5 “Pre-parenting” Essentials

Pre-parenting, we discovered, includes caring for and protecting our marriage before and after birth.


During the months leading up to the birth of our first child, we did everything we could to get in the mindset of parenting as much as possible before he got home. That included buying the carseat and stroller and all of the nesting impulses, like prepping the baby’s room and setting up the crib. All that kinds of stuff. Some of us are emotionally ready for baby without trying. But there are some of us who have to work our emotions into baby mode and that did the trick.

But as good as all of that nesting stuff was, it still didn’t do the pre-parenting work I really needed to have done. 

Like many first-timers, I had the expectation that we’d just step right into parenting and everything would work out perfectly. It didn’t. (The opposite didn’t happen either. Everything didn't immediately fall to pieces. Two myths down!)

What we didn’t discover till later on was that there was a previous decision we had to make, one more basic than what theme the baby’s room ought to be. The decision was: Will we be a parent-directed home or a child-led home. Although it may not sound like it, the friendliest home for a new child is one that nurtures not just the child, but the parents’ relationship as well.

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Pre-parenting, we discovered, includes caring for and protecting our marriage before and after birth. Yes, it was nice to paint the baby’s room to create a loving environment for him. But as many have pointed out, the most important environment is the love between his parents. If that’s not there, it doesn’t matter how cute the decorations on the wall are. The more we work on our marriage before baby comes, the better off he’ll be when he arrives. The security of the marriage provides security for baby, just as as insecure marriage generates insecurity in the child.

So, here are some pre-parenting marriage enhancement tips we picked along the way.

1). Continue with everyday life.

Yes, lots of things will change when baby arrives. Lots. And things may slow down to a seeming crawl for the first few weeks. Lord knows, it did for us! But don’t stop doing the ordinary things of life. Don’t stop spending time with family and friends. You’ll need them!

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2). Go on dates.

Hopefully, you haven’t stopped dating each other. But even if you have, start them up again. And even if they’re small and inexpensive (which is probably a good idea anyway with all the new expenses), do them and do them regularly. They’ll keep you fresh. They’ll keep you talking. They’ll keep you focused on caring for your marriage. They’ll keep you emotionally healthy, which will make for a healthy home for baby. Yes, I know, there are others who say this isn’t important, but their lives can become dominated by their kids. (http://www.scarymommy.com/dont-do-date-night/)

3). Express love.

This should go without saying, but don’t stop expressing love for each other. Kiss. Hold hands. Make love. Give gifts. Leave notes. Do those things that connect with each other’s love language. And if you don’t know what your love language or your spouse’s love language is, check out http://www.5lovelanguages.com to find them out. We’ve been so grateful for how helpful it has been for our relationship.

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4). Use the couch.

Not just for iPad or TV, but for simply sitting and talking with each other. Just 15 minutes of couch-time together without any screens going makes a huge difference in communication and satisfaction in marriage. Feel free to watch something after. But make sure you get that time for just the two of you every day. Later on, when baby arrives, set out some toys. He can handle 15 minutes not in your lap.

5). Parcel out household chores.

When baby comes home, mom is busier than ever, so dad needs to pick up some slack. And this is best done well in advance of baby’s arrival. If you can divide up the household chores beforehand and even have a few weeks of doing them in their new division before baby arrives, it’ll make the transition much easier.

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If your home is going to be parent-directed and not child-led, it’s essential to do the pre-parenting work of establishing the centrality of marriage in the homes. I wish had started sooner, because our kids led us on a merry chase for a while that wasn’t so merry much of the time.

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