“We truly do not know how selfish and sinful we are until we live with someone in marriage,” Mark Driscoll says in his book Real Marriage.
Author Gary Thomas asks: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
I think both of these statements apply to raising children at least as much, if not more, than they apply to marriage.
Marriage isn’t easy.
It requires work and sacrifice.
But I feel like Josh and I entered marriage well prepared, and were both slightly surprised when it wasn’t hard.
That’s not to say we don’t work at it, and that’s not to say our marriage hasn’t improved with time and nurturing.
But being a new parent, by comparison, is remarkably harder than being a newlywed.
Josh and I agreed on three main reasons why parenting has proven to be harder, at least for us.
1) In marriage both parties benefit
In a marriage relationship, love is exchanged.
It goes both ways.
You are pouring yourself into the other person and they are pouring into you.
You give and you receive.
Children, however, are fully dependent on their parents for the first years of life.
You pour into them, and they don’t realize it.
You give and you give without receiving anything in return.
It’s important to note that parenting can be the most rewarding and fulfilling thing on the planet. But this reward has nothing to do with the small person giving back, and everything to do with the parent fulfilling their God-given role in life.
Someone told me that being a parent meant “it’s not about you anymore.”
I didn’t know how true that statement was.
In my mind, life was never all about me.
In realty, it was.
Marriage was about me and Josh, but it was half about me.
Josh and I can compromise and make decisions together that benefit both of us.
Malachi and I have yet to form such a compromise.
When it comes down to it, I’m here to fulfill his every need.
Whether I want to or not.
It is my job and my calling as his mother.
One day he will be old enough to say thank you, but not for a long time.
In the meantime, parenting makes us holy by highlighting the selfishness in our lives and forcing us to eliminate every form of it.
2) You date before you marry
Dating has it’s advantages.
You have time to get to know the other person before you commit to spending life with them.
You can choose someone whose personality compliments yours, who is easy for you to love and get along with.
You can “practice” before you leap into marriage by sharing each others ups and downs, serving each other, and making meals together.
Parenthood has no trial period.
The closest thing it can be compared to is an arranged marriage, where you fall in love with the person after the commitment is set in stone.
We have no say in who the child is or what personality they are born with. In fact, God often blesses parents with children so much like them, that they butt heads on every issue!
But this also can be used to make us holy. By learning to handle mini versions of ourselves, we are forced to come to grips with our own imperfections.
A father with anger issues will raise a son with anger issues.
We can’t just talk the talk.
We have to walk the walk.
We have to lead by example every day, lest our imperfections are magnified and passed down to our children.
Which ties in nicely to my third point…
3) The responsibility of training a child
Marriage doesn’t require “training a child in the way he should go.”
While we won’t be disciplining our little guy until he’s older, it’s a huge part of parenthood that I’m a bit apprehensive about.
Josh and I both agree with the discipline approach laid out in the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart. In this approach, the emphasis is less on behavior and more on intentions. It requires taking the time to instruct the child on the moral implications of their actions.
In marriage we believe we’re called to encourage one another and hold each other accountable for sin.
But a child is a blank canvas that must be started from scratch. And the thought of messing that up is so intimidating.
Not to mention sleep training and potty training!
To put it simply, both Josh and I were a bit surprised how easy being married was, and a bit blindsided by how difficult parenting can be.
Marriage and parenting do have some huge and noteworthy parallels though:
Your life does change in an instant.
A new normal is introduced.
Your independence is shattered.
You get good at sharing.
Your world is turned on its head – for the better!
You get a small glimpse of God and His goodness.
You will never be the same!