The date is January 2014, almost 4 years after the proposal and almost 3 years after our wedding. I had just delivered our second baby Ella. She was 4 months old at this time. So many marriages have experienced strain when a new baby comes. It’s a bundle of joy yes, that also brings sleep deprivation, eruptive disruption of life as you had known it and for the loud ones, chronic fatigue. Patrick and I were not spared of all these ourselves.
Because of the high dependency on the people in the house, a new baby can put your marriage on edge as everyone tries to find their footing. Patrick, Abiah and I had lived peacefully together, everyone minding their business until Ella came (along). Do not underestimate the work a newborn baby is!
I admire one of our family friends who, when their first baby whom I am the godmother arrived, they sleep-trained him from a few months old, he would sleep the whole night and they could make noise in the house and do whatever they wanted. What I would not have given up to get such a child? Ella “refused” to sleep in her baby cot and would nurse the whole night. She wanted to be held and rocked all the time and when she slept and we made a single slight noise, she would get right up again and we had to start the process all over.
So, we started to whisper and tip toe in our house. Some friends visited and told us that we should make so much noise so she can get used to. But if you have been up rocking the baby for hours with no end, and they finally sleep, if someone dares make noise you feel very upset.
So, we started to find ways to manage our situation. We were so much on edge with each other and a small spark in conversation could set the house on fire. In this disruption, often times, couples can stop recognizing and appreciating the small or big things that their spouses do. We figured it was important to make it our family culture to say please and thank you even for the things that are our rights. So, my husband Patrick Omukhango went to work at Christian Literature Communications – CLC Kenya as I stayed home caring for our newborn and homeschooling our first daughter Adnah McKenna. At the end of the month, he gets some allowance to care for our family. That is his responsibility, right? Yes. But even so, I would let him know that the kids and I were very grateful for his contribution – the provision.
So, he found that between the nanny and I, the house was clean, food cooked, our firstborn daughter schooled and the house in order (and sometimes not in order anyway). That is my responsibility, right? Yes. But even so, he would let me know how grateful he was for my contribution to building our family.
A story is told (true or not) of a husband and wife switching roles. The husband wondered what his stay-at-home wife would do the whole day. She must be having the fun of her life, lazing around the whole day doing nothing. On the other hand, the wife thought that the husband had such an easy time going to some job where he would sit the whole day in front of a computer (doing not much work). They decided to swap places. At the end of the day, the husband realized that cleaning the house, doing dishes, cooking, doing laundry and caring for the kids was no mean job. He was so exhausted at the end of the day, he was so tired and easily agitated that he just wanted to go to bed. And the wife realized that the husband’s work was so challenging – so many things needed accurate coordination at the office, at the end of the day, she had this headache that would not go away. The moral of this story is that the husband and the wife got an amazing mutual respect of what each other’s work and contribution to their family were.
For us, we agreed that we needed to verbalize this respect and appreciation. One night I cooked a nice (good) course meal for my family – the kids were much older at this point. I set the table and while my husband and kids were settling in and started serving, I went back to the kitchen to tidy up a few things. When I came back to the dining area, my family started to sing and clap, “Well done, well done, try again another day, God is working on your skills.” Sometimes we put, “God is working on your heart” when appreciating a character trait in a person. This is a song sung by kindergarten kids. They then let me know what they liked about the food. I felt so honoured. This has become our family’s appreciation song, even for our guests. A kindergarten song that brightens our days every time we sing it.
One of the reasons couples struggle to be vulnerable to each other is because of hurts from past relationships, whether from parents, siblings, friends, ex-spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends. And as the say, once beaten, twice shy, when hurt once you erect high fences around your heart to protect yourself.
One of the most effective books on healing that Patrick and I have engaged with in Steve Pidd’s “Healing and Freedom Through Truth Encounters”. https://kenyaclc.org/…/healing-and-freedom-through…/… Steve is probably a few of those people that address healing from spiritual, mental and physical realms. He divides the Word of God and accurately applies it to touch those three realms for complete healing. When you deal with past hurts and wounds, you can then be vulnerable to your spouse (and other relationships in your life). It will become easier for you to appreciate others.
Saying “thank you” and saying “please” as we make requests to each other, have become our family tradition to date. We appreciate each other for the smallest details, even when we clearly deserve whatever it is the person has done for us. Saying “please” and “thank you” builds and grows positivity. When you do it, you open up to greater positive experiences and more happy opportunities for you and the other person. It then builds more gratitude from both sides and the cycle continues. This works in marriage, in parenting, at the work place – everywhere in our communities.
“Please” and “thank you” are one of the simplest ways to communicate to others that you appreciate them and it can encourage them to even go the extra mile. It’s such a game changer in relationships that it’s become part of our life at the ministry where we serve at CLC Kenya, letting fellow colleagues, authors, readers and partners know that we genuinely appreciate them. It takes nothing out of you, on the contrary, it builds everyone all round.
#GratitudeTip1: Discuss your plan to adjust when a new baby is added to your marriage union. The blessings of God make rich and add no sorrow.
#GratitudeTip2: Fatigue, whether from work, ministry or family engagements, is a marriage killer. If you or your spouse are continually tired, you can easily start to drift apart. Discuss ways to find a balance.
#GratitudeTip3: Yes it’s your right, but learn to say thank you and please.
#GratitudeTip4: Appreciation, respect and love need to be verbalized.
#GratitudeTip5: Appreciation opens up opportunities for more positivity for all involved – the giver and the recipient.
#GratitudeTip6: Focus on your healing from the past to allow yourself the opportunity to be vulnerable to your spouse. It’s not very complicated. You can start this morning. Find something you can appreciate someone for today. If you are not accustomed to, “they” say you need to do it 21 times for it to become a habit.