Q: In our household my husband is the stay-at-home parent and I work full-time outside the home. Do you have any advice on how we can make this successful in our family and marriage?
Jim: One critical piece of information missing from your question is the age of your kids. Research shows that young children need a great deal of time with Mom during their formative years. If your kids are young, the first thing we'd recommend is that you make every effort to spend as much time nurturing them as possible.
This is not to suggest that you should feel guilty for working outside the home. We all have to operate within the circumstances God has granted to us. Since men are generally hardwired to be financial providers, you'll want to talk with your husband and make sure that he's comfortable being a stay-at-home dad for the time being. Some men genuinely enjoy being "Mr. Mom." They're good at it, too. Not only do they love their kids, they have been blessed with a nurturing temperament and enjoy being with them 24 hours a day. Regardless of who is staying at home and who is acting as the breadwinner, you and your husband need to agree that the most important thing is that your kids aren't being deprived of parental love and leadership.
When it comes to your marriage, our advice is similar to what we'd offer if your husband were the breadwinner: Be sure to make time to connect every week without the distractions of kids and career. Schedule a regular "date night" to invest in your relationship.
You might also visit WorkingMom.com, a website we've mentioned on our broadcast. It contains a wealth of helpful advice for families in your situation.
Q: I am engaged to be married and have been dating my fiance for two years. Recently I've felt like we're not on the same page regarding premarital counseling. I feel it's important but my fiance doesn't want it. What is your opinion?
Dr. Greg Smalley, executive director of marriage and family formation: Premarital counseling is essential! Every couple should do it. In fact, some pastors refuse to perform weddings for couples who haven't engaged in at least some form of premarital counseling. Studies show that couples who do it can reduce their risk of divorce by as much as 30 percent. Perhaps that is why some states have entertained the idea of making premarital counseling a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license.
I would encourage you to sit down with your fiance and have an honest conversation about why he's hesitant to engage in premarital counseling. Don't pressure him or twist his arm; just encourage him to express his feelings. Chances are, he simply feels that it's unnecessary. But here's the thing: Premarital counseling isn't just for people who have troubled backgrounds or difficult relationships. It's not necessarily a sign or admission that something is "wrong" between you. Rather, it's a commitment on both of your parts to make a positive investment in your relationship and to ensure that it's as strong and solid as it can be before you tie the knot.
Once your fiance is on board, find a counselor who can navigate you through the PREPARE/ENRICH Premarital inventory. You can find a sample test at www.prepare-enrich.com. Also, you can take Focus on the Family's "Couple Checkup" for engaged couples at www.focusonthefamily.com/couplecheckup. This is not meant to be a replacement or substitute for premarital counseling, but it might give you and your fiance some good talking points as you seek out a counselor together. Best wishes to you!
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.