Early Years of Parenting
About the Guest
Join Dennis and Barbara Rainey as they take a stroll down memory lane and relive some of their most memorable, and challenging, parenting moments.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Join Dennis and Barbara Rainey as they take a stroll down memory lane and relive some of their most memorable, and challenging, parenting moments.
Early Years of Parenting
Bob: Whatever your life has been like before you have your first child, things change dramatically when you become a parent. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: I think every woman underestimates the impact of the constant, around-the-clock needs of an infant / of a baby. That’s what I was very unprepared for. Yes, I was excited about being a mom, but I remember being so overwhelmed. I felt the enormity of that responsibility, and I was scared to death that I was going to mess it up.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 30th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. How does life change? What kind of rearranging needs to happen when you welcome a son or daughter into the world? We’ll talk about that new season of life today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. This has been kind of fun this week just to—well, for you guys, trip down memory lane a little bit.
Dennis: It is. It is. I just was thinking, as we’re spending some time with Barbara, telling her life story—and our life story—I’d marry her all over again. It’s been fun having Barbara with us.
Bob: Well, it has been; and we’ve also been pointing listeners to your website so that they can get an update on some of the stuff you’ve been working on. For those who don’t know, this was really about three years ago that—
Bob: —you started creating resources that are designed to be beautiful in the home but, also, to serve a spiritual purpose; right?
Barbara: That’s right. We started trying to create products, as you just mentioned, that talk about Jesus—that proclaim Christ.
Bob: And a lot of our listeners, back at Christmas, got your new set of ornaments for the Christmas tree—Adorenaments®—this year, in shapes of crosses, with names of the—
—you call them the Savior names of Jesus on the crosses. When you designed these, you thought, “These don’t just have to be for Christmas.”
Barbara: Absolutely. I just think it’s so good for us to have visual reminders around our homes that remind us what is most important in our lives. They are great conversation-starters for people who visit your home and see something that’s there that is about Christ. They’ll say, “Well, what is that about?”
Bob: Well, if folks want to see what we’ve been talking about—if they’ll go to FamilyLifeToday.com, there is a link at the upper left-corner of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” That’ll take you to the link for Barbara’s Ever Thine Home® resources. You can see these crosses—you can see the other resources for Valentine’s Day, and for Easter, and just for year-round use in your home. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’d like a catalogue, call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Well, we’ve been tracing, as we said, your history, as a couple, and really focusing in on how a woman’s priorities change over time. We talked about your college years, Barbara, and we talked about your years as a single woman. Then, when you got engaged / you got married—there started to be some shifts in priorities and in schedule. You guys have been married for a little more than a year when you found out you were pregnant; right?
Bob: Was that what you had planned all along?
Barbara: I don’t know if it was exactly what we’d planned, but it was pretty close. We decided, after a year, that we’d just kind of take a leap and try to get pregnant and see what happened. Four months later, we were pregnant.
Bob: A lot of couples today are saying, “A year? You got pregnant after a year?!” They’re planning five years / seven years before they start their family. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Barbara: You know, I think you just need to do what God is leading you to do. I do think, though, these younger women, who are waiting so long—
—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it—but it is really nice that we finished our parenting years early enough that we still have lots of energy left. So, you know, the downside of starting when you’re 34/35/36 is that you’re still going to be parenting when you’re a lot older. If you start your family younger, you have a lot of years left after the kids are gone. It’s not wrong—I don’t think.
Bob: How did you tell Dennis that you were expecting your first child? Do you remember?
Barbara: I don’t remember—I really don’t. We didn’t have pregnancy tests. We didn’t make a big to do about it like they do now. I mean—
Bob: Do you remember anything about how you learned that—
Bob: —you were going to have a baby?
Dennis: No, I don’t have a memory of any kind.
Barbara: I remember being sick. That was my first clue; but other than that—
Dennis: I do remember—as we got near the end, however, she—one night, said she was feeling some contractions and looked like she had gone into labor.
So, we hopped in the car. We were in San Bernardino, California. We were heading to the hospital. I turned to her and I said, “You know, I really don’t understand what all the excitement about having a baby is. People talk about—
Barbara: —“being nervous.”
Dennis: —“and all that.”
Barbara: Yes, everything.
Dennis: And she turned to me and she said, “Is that why you just ran the stop light?” [Laughter] And I think I was a little more excited than I—
Barbara: —you thought you were. [Laughter]
Dennis: I was. And I do remember this—I do remember when Ashley was born. The doctor held her up—and I went: “Where did you get that? That’s a living person!”—and handed her to us. It was like: “Whoa! Life is about to begin in earnest.”
And there are transitions in life. One of them—clearly, as we’ve already talked about here—is getting married and how two people have to learn how selfish they are at one level. And then, you have children.
