Q: I've been married for almost two years. My husband and I want to start a family, but we're not sure when. Is it wise to wait until we're better established?
Jim: Choosing when to have children is a very personal decision, and couples wait for a lot of reasons. But many family experts agree that waiting for the "perfect time" may not be the best decision.
I've known couples who elected to finish their education or to get their career and a steady income established before they had kids. I can relate to both of those concerns. My wife, Jean, and I waited until we had earned our college degrees and had good careers underway before we started our family.
So there's something to be said for stability. But many couples seem to be after perfection. They're waiting for the right salary, the new home and for every other detail of life to be perfectly in place.
The reality is there may never be a perfect time. Life will always present challenges of one kind or another. In fact, parenting itself creates inconvenience. Parenting is all about looking outside yourself and acting sacrificially on behalf of another. That means children will always challenge our budget, our time or our confidence as a parent.
But that's certainly not the whole story. Children bring a new dimension of joy and fulfillment to a couple's lives that can't be experienced in any other way. Working through the challenges and joys of parenting draws you together as husband and wife. Watching and helping your little ones grow will quickly become the most satisfying investment you'll ever make.
So I would suggest you take a deep, honest look at why you're waiting to have kids. Once you and your spouse weigh the various factors involved, it wouldn't surprise me if you decide that there's no better time than right now.
For more information on how your family can thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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Q: Whenever I try to give my wife constructive feedback about something in our marriage or around our home, she gets irritated and doesn't respond well. Can't I just call it like I see it?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: If there's one thing you can count on, it's that sooner or later your spouse will fail to measure up to your expectations (and vice-versa). When that happens, do you become an encourager or a fault-finder?
According to author Dr. H. Norman Wright, many marriages are sabotaged by what he calls "fault-finders." That's a spouse who acts out of a critical spirit and is quick to point out a partner's shortcomings. Their attitude basically communicates: "I don't accept you for who you are. You're not good enough for me." Ironically, fault-finders dish out criticism, but they take offense when discussions pop up about how they hurt the marriage. It's an unhealthy dynamic that'll throw a couple's relationship into a downward spiral.
Be honest with yourself. If you've been a fault-finder, and you can see the damage it's causing your marriage, why not try another approach? Learn how to become your wife's biggest cheerleader instead. Encourage her and praise her for her good qualities. Highlight your wife's potential, and believe in your marriage for what it can become -- not just what it is right now.
In other words, work at replacing your critical spirit with a positive one. Then, when circumstances arise that require you to face your own faults, you'll be able to deal with them from a place of deep trust and goodwill -- and without the defensive attitude that makes a bad situation worse.