Today, I broke up about 1/4 million fights, wiped bottoms approximately 300,000 times, and cleaned up more crumbs and spilt milk than a confetti explosion after the super bowl. I pulled kids down from refrigerators, tackled a mountain of laundry as tall as Everest, and with the moves of a ninja made my way through an obstacle ridden living room of toys.
Welcome to parenthood.
The behind the scenes role of parents is often lost to a large degree when a young couple begins to think about starting a family. Sure, they’ve heard stories and have been around young children— but, parenthood (as scary and overwhelming as the thought might be) can be idealized in a way that leaves young couples unprepared. We dream of designing cute nurseries, planning elaborate birthday parties, joining fun play dates, and participating in a myriad of other fun adventures as a family. And yes, these are wonderful visions and necessary. We want our children to grow up in a family that seeks ways to enjoy life and build relationships. But preparing for parenthood goes beyond the activities and blissful times we hope to experience.
Preparing for parenthood is a matter of aligning our hearts with the mission of God. Our children are gifts to us and as such we are called to be good stewards of theses gifts. This includes coming together as prospective mommy and daddy and talking through ways we will endeavor to raise our children to know and love the Lord in all areas of life– even when all the everyday moments seem to take precedence. And it means learning how all the not so glamorous moments of parenting are opportunities to share the gospel. Now, I know that little baby will not be reciting the Apostle’s Creed in the first few months, but that doesn’t mean we don’t begin to be mission minded from the moment we conceive or start the adoption process. If we desire to raise children who love the Lord, we need to find ways that prepare our hearts to build families that strive to be gospel oriented.
Here are 5 ways we can begin to prepare for parenthood.
1) Shadow Young Christian Families
Through relationships in your church or community seek out families of young children whom you have seen demonstrate well the calling of parenthood. This doesn’t mean they are perfect or have perfect, well-behaved children. In fact, it might be because they have difficulties in parenthood (disobedience, physical/emotional/mental challenges, etc.) that draw you to see how Jesus is working in their lives. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can come over to dinner sometime or if you all could meet at the park. Yes, parents of young children have busy lives and may not always have every second available. But I can almost guarantee that if you explain why you would like to shadow them or spend time with their family they will most certainly find the time. Watch how they discipline, how they assert authority, how they show affection, how they talk to their kids. Again, we’re not looking for perfection, but a healthy model that shows they are seeking to shepherd the hearts of their children through how they parent.
2) Babysit As A Couple
I’m not asking to give away every Friday or Saturday night, but let it be known that you would be willing to babysit for young families. Not only would you be serving the parents of these children, but you would also be offered some one on one time to “practice” parenting. Babysitting as a couple provides insight into how you and your spouse align in certain areas and differ. Maybe one of you is more lenient and the other a bit more strict. Maybe one of you finds tantrums to be unbearable and the other has a bit more patience. Learning your similarities and differences gives you the opportunity to discuss how you might handle certain situations with your own kids. And on top of all that, you have the privilege of building relationships with these young children to whom you can assist the parents in discipling, as well as develop practical skills (changing diapers, feeding babies, etc.). It’s a win/win for everyone!
3) Serve In The Church Nursery/Preschool
One day when you are gifted children of your own, they will become a part of a church family and will be blessed with the care of wonderful servant hearts in the children’s ministry. Why not invest some of your time to learn how you can be a part of coming along side parents to help their children know Jesus? Learn how to teach children God’s word, ways you can reach the hearts of all types of children, and how important it is to have people willing to serve in this most vital area. You will be blessed to see God working in the heart of every child and it will give you hope and encouragement when your own children become a part of the church.
4) Read Biblical Books On Parenting
When you hold your sweet baby for the first time you will think there could never be anything more innocent. And yes, there is an innocence. But the heart of your child is born sinful. It won’t take long for you to see the ways your child’s heart displays its sinful motives. It is our mission to help our child recognize their sin and need of a Savior. This mission then becomes a means of shepherding our children’s hearts. Through grace we point our kids to Jesus in every way possible. Sometimes this is more difficult and challenging than it might sound. We forget our mission and get distracted by behavior, busyness, and our own sinful hearts. I am so thankful for the number of Christian authors who have written books helping parents to remember their calling. I have benefited GREATLY from the practical wisdom and biblical insight these authors have provided me over the years. (*To see a list of books I recommend scroll to the bottom of this post.)
5) Read God’s Word And Pray
There isn’t a single parent on this earth that has all the answers and does a perfect job. We all need wisdom and direction from the Lord. Each of us will be gifted children that come with their own personalities, behavioral tendencies, and wills. And praise Jesus, we can come to Him with all of our questions, doubts, fears, and failures! God’s word may not necessarily be a parenting book, but the story of redemption is all about a loving Father coming to rescue His wayward children. We study God’s word and come to know who the perfect Father is and how we can learn to be more like Him. And we also find profitable teaching to instruct us as we seek to help our children to know and love the Lord. On our knees, we pray and ask Him to help us. We depend on Him and plead with the Lord to give us all we need to parent our children well for His glory. Humble, dependent parents will be the most hopeful as they recognize the goodness and sovereignty of the Lord.
Preparing for parenthood is exciting, overwhelming, scary, and hard. It also brings great joy and love we never knew existed. Through all the good and the bad God has not left us to ourselves. He has given us relationships in our church, children’s ministry staff, helpful Christian authors, and most importantly His word. If you are thinking of starting a family, learn to depend on Jesus and ask Him to prepare your heart to be oriented toward a gospel mission.
- Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
- Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
- Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman
- Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman
- The Ministry Of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
- Parenting by Paul Tripp