Many rifts are easily resolved by one of the toughest 3-word sentence, “I am sorry.” I have to admit that I have had to, by God’s grace, say those words so many, countless times in our 20-year marriage. And as I look back, most of those times were borne out of issues concerning the order of priorities for a Christian married woman: God, Husband, Children.
As a homeschooling mother of young children, it’s almost automatic to get this order all mixed up. Kids, Husband, God? Kids, God, Husband? One thing seems certain. The kids have that tendency to always come first. The children need their discipline, need their education, need Mom to calm them down, and silence their 1000 decibel cries and tantrums.
The post-partum, breastfeeding, “taking care of newborn” and a toddler/infant stage is a very challenging time for a first time mother. So it seems acceptable for a time to really get this whole order of priority mixed up. I mean, you can’t even have time to bathe during this time!However, after settling and adjusting as first time mothers, we have to be careful not to let that be our default—our children taking priority over our own husbands.
For me, the kids just kept coming as I was teaching the first one to skip count by two! It’s as if we were skip counting my due dates! 1999, 2001, 2003 and then 2005!
I hate to admit it, or even rationalize it. But during these newborn-infancy-toddler years, motherhood seemed to come natural and being a wife did not. And I believe that is what can hurt most for our husbands. Why does he have to tell us that he wishes he came first? Why does he have to remind us of that? Why can’t it come as natural as our “ milk leaking” as nursing mothers when we hear a baby’s cry (it doesn’t even have to be our own babies)?
I guess, that’s one of the toughest realities for newbie set of parents. And the challenge from thereon is raising a new person together while safeguarding the marriage.
Mothers have a natural, inborn bond with their children. Children are part of a mother’s flesh, conceived and matured in our wombs. Fathers do not have this “natural” bond. I’ve read in one parenting book that during the new baby season, fathers are trying to find a way to connect and find their role. The breastfeeding mom feeding her baby is just so natural. How does a dad mimic a similar bond? How does he try to fit in the nursing mother-baby set up? I can’t quote anything scientific study but I just instinctively, with all my mother’s genes, know that that bond is solid and so naturally formed. Am sure all moms can relate here. How come we wake up in the middle of the night to find our children awake coughing? How come we hear their every move as a baby while our husbands are in dreamland? How can we know by just looking at their eyes, that they need some “one on one” time with you to discuss something? Why can’t we sleep straight when we had to give them paracetamol for a fever at bedtime?
Children are often described as additional “hearts” outside of a mother’s own body. Quoting Elizabeth Stone, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
It is possible that a marriage meant to last a lifetime is set to also create that heart. At some point, though wired differently, spouses will eventually have as many hearts as his/her children and his/her spouse as they get to know each other and eventually feel for each other . Didn’t God say we are one with our husbands?
If I were to do it all over again, I would be more open about what goes on in my heart and mind (and body!) during this stressful season of caring for small children. I would communicate and open up more. I remember Gilbert telling me to inform him how exactly I would like to be helped and supported since many times, though the need is so obvious, husbands may be too preoccupied to observe and know. I would give my husband the license to “gently remind” (yes that’s part of the deal) if I was “overdoing” my role as a mom at the expense of our relationship. I would maximize baby sitters and try to ward of the guilt leaving my babies as I spend “quality” time with Gilbert. I would have explained back then to Gilbert that I had a tendency to let the “squeaky wheel get the grease.” That means that the most noisy or bothersome would get the most attention. And if you have four small children below 8 years old, they would seem to be THE “squeakiest wheels” that need to be greased. But we know that the noisiest may not necessarily be the most important need that requires attention at that very moment.
I thank and appreciate Gilbert for being understanding during that long season of having very small kids as he forgave my every decision that hurt him as I passed the opportunity to show him who comes first. Thank God for my loving, forgiving and gracious husband. I thank God for promising us that we will heal, love more as we set out our next 20 years!
Regarding important relationships, John Maxwell has this to say.:
“Most people give away their relational energy on a first-come, first-served basis. Whoever gets their attention first gobbles up their time and relational energy. That’s why the squeaky wheels instead of the high producers at work consume so much attention and why so many people have nothing left to give when they get home from work. Your family provides the most valuable relationships in your life. They should come first as you plan how to spend your time. After that should come your next most important relationships. It’s a matter of practicing good priorities.”
As time passed, the “squeaky wheels” became my homeschooled children who needed their education. Oh my, now the push and pull becomes even more complicated! I am now the teacher and mother! How in the world do I put being a wife above all that?? When you think about it, a working mother/wife will have the same struggle. However, the challenge becomes a little bit more intricate as homeschooling is an all day thing and sometimes, we do not know when to take the teacher hat off. I am guilty of wearing it 24 hours a day: preparing lessons when my husband has come home from work, trying to Facebook chat with other homeschooling moms when its supposed to be “couple time” or just being preoccupied with my role as a teacher. The scenario however may be different if the parents co -teach or somehow equally share the homeschooling duties.
So let me ask and challenge every HomesCooling Mother out there. Does educating your children come before your relationship with your husband? Do you have habits that seem to show that? Be on your guard and open up to your spouse regarding this. I believe when God calls us to homeschool, He doesn’t call us to prioritize being a teacher vs being a wife. You may be in charge of the homeschool part, but as husband and father, he has the God-ordained role to lead our family and we must be quick to accept our “leaders'” marching orders in protecting our marriage amidst the demands of homeschooling.
I shall, in a future post, try to explain in detail some reminders to homeschooling wives and mothers on how to maintain the order of priority in our daily lives. We are all in this together, dear sisters! I have failed and have been forgiven by my loving husband and so I’d like to help others as we go through this together.
With older children, comes older grandparents. Yes, my parents. I have been the primary “child” in charge of my elderly parents, Daddy Dony and Mommy Emma. And I am thankful that I have learned (and still learning) to guard the boundaries in serving my parents and to also communicate more effectively with Gilbert this time.
So today, though a day late, let me honor my husband Gilbert Simpao as we celebrate Father’s Day! This is a post from the heart, a committed heart, strengthened and empowered by God so that He may use our union for His Glory and His Kingdom. The blog’s readers are my witnesses ( and I hope they are many!!) in this commitment to love and honor you! Thank you, Gilbert, for the immeasurable blessing we have received from you as husband, Papa and “friend”(as eldest Vince said in a prayer this morning) to Vince, Marco, Raya and Gino)!
Psalm 127: 3-5 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!He shall not be put to shamewhen he speaks with his enemies in the gate.