One of the first talks as a pediatrician that Lee gives to brand new parents is not about feeding or sleeping. Although he has preferences in these areas and shares them, he recognizes that babies are quite resilient to parent mistakes. One thing he is quite firm about is when he tells parents that as much as they want to protect and nurture their new baby, one of the most important gifts they give to their children is a good marriage. It’s easy for new parents to become overwhelmed at the responsibility of doing everything right for this new child. Lee’s advice to parents is to beware of the tendency to make one’s children a higher priority than one’s marriage. He tells them there is wisdom in finding exclusive time together to build that relationship.
Different parents have ways of overcoming the many obstacles as they squeeze in that exclusive time. In the military, it can be a challenge when you are a picky employer to find a new perfect babysitter every few years. Money is often short, and even a weekly dinner can be too expensive. Evenings can quickly be filled with civic responsibilities, sports, church activities, and a number of other “essential” commitments. To solve some of these problems, one of my friends began hiring a babysitter a few doors down to watch her sleeping children, so that she and her husband could take a nightly walk (one of the blessings of living in a temperate climate). Another friend who is a relatively new mother has started swapping babysitting nights with a friend who also has a young infant. We’ve still not been able to find a good solution. Maybe our four year old will be old enough to babysit by the time we find a solution, but I hope not.
The weekend before Christmas we took Lee’s own advice. Some friends from church agreed to watch our children so we could have a few days to ourselves. Lee and I had fun. We didn’t get as much planning done as we’ve done in the past on our anniversary trips, although we did solve nearly all the world’s problems and determined why we had a problem with the classical education crowd. Lee worked on a Christmas present project, and I wrote my children Christmas poems. We looked at the year’s pictures. It was good, strengthening time.
On the other hand, I missed the children, more than once. I worried that the baby wouldn’t understand where her mommy went. I felt guilty that some other family had the inconvenience of watching them. I contemplated going home early to get them.
What was significant to me is noticing my reluctance to impose on another member of our church family to watch our children. Yes, we paid the teenager bearing the bulk of the care, but it wasn’t close to minimum wage for 48 hours of work. I know full well the extra work that three children would give to the already busy mother. I felt guilty about it until finally I had to give myself a good talking to. This is part of serving one another, a part of God’s plan for the local church. They were happy to watch the children, partly because they knew it was helping us spiritually. I needed to be grateful, not guilty.
This was a good reminder that I need more of God’s church, not less of it. I need to know the people who sit around me enough to be able to pray for them knowledgeably. I need to be willing to give of my time to minister to them, and be thankful that I’m at home and able to do it. I also need to have the character to follow through on my good intentions. on the receiving end, I need to be willing to share my own struggles, and not merely be eager to hear of others’. I need to be willing to call for help, even when it’s my own fault I need it. I need to be humble enough to receive edification, not pridefully dwell on giving it.
Signing off to get to work!