My husband and I have some very different views on parenthood and for that matter, life in general. We’re both flexible enough that it usually doesn’t cause too big of a problem, but every once in a while we find ourselves staring incredulously at one another. We cannot always figure each other out or overlook the other’s different ways.
One area where we disagree on parenting is the whole issue of letting a child “cry it out” at night. I’m not sure I’d be good with letting our daughter cry for 10-15 minutes, but I’ve never been able to find out. My husband cannot stand to hear her cry and jumps up almost immediately to get her. I’ve let it go because he’s willing to get her. If she cries in the night, he’s the one who puts her back to sleep. However, when she’s awake, my response to her cry is almost immediate. She isn’t a fussy baby, so when she cries there’s typically a good reason. I stop what I’m doing to meet her need. My husband is much more tolerant of awake crying and tends to slowly finish what he’s doing and get to her when he gets to her. Could we be any more opposite?
We also have very different views on eating and health. I try to eat whole, organic foods and incorporate different textures and flavors into my cooking as much as possible. I’ve struggled with my health over the years and have changed my habits in response to what my body seems to need. My husband is a farmer (non-organic) and thinks my ideas on such things are ridiculous. He strongly associates food with childhood memories and likes everything to look and taste the same way it has since the day he was born. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and homemade applesauce are his favorite foods. He is equally content with a frozen pizza or McDonald’s hamburger. To get the best crops possible on our farm, he sprays things that cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up.
I had grand ideas about changing his eating habits when we got married. Instead, I’ve found the trouble isn’t worth it. While I’d like to keep our children from sugar and processed foods, he delights in sneaking our daughter cookies and Fruit Loops. If I don’t make baked goods, he goes to his mother’s house and eats a dozen cookies at one time. I beg him to wear sunscreen/sunglasses outside and protective gear when he does things I consider dangerous, and sometimes he listens to me. The crazy thing about it all is that HE is perfectly healthy, with more energy than I could ever hope to have, receiving excellent reports back on his yearly blood work. I relish my daily naps, wear sunglasses/sunscreen and I’m the one who got skin cancer!
Rick is extremely frugal. He has a calculator in his head, remembering what things cost for long after they’ve been purchased. He gets very upset when any money gets wasted. I’m a bargain-hunter, but once I’ve decided and made a purchase, I rarely look back. I don’t remember what I spent on most things – just knowing I got a good deal is enough for me. We rarely fight about money, but we often discuss it and consider each other’s ideas about it.
I read different lifestyle blogs about parenting, eating healthy, and so on – and it’s come to make me laugh out loud. Wouldn’t it be something if I could just make a decision and have that be the way it is? But what a naive way of thinking! Marriage and parenting are about two people – two ideas, two backgrounds, two different family systems – coming together to establish something new. While Rick and I agree about many things, which is what brought us together in the first place, there are many things we feel very differently about. It’s funny how you don’t seem to realize how different you are from someone until you are raising a child together.
We discussed the things that were important to us before we got engaged – having children, how we’d handle infertility if it was a problem, what church we’d go to, how we’d educate, what standard of living we’d have, and so on. I never thought to tell him I didn’t want to feed our children Red Dye #5!
Before I started dating him, I happened across two very different books in which I walked away with the same message. One was literary fiction and the other a personal memoir. Both are written recently by modern, divorced authors who do not claim to be Christians. Both hammered home one point with startling similarity – marriage is hard. Divorce is even harder. Sticking it out and finding ways to work together is worth it in the long run.
A secondary point in both books is about attempting to change your spouse. Basically, in both books, both marriages, there were dominant characters who made most of the decisions for their family. The other spouse typically went along with it, happy to have someone else make most of the decisions. However, in both cases the more passive spouse had certain areas in which they were absolutely unwilling to compromise. No matter how much work the dominant spouses did to try to get their own way, the other spouse wasn’t budging. Not one inch.
