A Mean Mom’s Marriage
About the Guest
You might be a great mom, but you were first a wife. Remembering this is key to having a great marriage. Joanne Kraft tells how she keeps the first thing-her marriage-first. Hear Joanne share how the fun game of "Red Light/Green Light" livens up marital romance and demonstrates to her kids that her husband comes first.
Joanne KraftJoanne Kraft is a mom of four and the author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids and Just Too Busy—Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. Joanne has been a guest on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, CBN and her articles have been published in Today’s Christian Woman, P31 Woman, In Touch, Thriving Family, Parentlife and more. Joanne and her husband, Paul, took a God-sized leap of faith and moved their family from Ca...more
You might be a great mom, but you were first a wife. Remembering this is key to having a great marriage.
A Mean Mom’s Marriage
Bob: You’ve heard it said that one of the most important things you can do for your kids is to love their mother or love their father. Joanne Kraft says, “It’s good to show them, from time to time, that you love each other.”
Joanne: What we would do, when the kids were younger—we called it “Red Light / Green Light.” So, if there was a red light, we would kiss. If it was green, they’d get a pass. My husband would slow down if it was yellow. I’d have all my four kids yelling: “Oh, it burns. I just threw up in my mouth. I’m going to be sick.” And so, we are affectionate. My daughter once took a picture of Paul and me in the car, and it’s just us holding hands in the car—those things stick with a child.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 20th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about the tough side of being a mom, but we’ll talk about the tender side too.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I kind of wish somebody had sat down with Mary Ann and me, back before we had kids and said: “Listen, I know you want to be reasonable as you raise your children; but here’s what’s going to happen—your kids are going to try to convince you that reasonable means something different than you think reasonable means. [Laughter] They are going to try and convince you that—
Dennis: It’s the mob.
Dennis: What’s reasonable to the mob is not going to be reasonable to a parent.
Bob: They are going to say: “Come on, Mom/Dad. Be reasonable.” You’re going to start to feel like, “Well, maybe, we should just relax a little bit.” You begin to wonder whether your standards and your values are wrong or not.
Dennis: I think a lot of parents cave in from reverse peer pressure from their kids. That’s—frankly, we felt it.
The peer pressure hits your kids, and then, they put the full-court press on you.
We have a guest, who is nodding her head. She is the author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. Joanne Kraft joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, Joanne.
Joanne: Thank you for having me. I’m so happy to be here.
Dennis: Joanne and her husband Paul live in Nashville. They’ve been married since 1997—have four children. She is a speaker, a writer, author of a number of books. I just—I want to go back to how you and Paul met because you were a police dispatcher. You and Paul shared some similar experiences that put you together and, ultimately, put you permanently together. Share that story with our listeners.
Joanne: Well, when my husband and I met—he was the police officer that worked the graveyard shift that I worked at the police department—I was the 911 dispatcher. We met over a homicide call—
Joanne: —which I’m not sure that will be the story that my children share at our 50th anniversary; you know? [Laughter] But yes, God was working even then—that’s how we met. My husband likes to tell people that—well, first, he likes to tell people that he arrested me, which is a lie. So, if you ever meet him—again, that’s not true—but he does tell people that: “I was used to her telling me where to go. So, why not marry her?” [Laughter]
Bob: Neither of you, at the time, were walking with the Lord; is that right?
Bob: When the two of you met?
Joanne: Absolutely no—no.
Bob: You came to faith while you were a police dispatcher. Was his spiritual journey influenced by yours?
Joanne: I believe that’s definitely the case. We met, and we were hard-headed heathens. That first year, after we got married, a lot of things happened in our lives—and a lot of hard things happened in our lives—especially, consequence from sin and going through the divorce—
—and including my mom / she got sick. My grandfather died. My mom was diagnosed with cancer. We lost a baby. It just seemed to be over, and over, and over again.
Bob: Did you wonder whether you were going to be a single mom again for the second time?
Joanne: Oh, before—even before that—absolutely! I’m the only divorce in my family. Women say things all the time: “I want to be this,” or young girls: “I want to be this when I grow up.” Who says, “I want to be divorced”?—nobody says that. I was the only one [in my family to divorce]. Later, when I was married, I remember somebody saying to me: “Wow, Joanne, I remember thinking, ‘A mom with two kids? Ain’t no way anybody’s ever going to marry her again!’” I thought, “Wow, other people were even thinking of that.”
Joanne: But God makes all things new. I love that Scripture in Isaiah—Isaiah 43:18-19: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing.” That is my life, and He has made our family seamless.
Only He can do that.
Dennis: And you, in the process of giving your life to Christ, found out how to really love, especially how to love your husband. What are some ways that you found for a mom, who is in the throes of raising a big family, who has found ways to freshly love her husband?
Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you—in my book, in the first section, I talk about the different elements of a mean mom. I had to include marriage in there because it is fundamental. Every family is only as strong as the marriage inside of it. Paul and I have been very good about taking time together; but the two parts that I could really kind of talk about in detail in that chapter really were two things that kind of were highlighted in my life.
The first one was: “Was I being a blessing or a burden to him?” The stories that I share in there happen to be about these times when we were at a soccer—
—like an end-of-the-year soccer pizza party. I was supposed to bring the coupon for the half-off pizza. There was a long line of people, and my husband is like, “Okay, where’s the coupon?” “Oh, I forgot it!” He’s like, “Oh!” I said, “Well, I’ll go run…” He’s like, “I don’t want to make everybody wait.” I’m like, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
Then, a few hours later, we’re at the grocery store. It is like, “Well, Joanne,”—we ring up a turkey / he’s like—“why did we have to pay for the turkey? I thought we got the free turkey with our…”—I messed that up. It’s like on, and on, and on—I wasn’t paying attention / I wasn’t focusing on ways that could really bless him. That made a huge difference in our marriage.
I mean, confessing to him: “I’m sorry / forgive me,”—he said, “You know, Joanne, I’m having a hard time seeing where you’re being that help to me.” That just pierced me—so, that was one of them.
Another area that I speak of in here, too, is—women, our minds—we’ve got stinkin’ thinkin’ in our heads.
Our minds are working a thousand times. You could say one thing, and I’m thinking you’re saying a million other things. So, where do our thoughts about our husband dwell?
I use Philippians 4 as an example: “Whatever is noble, whatever is true, whatever is lovely,”—and I think it goes on to say—“if there is anything at all praiseworthy, think on these things.” Just changing your thoughts—and what I mean by that is—let’s say your husband leaves his socks on the floor. Instead of focusing on: “He left his socks on the floor for the 80th time!”—change your thinking and go: “You know what? He got to work today. He went to work again. He doesn’t complain about it.”
I encourage the women: “You know what? Where does your mind camp? Where does your mind dwell?” With Paul, it could be something as big as: “You know what? He provides for our family so I can stay home with the kids.”
Bob: You use the phrase in the book—you talk about taking negative thoughts captive. As you are aware of a negative thought, instead of letting that thought control your behavior, you control the thought; right?
Joanne: Absolutely. So, what I do now—even in little things. My husband leaves out my vitamins every single day—he is faithful! He is a faithful vitamin man! I look and I’ll go—when he’s travelling and my vitamins—sometimes, he’ll even leave them for a couple of days for me / that’s sweet to me. I try to focus on those things—encourage women—because those [negative] thoughts grow into bitterness.
Dennis: Yes, and I want to go back to one of your illustrations that you used, where your husband said you weren’t being the help that he needed you to be. You kind of brushed by that, but there are a lot of women who would be defensive at that / they would recoil from that. But your response, as I heard you tell the story, was you were teachable. That’s the mark of humility.
A great wife and great mom is one who never loses her ability to admit she was wrong, and to ask for forgiveness, and then—
—as you went on to illustrate—change your behavior / change what you are doing, at that point.
Bob: Well, and you guys also feel like it’s important for the kids to see that Mom and Dad love each other and to see it lived out specifically and passionately; right?
Joanne: Yes! Well, actually, we—I know what you are getting at! [Laughter]
Dennis: You actually try to gross out your kids.
Joanne: Well, we started this game—but what we would do, when the kids were younger—we called it “Red Light / Green Light.” We basically renamed that game that we used to play on the lawns, as kids. So, if there was a red light, we would kiss. If it was green, they’d get a pass. My husband would slow down if it was yellow. I’d have all my four kids yelling: “Oh, it burns. I just threw up in my mouth. I’m going to be sick.” [Laughter] So, we’d play that game / so, we are affectionate.
My daughter once took a picture of Paul and me in the car, and it’s just us holding hands in the car—those things stick with a child.
Joanne: Those things stick.
Bob: So, how is loving, and helping, and being a blessing to your husband, and taking negative thoughts captive—what does all this have to do with being a mean mom?
Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you—you need a strong parenting partner. I’ve been a single mom. My heart goes out to single moms—they have got a task. Even when you’re married, in a healthy relationship, you’ve got a task at hand. So, it builds up your relationship. You’re a united front because you need him.
And I’ll tell you one thing, with women—and I talk about her as being one of my marshmallow moms—“Penny Putsthekidsfirst-Everytime”—there is no good man that is going to tell his wife: “You know what? Don’t put the kids first.” No good man is going to do that. So, it really is up to us, as the women, to say, “Hey, you know, it is bedtime—time to get to bed.” When your kids are little, you do control their bedtimes.
