I keep waiting for parenting to get easier. When I say that in public, it usually elicits laughter from those who have parented children for much longer than I have. This laughter isn’t mockery; it’s a means of identifying with the statement. Those seasoned parents have told me they thought the same thing, year after year, and each year presented them with new challenges. This is also true for us in this stage of parenting — there are new challenges every day. Some we knew were coming, and some just happen out of the blue.
Parenting is hard work. It’s hard work physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m thankful the Lord has seen fit for me to not be in this alone. My wife and I have the responsibility and privilege of encouraging one another on this journey of raising kids. Because we aren’t doing this alone, one of the responsibilities we have is to encourage each other on this parenting journey. Here are three specific ways parents can be an encouragement to one another.
1. Be On the Same Team
It’s so simple but so applicable as parents. This is a reminder that we have the same kids, the same goals, and there is power when we’re of one heart and mind. It means we have each other’s back and refuse to be played against one other. So, what does it look like to be on the same team? Let’s say one of your children comes to you to ask a question. When one parent gives an answer the child doesn’t like, chances are the same child, even though he or she has the answer, will turn around and go find another parent to ask the same question, hoping for a different answer. Here’s an opportunity to be on the same team. It’s never a bad idea to simply ask the child, “Have you already talked to your mother/father about this?” If the answer is yes, then the question has already been answered. Yes means yes and no means no.
2. Be a Student of Your Spouse.
Parenting isn’t only hard — it’s busy. With all of this parenting to be done, it’s easy for us as parents to drift into one of the great destroyers of marriage — assumption. After you have lived, cried, laughed, parented, exercised, watched, and shared a host of other things together for some time, you can easily start to live in a posture of assumption when it comes to your spouse. What does that look like? It looks like a stoppage in communication about big and small things because you already know what he or she will say or think. You stop asking about the details of each other’s days because you assume what happened, and you assume how those happenings made your husband or wife feel. And eventually assumption leads to neglect. This is why we must make it our ambition to be students of our spouses. We must strive to know them, and know them better each day we’re together — for when we’re students of each other, we will actually be more attentive and caring parents.
3. Recognize How They Die to Themselves.
Parenting is an amazing crucible for discipleship. That’s because the life of the parent is, as Jesus told us to live, one daily death after another. It’s dying to our preferences, our leisure time, our selfishness over and over again. And all that dying can be difficult, though you love your children more than your life. It’s so encouraging to have another person to simply and verbally recognize the small sacrifices you make for your family, to hear them say what you’ve done, and know that they know what you’ve done. Parenting is hard. If you’re married, though, remember it’s as hard for your spouse as it is for you, and thank God that you don’t have to go at it alone.