Ah, the first year of marriage. The uncertainty, the excitement. Learning how to love each other, learning how to fight clean, learning how to sleep next to someone who snores or steals all the blankets at night. This new phase of life is full of challenges. Not only are you learning your new spouse, but you’re also learning a lot about yourself. Though beautiful, it can be stressful and downright overwhelming.
Now, imagine coming home from your honeymoon to a house full of children. Literally, a child in every bedroom, looking to you, their new parent, to guide them on how to navigate this brand new phase in their life. Take all the uncertainty of a new marriage, add all the responsibility of new parenthood, and what do you get? An anxiety disorder.
But in addition to exploring new heights of stress in your life, if this is your new reality, you’ve just tapped into a greater capacity for joy!
When I married Mr. Frank (a widower with four children), life felt like a never-ending roller coaster of emotion. There was plenty to learn the hard way. While I’m certainly not an expert, as I reflect on our first year, I want to share with you Six Good Ideas that I believe will help you grow as a couple and as a family.
1. Keep Dating. While this is a good idea for all married couples, it’s absolutely imperative for newlyweds with children. Mr. Frank and I had a date every single Friday night during the first six months of our marriage. We rarely missed one. Fortunately we were (and are) blessed with a few excellent grandmas who volunteered to watch our children on a bi-weekly rotation. It was always a blessing to come home to a quiet house where children had been tucked in hours before- no baths to monitor, no teeth to brush, no squabbling over the tv. Or when they would stay with grandma overnight-Oh, the glorious freedom of having the house to ourselves! Frozen pizza and Netflix in our own living room was outright heaven on earth.
Though we no longer set a date night for every week, we still make dating a priority for a healthy marriage. It’s important to get away from the everyday demands of parenting, look at one another across the table, and remember why we like each other so much.
2. Designate Your Private Space (and protect it at all costs!). When Mr. Frank and I were house hunting in the few months before our wedding, I made only two requests concerning our home-to-be. 1). It had to be warm. I couldn’t stand the thought of having freezing feet through the unpredictable Indiana winters. And 2). It had to have a master bathroom. Any amount of bedrooms, any kind of yard, any size kitchen, I genuinely was not particular on these points. But I knew even then that marrying my Mr. Frank and moving into a house with five other people (when I had previously lived alone) was going to wreak havoc on my personal boundaries. I had to have a space where I could depend on uninteruppted time alone or with my new husband.
Natural parent, do not underestimate how important this sanctuary space is for the incoming parent. This is a true zero-to-sixty experience for your new spouse. Remember, you had 13 years to adjust to the idea of sharing your space with a teenager. Give your new spouse some room to breathe (and a room or two to breath in) and you’ll have a more harmonious home.
3. Put Your Husband First. Though it feels so very tempting to make your new life completely kid-centered, it won’t make for a happy marriage, and it ultimately won’t make for happy children either. Believe me, I get it. Once youv’e captured the heart of your new spouse, it seems like the best course is to throw all your time and emotional energy into winning the hearts of your new children. But remember, this is not a summer camp. This is the new normal. As your children get to know you better, the more they will trust you and depend on you as their new parent. Slow and steady definitely wins this race.
Even with children, all newlyweds are basically the same in this way and Mr. Frank and I were no exception. We had to focus in on each other and learn how to serve one another. We had to find what brought joy to each other’s lives and what struggles were worth arguing over. The children were certainly in the mix, but we were determined to be a united front. And that required unity. And unity could only come from putting our marriage first.
4. Have Plenty of Group Hugs. While the children should certainly not be the absolute center of your new universe, it is important that all that mushy gushy new love overflows and pours out onto them as well. Make them feel included by loving on them as much as possible. Don’t be discouraged if some are more receptive than others. My seven-year-old has always been very affectionate and my 13-year-old fights every hug. Sometimes I insist; sometimes I back off. (Often I tell her that I’m teaching her how to hug.) While I believe that even children have the right to define their personal space, I also believe that everyone needs a good mom-hug every now and then and this typical teenager is no exception.
Remember, you are the new parent and these are your children. They need to know that this new and exciting love you have for your spouse fully includes them. And your spouse needs to know this too.
5. Plan to be Spontaneous. I remember the conversation well when I realized the children would come home from school minutes before Mr. Frank would get home from work each day. That meant there would not be one single minute of “together-alone” time during the entire day. “But what if we want to be spontaneous?” I asked. (See Idea #2)
But I’m not just talking about romantic spontaneity here. There’s the spontaneity of dining out instead of preparing dinner, of going to see a movie or attending an event. Even the simple spontaneity of NOT doing the laundry and spending the evening cuddling on the couch. This is truly tricky territory whether you’re newlyweds with children or you’ve been married for years and have a houseful. The secret: One spouse must do the planning so the other spouse can enjoy a “spontaneous” evening. One spouse must call the sitter, make the reservations, buy the tickets, or contact the friends. Then he or she can unveil the surprise the evening of, the day of, or even the week before. No, it’s not quite the same as deciding on a whim to order Chinese instead of cooking supper, but because it takes time and thought from your spouse, it’s actually better.
6. Pray. So, I’ve actually saved the best advice for last. It may seem passive or impractical to you, but trust me, you should never underestimate the power of prayer in bringing peace to your household. Everything else is just an attempt to control the chaos (inside and out) if you’re not praying for your new spouse and children. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Not only did I spend (and continue to spend) lots of time in prayer for my new family, but Mr. Frank consistently prayed over me. Even this very morning, as I lay half asleep in bed, before he left for work, he laid his hand on me and prayed for me. This is what it is to be loved, cared for, and at the top of a man’s priority list, ladies, when he seeks the Creator of the universe on your behalf! (Whew! I can’t even write that without getting emotional!)
So there you have it, Six Good Ideas if you have children and are newly married. They have certainly been tried and tested in my own life.
How about your life? Does anyone have ideas or anecdotes concerning this topic? I’d love to hear them! You can leave a comment below or click here to email me directly. I look forward to hearing from you!