While I understand you may not be able to get a sitter every night, you can put them to bed for a while.
Dennis: You also believe that God listens to the prayers of mean moms. Barbara and I used to talk about this as we raised ours. We expressed to one another—we felt like God felt sorry for us. He felt sorry for a helpless parent who doesn’t know how to address an issue with a child; or sometimes, it’s a panic situation like you had at a waterpark?
Joanne: It was at—specifically, for those people in Texas—it was Schlitterbahn. It was over Fourth of July weekend—so you can imagine the crowds. We were visiting, and our whole family was watching this boogie board kind of extravaganza going on. The Beach Boys music was loud; you know? You couldn’t hear each other talk. I looked down, and I started counting kids—I count three. Well, I have four. I realized that Grace was missing.
Bob: How old would she have been at this point?
Joanne: Goodness, I would say about six—maybe. She was young.
Joanne: She was little. This is what I talked about—with having wisdom and discernment—when the Lord gives it to you. There were a lot of rides around. Gracie—I just knew that I knew that I knew that she had gone this—what was their river ride. She was too little for it—and though we had a pool, and she was used to wading around, and swimming—but not that kind of thing. I yelled to my husband, “I think Gracie is over there.” I pushed myself to the front of the line. I got all the way up to the front, and the wave took me in. I remember a woman telling me, one time, “When you are scared, pray.” I remember thinking, “How are you going to pray when you’re scared and afraid?”
Well, all I could think to say, when I was in this ride, was: “Lord, put your angels around my daughter. Lord, please keep my daughter safe.” It was a mantra in my head. I couldn’t have any consistent thought-out prayer, but that’s what I just kept praying.
I had taught my children, when they are lost, to find a grandma.
By the time I got to the end of the ride, I couldn’t find Grace. My daughter, Meghan, had come up behind me—I didn’t know she had got on the ride to help me. She pointed out, “There she is.” Well, I ran over to this grandma my daughter had found. I started crying. I put my arms around her, and I said to this woman—I said, “Thank you.” I said, “I prayed that God would put an angel around her.” I said, “Ma’am, you are an angel.”
Well, at that time, everybody came in; and we had this big family hug. I’m crying. Well, I turn around to introduce my husband to this woman; and she was gone. I didn’t think anything of it because it’s a Fourth of July crowd. I thought, “Well, she had her thing to do.”
Later that evening, I was watching fireworks with Grace; and we were on the blanket. She couldn’t get close enough to me the rest of the day—I mean, she was attached to me. My little girl started talking to me. I said, “Honey, tell me about what happened earlier today.” She said, “Well, Mom, I was reaching for the ledge, and I couldn’t reach for it / I couldn’t get to it. All of a sudden, this woman said, ‘You’re okay.’ She grabbed me and pulled me out of the water.”
The woman looked at Grace and said, “What’s your name?” She said, “My name is Grace.” The woman said to Grace, “Your name is Grace because the grace of God is with you.”
Now, I’ll tell you something—my daughter was too young to make up that kind of thing. I about fell over. Now, I don’t know what happened there that day, but I believe God answers prayers. I love what John Piper says—John Piper says that: “Until we understand that life is war, we won’t understand what prayer is for.”
Dennis: Yes, and I would just add a great promise for any parent who has got something that’s really troubling them about a child—because we undoubtedly have some, right now, that are dealing with a situation that is out of control. Maybe, it’s not a lost child at a water park; but just a spiritually-lost child. Romans, Chapter 8, verse 26, says, “Likewise, the Spirit”—that’s the Holy Spirit—
—“the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know what to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” That’s what you were describing—you were saying, “I was compelled to pray; but it was completely capturing me, and I was afraid.” Well, in those moments, the Holy Spirit promises He will pray for us.
A mom has to cultivate her relationship with Jesus Christ. I remember Barbara really struggled over having quiet times—finding a time to be able to pray, to get alone, to be able to get a few moments just to bring her children before God and pray for them. How do you do that? How have you learned—especially in those early years, when you’ve got a bunch of youngsters around the edges of your feet and grabbing a hold of your legs, and you just can’t seem to get away from them?
Joanne: It is tough when your kids are younger—that’s the truth. Thankfully, the Lord didn’t mind going into the bathroom with me a couple of times—
—and Charles Spurgeon has been in there as well / and Oswald Chambers. But I think, as far as—
Dennis: Not your bathroom?
Joanne: Well, in book-form, they have been in my bathroom.
Joanne: Because a mom with small kids—you know, it’s very hard to say, “Hey, you need to set aside 20 minutes a day.” Now, I mean, that—in a perfect world, yes.