Then, you really commence to find out how selfish you are—especially, have a bunch of them.
Bob: You said your daughter was born in San Bernardino, California; but you were living in Boulder, Colorado; right?
Barbara: No, we—
Dennis: We had moved.
Bob: Oh, you had moved.
Barbara: We’d moved several times.
Bob: Several times—tell me about the moves.
Barbara: We were married and lived our first year—and maybe three or four months—in Boulder. We were transferred to Columbus, Ohio. We lived in Columbus, Ohio, for six months. That’s where I discovered I was pregnant, I think—or got pregnant there—I don’t remember. Then, we moved, in June, to San Bernardino, California, before Ashley was born in August.
Bob: This was the headquarters, at the time, for Campus Crusade for Christ.
Barbara: That’s right. That’s right.
Bob: And were you thinking this would be where you’d move and maybe spend the rest of your life—in San Bernardino?
Barbara: I don’t think we—we weren’t thinking that permanently at all. After we had moved there—we were there for a few weeks—and I didn’t want to live there for the rest of my life. [Laughter]
It felt like another country to me because, growing up in the Midwest, I was used to trees and streams. It took me awhile—and we were only there a year—so, I didn’t even ever really get used to it.
Bob: So, this new chapter of life—you come home now, as a mom with a daughter to take care of. Had you talked ahead of time about how your life would change and specifically—
Bob: —what kind of ministry—
Barbara: We weren’t that proactive—are you kidding?
Bob: But you had a job.
Barbara: Yes, but—
Bob: You were with Dennis in high school ministry on the high school campus. Now, you’ve brought home a baby. Were you thinking, “I’m going to have to cut back”?
Barbara: No, because we had—when we transitioned to Southern California, my job sort of disappeared because he was now working at the headquarters; and he was in the office. So, I didn’t really have a job that I had to leave, at that point.
Bob: So, as a wife with no kids, you were a stay-at-home wife before you had kids.
Barbara: I was for those—yes, for those few months before we had kids—before we had Ashley.
Bob: Was that okay?
Or were you frustrated by the fact that there wasn’t more to your life than just being around the house?
Barbara: No, I was okay with that because I was in a new place again. We were trying to get settled in a new house. We were trying to make new friends. We joined a couples’ group Bible study. There was a couple, down the street, that we knew. I—there were so many adjustments going on in my life that I was really okay that I wasn’t having to show up at the office or that I was having to make appointments and meet people for coffee and have conversations. I felt like I had enough to juggle and adjust to without that. So, I was okay with it.
Bob: So, you didn’t face what a lot of young women face today—
Bob: —which is the dilemma of: “I’m married. Now, we’re going to have a child. Am I going to cut back at work? Am I going to find daycare, or am I going to stay home? Can we afford any of this?”
Barbara: I know. It is a struggle. I watch these young women—and we have a bunch of them—
—who work here, at FamilyLife. I—several of them—I’ve talked to them. I’m thinking, “I don’t know how you do this”; but they do—they have to have the two incomes. And this one young woman—I work with her. She’s got two little ones that are under three. She’s working, and he’s working. They’ve worked out a situation where her mom takes care of the babies three days a week. She does some of her work, part-time, in other places. I don’t know how they juggle it. But we didn’t have to do that, and I’m really grateful that we didn’t. But I do know that it’s very common today, and it is a hard adjustment to make.
Dennis: One thing neither of us had was school debt.
Barbara: We didn’t have debt of any kind, really, other than maybe a car payment—
Dennis: And our house.
Barbara: —house payment.
Dennis: And so, we weren’t strapped into a situation where it forced both of us to have to work at a level we’re talking about here.
Bob: Well, and I know when Mary Ann was first pregnant with our first child, she was working as a nurse. I was working at a radio station. She was making more money than I was.
We talked about—once she was pregnant—we talked about, “What do you want to do?” She said, “Well, I’d like to be able to stay at home with the baby.” I thought: “Okay, let’s see. The math is not good on this,” and it’s the lower income. But I looked at that and I said, “Well, if that’s what you’d like to do, let’s try and make that work.” It was really fascinating to see how our appetites changed once the baby came. Stuff we’d been spending money on, as a carefree couple—all of a sudden, it was like, “Well, we just weren’t”—
Barbara: “We don’t really miss it anyway.”
Bob: Yes, we weren’t interested—we had a baby to take care of.
Bob: And all of a sudden, this became central to our home.
Barbara: Well, I think that’s really important for listeners to hear because I think there are a lot of couples where the wife does make more. It’s a big sacrifice to walk away from that; but I think what you just said is so important. Your appetites do change when you’ve got a child because your whole life adjusts around raising that child. So, what you used to find interesting and things that you used to do together—
—you’re not as interested in that. So, everything changes.
