Q: I studied art in college and married before graduation. Four years later, I spend my time preparing meals, wiping the noses of jelly-faced toddlers and mopping the kitchen floor -- while my still-single sorority sisters have thriving careers in graphic design and other artistic disciplines. I love my kids, but ... I admit I'm somewhat jealous. Should I just abandon those artistic dreams? That part of my life seems long gone.
Jim: I'd like to answer with an illustration you might not have considered. As many starving writers, painters and musicians will tell you, art matters a great deal whether or not it generates commercial success. It matters because it flows directly out of our humanity; we were created to create.
In that context, I'd suggest that as a homemaker -- a nurturer of children and shaper of an environment in which they can grow, thrive and flourish -- you're a creative artist of the highest degree. Your present medium may not be clay or paint or an iPad, but impressionable young human lives. You're sculpting character every day.
Furthermore, as your children grow, you're well equipped to help them discover their gifts and talents. You can guide them in developing their own forms of artistic expression -- and create right along with them.
As they progress through school, you may have opportunity to slip into the workforce or pursue formal art as a hobby. Schedule "me time" each week, starting now, to pursue your artistic passion. But regardless, being a mom is a high calling -- and the lives you shape have more value than any painting ever could. In fact, you might be surprised how many of your "successful sorority sisters" are likely jealous of you.
Q: With two preschoolers in the house, it seems like my wife and I seldom connect anymore. She always talks about how tired she is after being with the kids all day. What can I do to reinforce our relationship?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: When you arrive home after your long, tiring day, remember that your wife has had an equally long, tiring day. She needs two things most of all: (a) adult conversation, including overt appreciation for her efforts, and (b) an adult pair of hands to pitch in, take charge of the children, wrangle dirty clothes or other debris, or begin any other activity to lighten her load. Beyond that, here are some tips:
1. Don't expect to be taken care of like another child in the house. Pick up your own clothes and toys.
2. Don't expect much sexual response if your wife is exhausted and you haven't set the mood during the course of the evening. Remember, sex begins in the kitchen -- with meaningful conversation, compliments, acts of kindness and some elbow grease applied to helping reduce her to-do list.
3. Get involved in (or even take over) the process of getting your kids ready for bed. It will help you stay connected with them, and do wonders for your wife's frame of mind.
4. Maintain a regular date night -- a meal (fancy or otherwise), a concert, a walk, whatever your imagination and budget can manage -- in which the focus is conversation and companionship. Make it a point to keep your wife current on your day's activities and find out about hers.
5. Take her away for a romantic weekend, or even dinner and an overnight stay, at a pleasant location where her daily responsibilities are suspended. (With planning and creativity, this doesn't have to be expensive.)
6. Call or text her during the day to offer an encouraging word or simply say, "I love you."
7. Flowers and gifts for no particular reason speak volumes.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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