By Kris Beaird
When my husband, Jim, and I had children, we vowed we would do everything right. We had fairly normal upbringings, but they lacked an emotional awareness that we wanted our children to have. We devoured everything we could from Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family; we even attended his last in-person conference in Colorado Springs in 1977. We set our expectations high, to be the perfect parents as well as the perfect pastors. We all know that perfect pastors must have perfect children! Wow, what pressure!
In my book, There Had Better Be a Corner, I describe the process I went through in dealing with depression and anxiety, especially in the childrearing stages. The pressure finally got the best of me and became debilitating. Making that first appointment to engage in counseling was a big step for me. However, it began the process of unraveling the lies I had believed about myself from childhood and my self-imposed expectations.
When our children were small, it was very important to me that bedtime was a special time for them. During our nightly ritual I would bathe them, then read to them, and then pray with them. As a stay-at-home mom, by the end of the day the process of nurturing wore me out. I asked Jim to help me with it, but I was never satisfied with the way he did it. He just put them to bed and said prayers.
One day the Holy Spirit rebuked me and said, “He is their dad, and he can do just as good a job as you can, so let him be their dad!”
Moms are usually the more nurturing parent, and as the children get older, the dads must prepare the children for the hard knocks of life, a job, rejection, and becoming a protector to those around them. In this particular case, I needed to yield to Jim and let him be the dad.
There were also other areas of conflict in our marriage and parenting where Jim and I had to learn compromise. Our backgrounds in financial matters were very different regarding credit. One experienced never using credit; for the other it was a regular habit. Neither process is 100 percent perfect, but we needed to mesh together what worked for us. It was very difficult because we each wanted to be “right!” We usually think our parents’ way of doing things is “right,” and we each had to listen to understand and then bend to what would work for our marriage.
Money or poverty can become the “power” in a family, and those bondages needed to be broken.
Marriage counseling shone a light on how our differing backgrounds affected our marriage. Money or poverty can become the “power” in a family, and those bondages needed to be broken. Since one person may be more dominant verbally, marriage counseling gave both of us a chance to express ourselves. Sometimes we met together in counseling, and other times we met with the counselor individually. At that time this seemed like the biggest luxury to me. I had someone to listen to me for a whole hour! Within our marriage, I was the less verbal one and needed to learn how to express my needs and desires to Jim. Expecting him to read my mind was not working, and it wasn’t fair to him.
One of the most practical books on marriage I have read is Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray, Ph.D. On one YouTube video, Mark Gungor, a pastor, comedian, and counselor, gives a hilarious description of the man’s brain and the woman’s brain called A Tale of Two Brains. It is priceless! I wish I would have known about this concept thirty years earlier. It would have saved us both so much strife. The essence is that the man’s brain has boxes, and he takes out only one box (topic) at a time and then he puts it back. The woman’s brain is like spaghetti noodles. Everything is connected to everything which is why it’s difficult for us to turn our brains off. The video is hilarious and so true! This concept explains why women are usually better at multitasking and men are able to push out distractions and focus on one thing.
Last summer, Jim and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary. It seems as if we are totally different people now because we have each grown. I am convinced that we would not have accomplished this feat without the assistance of Christian, faith-based counseling. We always knew that we loved each other, but we didn’t always like each other. We have changed in so many ways. I used to be the introverted, practical one and he was the extroverted dreamer. He was the talker; I was the listener. I was passive-aggressive and moody; he spoke directly. He was the risk-taker; I played it safe. Now I’m more of a risk-taker and the extroverted one while he wants to stay home and write books. Jim encouraged me to get my master’s degree in 2010, and then I invested in becoming a leadership coach through the John Maxwell program. The coaching principles helped me grow to the next level personally as well as professionally.
During the early years of our marriage, when we could least afford it, we invested in counseling so we could get to really know and understand each other. That investment has returned great treasures. We learned from counseling others that if they don’t have “skin in the game” (if the counseling doesn’t cost them anything), they don’t value each other enough and won’t follow through. There are no quick fixes. Marriage and parenting are hard! I’ve seen variations of this thought, and it’s so true:
Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.
Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.
Being in debt is hard. Being financially responsible is hard. Choose your hard.
Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.
Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard. Choose wisely!
About the Author
Kris Beaird is a wife, mother, grandmother, minister, and author. She and her husband, Jim, are retired and live in the Tampa Bay area. In her book, There Had Better Be a Corner, she describes how each person has a journey and is challenged to make decisions that will shape their present and future personal development.