Bob: Well, and for years, we’ve encouraged couples—in the early years of marriage, as much as you are able—build your life on one income so that, when a child comes along, you have the option. We’re not trying to tell you that—
Bob: —this is what you have to do.
Bob: But what you don’t want—to be in the position of—is wishing you could stay home—
Barbara: —and you can’t.
Bob: —and you’ve already boxed yourself in because you bought a house that was more than your one income could afford—or you’ve got whatever kind of consumer debt that you are paying down—and you have to have those two incomes.
Are you one of these people who was made to be a mom? I mean, when you had your first baby, was it like the moment had arrived—what you’d been dreaming of all your life?—you have a baby / now, you’re a mom. This is what you’ve been wanting forever and ever?
Barbara: I think, in many ways, yes; but what I was so unprepared for was the—and I think this is true with every woman—
—whether you’ve been looking for this your whole life or whether it’s a surprise—I think every woman underestimates the impact of the constant around-the-clock needs of an infant / of a baby and of a child. And that’s what I was very unprepared for.
Yes, I was excited about being a mom; but I remember being so overwhelmed and so confused in those first two weeks, wondering, “What do I do?” And my mother had come, and she was a huge help; but she was only there for a week. Then, she was gone. I felt the enormity of that responsibility, and I was scared to death that I was going to mess it up.
Bob: And it is life-dominating—
Barbara: It is.
Bob: —especially, in the several months of a child’s life. It is constant, and you don’t get a good night’s sleep for a long time. And your life revolves around the care of this new life; right?
Barbara: It does.
The adjustment was so big and so overwhelming to me that I remember—one night, I did not know what to do. I didn’t know what I felt. I couldn’t have explained to Dennis, if he had asked me—which he ended up having to do later on—but I just was so overwhelmed with the enormity of this baby that needed me 24/7. I still had a husband who needed me, and I still had things around the house that had to be done. And I just didn’t know what to do at all.
And I remember—one night, I was just—I almost became paralyzed with being overwhelmed. I went back to our bedroom—and we lived in a pretty tiny, little house—but I went back to our bedroom, and I closed the door. I went into the bathroom—the master bathroom which was teensy—and I closed the door, and I locked it. I thought, “I have just got to get away,” and that was the only way I knew to get away.
I didn’t have a lot of friends. I didn’t have somebody that I could call—because we’d only lived here now for three months.
I didn’t have anybody that I could call and say: “Can we go out for coffee? I need to talk to somebody.” I just felt really alone. I was really afraid, and I was really overwhelmed. And I just wanted to run away. So, I ran away to the bathroom. [Laughter] And I sat there for a while, and I was just trying to sort it all out. I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t know what I was feeling. I just knew that I was overwhelmed, and confused, and afraid.
After an hour or so, Dennis came back. He probably came back before then; but I remember—after what felt like a long time, he came back—gently asked me if I’d come out, and we could talk. Ashley was asleep in her crib. I wasn’t being a negligent mom; but after a while, I sheepishly came out. We went into the living room and sat down. We just began to talk about what I was feeling. I don’t remember that conversation at all. I just remember that there was relief that he was willing to share it with me and that he was willing to listen to whatever I was able to verbalize—
—and I’m sure I did a terrible job verbalizing.
At that moment, I thought, “Okay, I’m not alone in this.” I think that was what was so overwhelming to me—was that I felt so alone in it because I was responsible for this child’s life. Yes, he would change the diapers if I needed him to; but I was nursing her, and he would go off to the office. He would come back from the office, and I was so trapped by this responsibility. Even though I wanted it, and I loved it, and I loved her, it was a real crisis moment for me.
Bob: You think a lot of young moms have this Jekyll and Hyde kind of “I love this new baby /”—
Barbara: Yes, I think they do.
Bob: —“I’m overwhelmed by this new baby”?
Barbara: Yes, I think they do.
Dennis: And I think they have a husband, who is like me—who was absolutely clueless about what was taking place in his wife. I looked at Barbara, and I’ve always looked at her as being a very competent—able to do whatever.
I don’t look at her and think of her as, at any level, really being weak. I don’t know what prompted me to go ask her to talk; but it was one of the few things, early in our marriage, that was brilliant. [Laughter] I don’t remember doing that even specifically—but had to be the Spirit of God that led me to just say: “Let’s talk about this. Let’s hear what you are thinking and feeling. You may not even know, at this point.”
Barbara: And I didn’t; but I needed somebody to be in the boat, rowing with me, because I think I felt like I was rowing alone.
