If I asked you what the single most important thing you could do for your kids was, what would you answer?
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” Sounds a little counter intuitive right? Shouldn’t it be to love them, provide for them, be there for them, or some other thing focused on them? No, I think Mr. Wooden’s right, and here’s why: your marriage is ‘home’ for your children.
By the time he was about six months old I noticed that my son Gideon would intently observe the interactions between my wife and I. He would drop whatever he was doing (or whatever mess he was making) and just stare at us. He didn’t want our attention, well okay he probably did, but mostly he was checking up on the status of his home. Whenever we showed affection for each other—a hug, a kiss—he would smile. All was well in his little world. He was secure.
Whoa. As soon as I began to notice how carefully Gideon scrutinized our every encounter, I realized the great weight and importance our relationship has in our son’s young life.
In that moment I knew that there was no way for me to be a good father without being a good husband first.
Now I know this may not apply to everyone’s current situation, you may not be married to your children’s mother (if you aren’t, go ahead and marry that woman, if she’ll have you), you may be divorced, or widowed, and, of course, it’s still possible for you to be an incredible daddy in those situations. However, I think most of us would agree that the most ideal situation for a kid is to grow up in a home where mom and dad are both present and, here’s the really important part, in love.
My parents had a rocky marriage for a decade (or more) before finally calling it quits while I was in college. The lack of affection and love between the two of them caused a sense of impending doom to pervade the atmosphere of our family. There was no peace, no rest, and no security. Our home felt like a wind beaten tent pitched on the edge of a precipice, just waiting for some particularly strong gust to send it over. That’s not to say that I didn’t have a good childhood or good parents, I was greatly blessed in both regards, but it’s important to me that my kids don’t know that feeling of family instability.
So let’s make it practical, how do we love our wives and create a home that’s secure and full of peace? I think one of the best ways is to simply carve out time for your marriage, time for the two of you to really connect. A good start is to commit to 20 minutes every day, and to spend a few solid hours together (date night) once a week. Also, it’s a no-brainer, but being a mom is no joke. It’s a lot of work taking care of a bunch of crazy, totally dependent, and extremely messy little humans, therefore your wife can use some help. Ask her what she needs, and then do it. Take the lead, plan a family night, date night, or a day in the park and let her just be along for the ride.
Lastly, be very careful how you treat your bride in front of your kids. If you have an argument be sure to have it in an honoring and gentle way. If you need to, explain to your children that even though mommy and daddy disagree they still love each other very much.
These are just a few simple ways to get the ball rolling, but truly loving our children’s mothers is a lifelong exercise in sacrifice, devotion, and humility. Thankfully, we get to take it one day at a time.
David & Mary Katherine Burbach
After five years of marriage and two children we know we are just barely scratching the surface of the extravagant joy, weighty responsibility, and incomparable experience of parenthood. We founded Mother/Father Magazine in recognition of our own need for a community of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and fellow believers who long to take back our culture through the celebration of all things family.
We’re living the dream with two little ones in Winston-Salem, NC.