I had a woman once say to me, “Joanne, maybe, you should pray to have a little time.” I thought she was crazy—“Pray to have a little time.” Well, sure enough, I thought: “I’m going to try this. I’m going to pray.” I said: “Lord, I don’t have time for You today, and I’m sorry. I’m running around crazy with four kids.” Sure enough that day, guess who slept for two hours?—like all my kids. There must have been a gas leak, but—no, it was the Lord. I know I was supposed to have time—He gives it to you / He created time.
But with prayer—with my kids—sometimes, it’s like putting out fires. Sometimes, there is a child on your heart, and they just take all your time.
You were—you can’t think / it’s constant with them. What I do with my kids is—I do keep a prayer journal. In the mornings—but my kids / now, remember, my kids are older. So, I have more of this time; but I do write my prayers down about my children. There are some that have starring roles in my journals more than others. [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s true of some of God’s kids too.
Dennis: You know?
Dennis: We don’t all struggle the same. To that point, how have you passed on, not merely the truth about God, but your experience of God and your relationship with Christ to your kids? How have you done that, practically-speaking?
Joanne: I learned, early on—it’s not words / it is actions. It’s modeling / it is letting them see. They are watching when I wish they weren’t; but it’s admitting—and some of the moms shared in my book—one mom had just spoken to me so much. She said, “There is nothing that leaves a better, lasting mark than asking forgiveness”—you know—“with your kids.”
I remember our son—we—
—my husband and I—like I told you, we are spiritual late-bloomers. So, we forget some of the movies that—back in the day, you thought were so great, 30 years ago. We put something on with our son in the room, and I had to ask his forgiveness later. I said, “Son,”—we turned it off. I’m thinking: “I was the one who put that in front of you! I’m sorry. I’m really sorry about that. I’m going to be a better job at figuring that out.”
So, those are the things that I think make a huge difference—modeling it, let your kids watch you, and be a part of your life.
Bob: Well, and they know your story. They know what your background was. They know there has been a transformation in your life. They may have only known you in the post-Christ era of your life,—
Bob: —but they know there is a background there. You haven’t kept that hidden from them.
Joanne: No. God really hasn’t allowed me to do that too much, but I’ll say with my kids—and for those moms that are listening that maybe have just recently met Jesus and their kids are older—
—I had a little bit of that with my oldest two. They remember us being different before. So, sometimes, parenting can be hard when, all of a sudden, you have a different idea about things that they’ve just been eight / ten years doing something different.
All I can say to those parents is—and I share about this in my book—I talk about it. It’s a Scripture out of Zechariah, where he encourages Zerubbabel—I may not be saying that right—but Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple, “Do not despise the days of small beginnings.” I believe it is Zechariah 4:10. I think, as a mom—even as a new Christian—do not overlook those small things. In Nehemiah, when he rebuilds the wall, it wasn’t all boulders he was rebuilding with all the men. It was little pebbles. So, I encourage moms to start anywhere—God loves to see us begin.
Dennis: He does. I think, for every parent listening to us right now, you need to hear Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica—
—1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2—I think it’s verse 7 and 8—it says, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” He goes on to say—this is what you’re really demonstrating here—he said, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you, not only the gospel of God, but also, our own selves because you had become very dear to us.”
I know this speaks to a generation, right now, who are raising young kids. They like FamilyLife Today because we talk about authentic Christian living—not done by perfect people—but people who make mistakes, and who repent, and who ask forgiveness of a child or of their spouse—and we walk them through the process. That’s what I hear you talking about—it’s not that you’ve boasted in being perfect, but you’ve boasted that God, in His redemptive power in your life, transformed you.
He’s still transforming you, and you’re passing on that same hope to them. Why? Because you know they’re going to need hope, along the way, that they need to be transformed as well.
Bob: If a mom is going to be the kind of mean mom that you’re encouraging moms to be—and mean, in a good sense / with boundaries and with discipline—there has got to be that kind of relational trust. There’s got to be love. There’s got to be transparency in the family. You talk about all of this in your book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids.
And I’d just encourage our listeners—go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, ‘GO DEEPER,’ and look for Joanne Kraft’s book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. Again, go, online—FamilyLifeToday.com—to find Joanne’s book and order it from us, online.
You can also call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like to order the book. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I think what we’ve talked about today—I think all of us, as parents, need fresh reminders. We need fresh courage and just—we need somebody cheering us on to stay in the game, to stay with it, not to be worn down by the kids who want you to go soft on them, but to do what God’s calling you to do, as a parent. Our goal, here at FamilyLife, is to equip you with practical biblical help and hope because we believe that can transform a marriage / can transform a family. It’s our mission, here at FamilyLife, to effectively develop godly families because we believe godly families can change the world, one home at a time.
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And we hope you can join us back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about chores. We’re going to talk about why chores are important, even when your kids are saying, “Oh, Mom!”—why you make them clean their room and do the dishes. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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