This is a guest post by Quina Aragon.
I’ve never felt a joy quite like becoming a mom. Parenthood has brought out so much of the best of us.
And, yes, some of the worst too. From the I’ve-never-felt-this-consistently-tired-in-my-life fatigue; to transitioning to one income; to (not) figuring out sleep routines; to anxiety and feelings of inadequacy; we’ve had our share of marital strife since becoming parents.
Our daughter is only two, so cultivating a healthy marriage as new parents is something we’re still stumbling our way through. But a few key things have greatly helped.
The Point of Life & Marriage
First, I must remember that God’s overarching purpose for my life is to prepare me for an eternity with him by making me more like Christ (John 17:17-19; Acts 20:32). My marriage must serve that end as well (Eph. 5:25-27).
Marriage is meant to be a living drama of the gospel that points to our eternal marriage with Christ (Eph. 5:31-32; Rev. 19:6-9). Whether single or married, our sanctification is God’s aim (1 Thess. 4:3).
This means marriage isn’t about my spouse completing me, living our best life now, or sweet tax breaks. Our main goal as husband and wife is to help prepare each other to see Jesus.
Living in Community
We do this by intentionally living in community with God’s people.
Just as my husband and I are covenanted as a family with with certain privileges and obligations (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Cor. 7:3-5), we’re covenanted to the family of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 4:4-5; Eph. 4:4-6). As the Body of Christ, we belong to each other (Eph. 4:11-16).
What does this look like practically as new parents?
It looks like saying, “Yes,” to friends and family willing to cook, clean, and babysit for us (Gal. 6:2).
It looks like seeking counsel from a wiser, gospel-loving couple at our church. I can’t emphasize enough how much this has helped our conflict resolution, sex life, and other various concerns. They ask the hard questions, pray with us, and encourage us with the truth of God’s Word. When marital arguments and mommy fatigue have weighed me down, I’ve found a refreshing well of grace in their counsel (Prov. 27:9).
Besides Sunday worship service, we meet weekly for small group. Here we learn from God’s Word, confess our sins, pray with each other, rejoice with each other, encourage each other, and bear each others’ burdens. Small group has been a humbling, beautiful cycle of washing others’ feet and having my feet washed by others (John 13:1-17).
Life in community is vital, but so is “us” time.
We’ve all heard it: “Don’t forget about your spouse when you become a parent!” Easier said than done.
Despite our shortcomings, we aim to go on dates as often as possible. We try to keep conversations about our daughter to a minimum. We ask each other questions like, “How’s your heart? What’s the Lord teaching you? What are some of your goals this season? How are you seeing God answer prayer? How can I better encourage and serve you?”
We encourage each other about specific ways we see each other growing and succeeding. We take time to thank each other for specifics as well, like, “Thanks for cleaning the dishes when you saw that I didn’t get to them.” Constant, specific verbal affirmation is so crucial to our marriage, whether or not we’re on a date.
We’ve also learned to talk frequently about sex. Discussion points might include, “How often do you want to have sex? What are specific things you like or would like to try? What helps you feel relaxed? In light of our baby’s current sleep pattern, how can we manage our time better to make the most of our time alone?”
It’s important to know that postpartum hormones and injuries can make sex daunting or painful for the first few weeks or even months after being cleared by your OB. It’s important to discuss these issues (along with things like PPD and mental health concerns) honestly, patiently, and perhaps with the help of a medical professional.
My husband and I are both freelancers, which makes it difficult for us to keep routines. Still, we’ve been learning to develop rhythms of work and rest that allow for us to consistently come together as a family throughout the week.
We put away our phones during dinner time. After eating, we read and discuss a passage of Scripture together, and we pray. We then spend some unstructured time together as a family.
We also try to carve out time every week to do something fun together as a family. It may be visiting the park, shopping at Trader Joe’s, or walking around the neighborhood. The point is to enjoy it together.
Sharing the Load
One of my biggest regrets as a new parent is not leaning more heavily on my husband’s help. As a new stay-at-home mom I felt incredibly uncomfortable voicing my needs, especially in that first year. Since I breastfed and my husband had to wake up early for work, I figured I should just deal with my waking baby throughout the night.
Even when he offered to help with night feedings and other duties, I often turned him down. I did this both out of fear that he wouldn’t do things correctly, and out of a misguided shame that he had to work so hard to provide for us while I stayed at home. This ended up hurting both me and him.
By denying his help, I denied myself opportunities for sleep and self-care—the very things that would rejuvenate me to be a better wife and mom. It also subtly communicated to my husband that I didn’t think he was capable of taking care of our baby. It led to multiple arguments later on as I grew frustrated at my around-the-clock motherhood duties, and as he grew frustrated at my lack of communication for specific help.
Sharing the load is so humbling. But humility is where grace thrives (James 4:6).
Our Greater Savior
And, oh do we need grace!
Our marriage has a very real enemy: Satan (Eph. 6:11-12). And his primary goal isn’t our divorce. He wants to shipwreck our faith (Luke 22:31; 1 Tim. 1:18-20). If he can use our marriage to get us to give up the good fight of faith, then by all means he will try (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-9). After all, he has a strong ally: our pride (Gen. 3:11-13; 1 John 2:16).
But our Savior is greater. His grace abounds more than our sin (Rom. 5:20-21). He put Satan to open shame at the cross (Col. 2:13-15). He resurrected to make us right with God (Rom. 4:25). He prays even now for us, that our faith will not fail (Luke 22:32; Heb. 7:25). He tells us to hold fast to him by the means he’s given to help us finish strong for his glory (2 Pet. 1:3-11).
God’s appointed channels of grace for our perseverance include his Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17), his people (Heb. 10:23-25), his table (1 Cor. 11:23-26), and prayer (Luke 22:40; Eph. 6:18). To try to cultivate a healthy marriage apart from these means of grace is to tie your shoelaces before jumping into the middle of the ocean. Your shoes may feel secure, but your whole body is in danger. As Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Like me, you will fail. You’ll feel fatigued. You’ll let your spouse down one way or another. You’ll wonder if grace has run out. In those moments, I pray you remember: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Is. 40:11).
Your Savior is Greater. His grace is a bottomless ocean. Keep walking with him. He is gently leading you. He will see you through.
Quina Aragon is a wife, mother, and artist who enjoys writing, copy editing, and creating spoken word videos. She writes for her website QuinaAragon.com, as well as The Witness, The Gospel Coalition, and Designed Marriage. Quina lives in Tampa, Florida, and serves as a small group leader at Living Faith Bible Fellowship. Her first children's book is set to release in February 2019 by Harvest House Publishers.