A Book Review of For Better or For Kids, by Patrick and Ruth Schwenk
One of my more recent goals is to be less of a consumer when it comes to books and reading. For years I had a prideful goal of reading a certain number of books every year. The pride wasn’t in the reading, but rather in the consumption and inward focus. For this reason, I came up with a goal to still read but to share with others more of what I read, especially if I find something worth sharing.
Patrick and Ruth Schwenk released a book in 2016 called For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse With Kids in the House. I had the privilege of reviewing and endorsing this book. Here is what I said:
After working with couples for over 10 years now, I realize the vital need for good resources when a husband and wife welcome kids into their family. For Better or For Kids is the book I have been waiting for to recommend to couples as they transition from kidless married adults to mom and dad. In this book, the Schwenks provide biblical truth as they encourage parents to push through in the middle of the challenges (and blessings) of life with children.
Some of my Favorite Quotes and Thoughts From For Better or For Kids:
- When we share our marriage vows, we agree to love each other in sickness and in health, richer or poorer, and for better or for worse. The missing wedding vow we forget to make? To love your spouse with kids in the house.
- The key to surviving life with children doesn’t start with how to be a better parent. Just like a puzzle, we need to start by seeing the overall picture of marriage as God designed it so we can know and be excited about what we are trying to build.
- We need to value and treat our spouse as our most important relationship. Kids will often try to take the #1 spot, or we give it to them. Yes, there are seasons when kids need to be the priority, but if we live that way for 18 years, it will not go well for our marriage.
- “It’s no wonder couples forget what a marriage is supposed to look like when kids come along. Nobody prepared us for kids wetting the bed in the middle of the night, throwing up in the car, crying uncontrollably because of growing pains, and fighting during dinner. We had no idea that children seem to come with previous training in how to interrupt, invade a conversation or infiltrate a quiet moment of serenity. We never imagine that finishing a thought – let alone a conversation – would seem impossible. And we certainly never suspected the ridiculous cost of teenager shoes, braces, and well just about everything else!”
- Jesus was a selfless lover. He sacrificed power, position, and pleasure to move in our direction. We’re to do the same in marriage and in parenting.
- The book takes a no-holds-barred approach to things like sex. Pursuing each other is part of what it means to love our spouse with kids in the house.
- If couples would grasp these truths, they’d be much better off:
- The goal is to help each other carry the load.
- Grace enables us to recognize each other’s needs and to respond with love.
- There’s a big difference between breaking each other’s rules and God’s rules. Don’t confuse the two!
- We need grace. Be willing and able to say, “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?”
- Don’t be afraid to say “no.”
- Learn to view and steward time in a different way than before you became parents. Create new boundaries to keep the busyness of life in balance and to keep your love alive!
- Be a good steward of your time. Make your days count!
- Ask: Do you find your worth in busyness?
- Protect your time so you don’t become too busy for each other. Protect your love and time for each other.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well and get some sleep whenever you can. Sustained self-neglect eventually leads to sacrifice and the sacrifice is often your spouse.
- Seek God together. Refresh and renew each other as you seek God’s wisdom together.
- They place an emphasis on the importance of good communication. Make sure you communicate life-giving words (Prov 18:21). You must learn to communicate – this is a lifelong skill.
- Your finances will change a whole lot when you have kids. The authors stress the importance of working on and addressing finances.
- Money + kids = stress.
- See your money as “our money,” not “my money.”
- Financial peace is found in Fatherly dependence, not financial independence.
- Patience is what is most required, especially during times of suffering.
- As parents, you will have to walk close with God and abide deeply if you want to flourish. You can’t love your spouse as God intends unless you stay close to Jesus.
- As a bonus, throughout the book, the authors include “Just the Two of Us” sections throughout. These text boxes contain tips and questions to discuss as well as things to look out for, like the signs of a child-centered marriage.
For Better or For Kids is a book I wish I’d written! We recommend this book to all of our new parents at our church. I believe this is a helpful resource for any parents, but especially for those who don’t want to allow their children to dominate their lives and destroy their marriage.
What’s the best advice/counsel you received about keeping your marriage a priority when you have kids in the house?