt, and celebrated. It’s a torrent of emotions. I don’t think we will ever stop worrying, grieving, or agonizing over our children. That’s parenthood.
While there are so many things I could share with you, all monumental and all very important, I will only share what I believe to be the essential pieces of advice that we have learned in our years of parenting. My prayer is that this will help any of you who hope to be parents in the near future…
1. Expect the unexpected.
What I learned long ago, as my wife and I laid out plans for marriage and family, is that we can make our plans and chart our course, but God directs our path. And boy oh boy has He ever. Our life, while beautiful and amazing, has been far from what we expected. We have often made the comment that we could not have scripted anything better.
2. Don’t marry your expectations, date them.
Speaking of expectations, as you plan and dream for your future children, and family, don’t marry your expectations. Date them. Why? Because you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you get married to expectations, with any area of life. Be flexible and understand that plans, ideas, and pathways can change over time. Look at it like an adventure that you kind of have a charted course for, but really have no idea what’s around the bend.
3. Spend this time, before children, investing in one another.
As a couple with no children, you have the ultimate freedom right now. Sure you have jobs, and tasks, and you’re busy. But, trust me, it pales in comparison to how busy (and tired) you will be after children arrive. There will be times, in the midst of your kid’s crazy schedules, that the two of you will feel like ships passing in the night. That’s okay. And, that’s fairly normal. What will sustain you is the strong bond you formed before the little ones arrived.
4. Never stop dating.
The other thing that will help to sustain your marriage after children arrive, is continuing to date one another. The investment in one another, and your marriage, does not end once children arrive. In fact, it needs to intensify. This has to be intentional. It won’t happen if it’s not. You can make it through the times where you’re like ships passing in the night if you intentionally carve out time to be alone together, as a married couple, once you have a family.
5. Start building a support system now.
Our best friends in the world, who are also our support system, were our best friends before any of us had children. We have literally grown our families together over the past 12 years. It’s pretty cool. We have walked through many valleys together, before and after children. Start building relationships with other adults and couples now and carry that into parenthood. Make sure these are people you can trust to have in the inner-circle of your life and your family.
6. Never stop learning from those who have gone before you.
Unfortunately we didn’t have many people to learn from back in the day, but over the years we have been blessed to have older, wiser parents who have poured into us. That has meant the world. We have learned to take every opportunity to learn and grow under those who have gone before us.
7. Never say (in reference to someone’s parenting), “Well, someday, when I’m a parent, I’m not going to….”
You have no idea what you’re talking about. Even if you’re the fun aunt and uncle who spend a couple of hours a week with your baby niece or nephew! You don’t know how difficult parenting is (yet). Sure, if you see a parent who takes things to an extreme with their children, steer clear of that, but be careful not to criticize what you believe to be bad or clueless parenting. It may be an outcry of desperation or overwhelming exhaustion that you are witnessing.
My hope and prayer is that you find this short list of advice helpful and encouraging. Parenting is a journey, not a destination. It’s a marathon not a sprint. You can do it. And you will be successful. Someday, I’m sure you will have your own list of helpful advice!
Current parents, what else would you add to this list?