I would say just about everything changes.
You are bringing another person, a human being, a totally helpless one in the early years by the way, into your inner circle of 2, so that’s going to alter just about only everything, even mathematically, that’s an inflection point. Here are a few things that come to mind:
1. The marriage will shift in relational focus from that of spouse to child
When a couple gets married, their experience of reality converges on each other. So after work, or grad school, they come home, and they talk about their day, they can vent, they can go out for dinner, or out for dessert, maybe even catch a movie. It’s a 1 to 1 relationship where they're facing each other.
But when a kid shows up, the couple will have to turn to face the child and his/her needs and so the couple will shift from more of a unhindered marriage friendship to that of partnership, more of side to side, than face to face.
2. Marriage habits and routines will be interrupted
If a married couple is used to traveling, eating out a lot, going out on Friday nights, that will have to change. During the early stages of a child’s life, the child needs full attention, but then as the child grows older, their growing responsibilities are also shared by their parents, gotta take them to school, take them to practice, attend games.
3. If I could throw this in, even a couple’s sex life will struggle
Sex is profoundly physical, emotional and mental. It requires a certain degree of physical, mental, and emotional strength, all of which get drained by children. Many parents will tell you that after putting their kids to sleep, they also want to sleep, if not sleeping already.
I had lunch with someone a while back who recently had a kid and he said something to the effect that sex life had struggled and I let him know that that’s understandable and shared by a lot of parents.
Other side of the Coin Now you might be sitting there thinking, “I'm never having kids.” Or you’re expecting and you think, “What have we done.”
I do want to be real about the opportunities and silver lining on the other side of the coin.
- Yes, the relational focus may shift, physical intimacy may be tougher, but through it it will actually forge a greater bond of trust and partnership. It also means the couple is invited to fight even harder for relational focus and physical intimacy. In so doing, there’s an exertion for greater love, which is good.
- Yes, the habits and routines may change, but that means we will be forced to exercise greater selflessness, and in the process we’ll actually realize we’re trading in old habits and routines for better, richer, fuller ones.
And through it all, what can change most is actually you, the parent.
It will make you a deeper person. A more Jesus-like person marked by strong, sacrificial love.
Furthermore, it will deepen your understanding of the gospel. The theoretic ideas of adoption and what it means to be a child of God, will hit you even greater force than before.
Personally, I have 2 children, ages 4 and 1 at the time of recording, and it is hard work as my wife can vouch for. We didn’t realize how much free time we had before kids. But it is really amazing and so much fun. And the remarkable thing is that the empty nesters or near empty nesters at my church, who have the freedom my wife and I once had, keep telling me that they grow up so fast and to hang on as tightly as possible.
So quick encouragement:
- If you’re expecting. You’re blessed. Everything will change and it’ll be for the far better.
- If you’re in the grind as a parent, hang in there. Ask Him for daily grace. May we not be child centered, spouse centered, but God-centered because that’s what’s truly best for our spouse and children and through that grid, love and serve our children and spouse well.
- If you’re thinking about having kids, but scared. I want you to know that both are right. It is scary. It does change everything, but God is right. Psalm 127:3 says children are a gift, and they’re incredible gifts.
Everything will change. Including you.
Pastor Steve Bang Lee is the College Pastor and Teaching Ministry Lead at Living Hope Community Church in Brea, CA. He received his B.A. from Cal Poly Pomona and M.Div. from Talbot School of Theology. Steve also serves on the Board for CCM (Crossroads Campus Ministry).