Our parenting journey has been anything but easy. I have to admit, I was completely caught off guard by the myriad of challenges we have faced in only three years of being parents. For example, my wife Christi was once introduced to a group of women at a hot yoga class as “the woman whose baby girl’s cry is the worst I’ve ever heard.”
There’s a resume builder for you! In fact, rather than breaking into tears herself, Christi decided to film one of these lovely moments for its humor.
If you need validation that you’re not alone, take 15 seconds and soak in this beauty.
This video was shot about a year ago. Today, though the struggles aren’t necessarily the same, they’re no less intense.
As a young dad trying to navigate these parenting melees, parenthood is teaching me a lot, particularly about myself.
I’m learning that parenthood deteriorates my brain. I used to always think before I said something, especially to Christi. Now, stuff just comes out anyway it wants to.
I’m learning how selfish I really am. Though she’s never slapped me, I certainly deserve it for the way I sometimes treat Christi.
With kids, I’m learning that work is actually not work at all. It’s a vacation.
I’m also learning that when Christi is stressed, overwhelmed, or on the verge of crying in the fetal position on the floor, she needs me more than anyone else on the planet.
And this is where my open letter to dads begins.
Dads, if your wife is a stay-at-home mom she’s likely exhausted. There’s a good chance being with the kids all day—though there’s nowhere else she’d rather be—is the most difficult task she’s ever taken on. For many stay-at-home-moms, they’re struggling with their identity as well, longing to return to some type of paid work, but wrestling with the guilt of leaving the kids.
If your wife is a working mom, she’s no less exhausted. She’s very likely feeling the strain of having to make up for lost time with the little ones she loves most. At the core, she too, is wrestling with her identity of balancing a career and raising your children.
Either way, your wife needs you. She’s likely not getting the daily vacation you are—not emotionally anyway.
If you’re like me, you’re probably getting restless and maybe a bit defensive right now. As men, we convince ourselves, “I bust my tail all day to provide for my family and then I go home and take care of the kids for her to have a break. When do I get a break?”
Somehow we too easily forget we’re not the ones who birthed those children.
Granted, I know there may be times your wife is anything but pleasant to you. Shoving the trump card down the garbage disposal can be tempting. Unfortunately, many men do. Rather than offering support, they withdraw.
I get that. Embracing Christi in these moments is like hugging a rose bush that’s not in bloom. No roses, all thorns. But you know what? That’s when she needs me most.
Just as much as Christi needs me to support her, our kids need me to support her all the more.
The Bible tells fathers to not exasperate, or provoke their children to anger.
As Tim Keller points out, if that verse was written in 1950s America, it would be addressed to mothers. But it’s not; it’s specifically addressed to us dads. Why? Because throughout history, and not until the Industrial Revolution of 20th century America, did fathers begin leaving the home to work, leaving the childcare responsibilities primarily to mom alone.
Unfortunately, the result has been not only angered children, but exasperated wives as well.
As men in America, we’re allowed the freedom to pursue our identity. The mistake we cannot make is leaving our wives behind, struggling to find theirs. Not only will it cripple your marriage, it has the strong potential to subtly and over time put a relational wedge between you and your children.
I don’t always get it right. In fact, sometimes I fail miserably.
But supporting my wife is the one thing I know I must get right, because when we’re united, especially in stressful moments, our kids feel it. More importantly, they’re watching me to learn how to treat those they love most.
If you don’t know where to begin, just be available to her. Listen to her. Affirm her. Dream with her.
Go above and beyond in being present with the kids, even after a long day at work (or vacation).
This may sound overwhelming to you as a husband, and truthfully, sometimes it can be. But here’s the good news: If you get this right today, your break is coming to you in about 18 years minus your youngest kid’s current age.
Not only are you more likely to still be in love with your wife when the kids are gone, your kids will thank you for showing them how to love.
Besides, loving your kids’ mom is the best gift you can give them.
Joshua Straub, Ph.D. serves as the Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and is the President and Cofounder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower parents, spouses and families. Josh speaks and writes on emotionally safe parents and spouses and the influence of technology on today's family. He is the author of the newly released Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (Waterbrook Multnomah) and along with his wife, Christi, is the producer and co-author of the video curriculum The Screen-Balanced Family: Six Secrets to a More Connected Family in the 21st Century. Josh and his Canadian wife Christi reside in Nashville, TN with their son, Landon, and daughter, Kennedy.
For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century, you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.comand follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.