Today I want to give you some food for thought.
If you know a woman on the brink of a major life change (say, about to get married or give birth for the first time), please encourage her.
Does that request sound obvious?
I have recently moved into both of these life stages (married life five years ago and parenthood last year), and while I received plenty of support, I was shocked by how much negativity I encountered.
It’s not that people weren’t happy for me, but I discovered that there are a lot of “jokes” about marriage and parenting that have a cynical tint to them, and I think we should rethink the message that they send to young couples and parents.
When I was preparing for my wedding, the negative comments were sugarcoated with laughs; spoken in a conspiratorial, I’ll-let-you-in-on-a-secret tone, and went something like this:
“Oh, you’re engaged now? Enjoy that! Before you know it, you’ll be arguing over kids and money!”
“It’s cute that you’re so in love. But JUST WAIT five years…”
“I remember when I was all lovey-dovey like you are. You DO realize that marriage is hard, right??”
I can’t remember ever being offended by comments like these, but their negativity did bother me. And then when I was pregnant the oddly un-encouraging comments continued:
“I’m glad you’re excited about labor, but trust me, you WILL want the epidural.”
“JUST WAIT a few months…you’re going to be DYING for alone time!”
“Yeah, babies are precious until they start screaming and keep you up! There was this time when my kids were vomiting all night…”
I think the people who say these things have good intentions. And it’s not like there isn’t truth to some of their comments. But as my friend Jaimie expressed it, “I think a lot of people just don’t realize the powerful impact those statements can have to a woman who is about to experience one of the biggest changes in her life. Especially during pregnancy when her hormones are going crazy.”
Perhaps people feel compelled to give naive young couples or parents a little sneak peek at what their new life stage will really be like.
Perhaps they are speaking from their own negative experiences and fears about marriage and child-raising.
Perhaps they’re just making those comments because it’s culturally acceptable to do so, a “rite of passage” for the woman about to join the ranks of wives or mothers.
Swapping horror stories about parenting or commiserating about the thick-headedness of husbands bonds women together, I guess.
But you know what? Instead of “warning” me about the downsides of being married or becoming a mom, I wish more people would have looked me in the eye and said this:
“You are about to experience one of God’s greatest gifts, and one of the most important, life-celebrating journeys of your life. As you know, there will be difficult times, but God is on your side and so am I!”
Funny enough, that’s the kind of thing people would write in a card, but are unlikely to say aloud. And some of the things they say aloud they would never dream of writing in a card! You’d sound like a jerk if you wrote
Dear [expectant mom’s name],
Babies are much easier to take care of when they’re still in the womb.
My view is that marriage and child-raising are blessings, and we need to encourage people on the brink of these stages rather than plant fears and doubts.
Please think about the weight that even your lighthearted words may carry for a new wife or mom. I know I will be!