I remember putting the last of those two books down and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that in my future marriage to an unknown man, I would be the dominant spouse. I’m a decisive person who likes to get things done. I almost always know exactly what I want, how I want it, and when I want it. When I’m around, the wheels tend to get the grease they need. But I’m careful not to be bossy, pushy, and impatient. I have to remind myself that others don’t move at my pace. In high school I came across a book entitled “Imperative People” and knew it was for me. As I read the book, I began the lifelong journey of learning to bring out the strengths in my personality while tempering the weaknesses. It really helps that I also have a strong need to be liked by others, motivating me to remember that others don’t always want to me in charge.
My life is one of holding back, snapping my jaw shut until others have had the opportunity to speak, and silencing the voice in my head that says everything should be done faster and more efficiently. I knew that when I got married, my husband would need the freedom to stand his ground when it mattered to him – even when it made no sense to me. It’s a good thing I realized that too, because although Rick often goes along with my ideas, when he doesn’t want to he is one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever met. I would’ve had to learn the hard way.
There are those who will read this blog and want to immediately fire off a comment about the dangers of chemicals in our foods. They will wonder how I can silence my concerns about such an important issue. Others will shake their heads in disapproval of our lack of “sleep training”. But here’s the deal: I waited a long time for THIS man. He is amazing – giving, gentle, kind, strong, resourceful, an excellent provider, free from addiction to the pornographic thoughts that plague many men, honest, and fun. He accepts me the way I am and even seems to like the unfiltered me. Above all, he is godly and 100% committed to Christ.
Will I really spend 80% of my time and energy trying to wrestle with the 20% of his ideas and thoughts that don’t line up with mine? I’ve given it a good effort and it’s like repeatedly banging my head into a brick wall. When I meet his brick wall, I step back. There’s no point in standing there and screaming at it. There’s no point in trying to knock it down. Even if I was eventually successful, the resentment he would feel at giving up something so important to him would make the “victory” worthless.
We are different. I’m glad for that. It would be really hard to be married to someone as decisive and high-strung as I am. If he married someone as passive as he is, that wouldn’t work very well either. We’re a good team. I believe that God looks at our marriage and smiles. There’s nothing perfect about it, about us, but we’re both committed to working it out every day. There’s no thought of divorce, no preparation for it, no consideration of it.
We negotiate. We talk it through. There are some things we just have to agree to disagree on.
I wouldn’t want to be married to anyone else. My first pregnancy was a horrific nightmare. I was desperately sick for about seven months, and neither of us were prepared for it. We struggled through our shock and misery together. He took on the job of cleaning up after me, managing all the household duties after he did his job all day, and both of us wondering if we’d ever have another child. If I’d had a husband who was squeamish or anything but super-energetic, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through. He was my rock. When our precious, beautiful daughter was finally born, we realized it was worth every single moment of misery. Both of us felt excited to do it all again as soon as possible. This second pregnancy has been hard, and I’ve been sick many days, but it’s been significantly better than the first one. Again, he’s been there to help me take care of Eliana, to clean up after me, and to provide comfort when I’m discouraged.
God gave me a precious gift in this man. He’s thankful that I’m willing to go through the misery of pregnancy so that we can have children. I’m thankful that I can get pregnant and deliver a healthy child, despite the challenges. I’m amazed that he tolerates all the hormone fluctuations and the very unflattering way he’s seen me over the last two years. There’s been some seriously gross stuff and the man still seems to find me attractive… Whew! We are a good team.
For anyone considering marriage, wishing for it, praying for it, I want to be very clear in the way I communicate about mine. Marriage is wonderful and good in so many ways, but it is also challenging. It isn’t automatically sheer bliss, just because you’ve found one another. It takes work. It takes compromise. It takes choosing a loving response when you’d really rather scream, “Do you really have to leave your shoes in the middle of the kitchen?!” (That’s Rick’s perspective I’m giving…)
When I think about our marriage, I try to see the big picture. I try to see what we’re building together. One day I see us running pre-teens to practice, dealing with them rolling their eyes at us, and tolerating their friends. One day I see us cherishing our grandchildren, grateful to give them back to their parents when they get too fussy. One day I see us looking back over many years together, cherishing the differences in one another, and seeing how they’ve made us into the family we are.
God bless the differences.