Dennis: And that’s what I’d say to young men today—is you don’t have to have the answer. There is an issue in marriage called presence, and that’s not a gift that you give somebody. It is being with them, shouldering the load with your spouse—and maybe not knowing how to fix it—but just saying: “You know what? I care. I’m here. I’m listening. I am in it with you.”
Barbara: And that was all I needed.
Bob: What counsel would you give to a first-time mom? She’s just brought the baby home. Let’s just say she’s a working mom. She’s trying to keep up with what feels overwhelming to her today, in terms of the schedule / her spiritual life. I mean, she doesn’t have a quiet time anymore. She doesn’t have any space for a quiet time.
Barbara: Well, I didn’t have one either, for heaven’s sake. I mean, you just can’t.
Bob: So, how do you counsel her to maintain some balance or equilibrium in her life?
Barbara: Well, I think—first of all, I think, she’s got to figure this out with her husband. Just as I needed Dennis to get in the boat with me, and listen, and figure it out together—she needs him to be in the boat with her. They’ve got to figure out: “What do they absolutely have to have to survive, as a couple, and for the health of your baby?” You figure out what that is, and you start there. Then, you go back—and yes, if you can add some of these other things, great; but in those early days, it’s all about that baby and getting the baby on some kind of a routine so that you can finally get a good night’s sleep and kind of return back to some sense of normalcy.
And I think understanding that it could take a long time to get back to some sense of normalcy—knowing that that normal is a new normal, and you’ll never go back to the old normal—but new normal is good—but you will come to a semi-plateau again. It’s just going to take a long time. But it has to start with the husband and the wife, linking arms, and saying, “We’re going to figure this out together so that it is good for me, and it’s good for you, and it’s good for the baby.”
Dennis: This is where our culture seduces young couples in thinking that they can have it all—that they can do everything they were doing before they had a baby—maintain all the relationships, all the activities—
Dennis: —everything they’re doing—and start raising children. [Laughter] I mean, that simply is not a realistic view of life.
Bob: You put some activities—that you really liked—away for a while because you had kids now. You didn’t have space in your life to include those—including your artwork.
Bob: You love doing art. And you shelved that because you said, “I can’t make this work”; right?
Barbara: We had two kids at the time I made that decision. They were probably almost two and six months or something—I don’t remember—but I was trying to keep this little art—and it wasn’t a career because I wasn’t really doing it as that, but I was trying to keep that piece of my life alive. I had just gotten a commission—it was first time I’d ever been asked to paint. Somebody was going to pay me for my work—and I was so honored, and I was so excited about. And I thought: “I can do this! I can do this when the kids take naps.”
I would put the kids down for naps, and they would—one of them would wake up, crying, or they would get up too early. They would spill my stuff, or they would mess up—or whatever. There was always some interruption / some unplanned something that wouldn’t go right.
Finally, after I finished those two commission pieces—and got those sent out the door—I thought, “This just wasn’t fun.” It wasn’t worth it because I was always frustrated with the kids or mad at the kids; or I was disappointed in myself, then, because I got mad at the kids. Then, I felt like I’d really made a mistake; and I was a real failure. You know, it just became no fun anymore.
So, I remember very, very clearly one afternoon, when this had happened. I thought: “You know? I just can’t do this.” So, I took all my stuff—I put it in a cardboard box—what would fit in a cardboard box—and I taped that thing up. I opened my pantry door, and I put it on the top shelf. When I put it on the top shelf—I don’t think I said this out loud—but I said it, out loud, in my head—I said: “God, You gave me this artistic interest. I’m not particularly talented, but You gave me this desire to create and do beautiful things—
— “and I can’t do it with the kids. I don’t know why You gave me this if You are not going to let me develop it and grow it, but I guess that’s up to You.”
So, I said: “I’m putting this box on the shelf. If You want to give it back to me someday, You can give it back to me someday. And if You don’t, that’s fine with me. That’s Your problem, not mine; and I’m going to trust You with it.” I literally walked away from art and painting of any kind until our youngest was a sophomore in high school. So, it was a long time.
Bob: Well, I did encourage our listeners to go to your website, which is EverThineHome.com, and see what you’ve been working on since you picked things back up again—because you have created some beautiful, heirloom-quality resources that are designed to be beautiful, designed to declare your faith in Christ, and designed to be discipleship tools for your family.
I’m thinking of the resources for the Lenten season and for Easter time—“The Messiah Mystery” that you’ve created for families to go through together / the banner that you have to hang on your door—and the Valentine’s Day resource—the “How Do I Love Thee” garland that’s got the hearts hanging from them. Each one has a different aspect of love from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.
Our listeners can go to EverThineHome.com to see what you’ve been working on and to order some of these resources, if they’d like. If you have any questions about what Barbara’s been working on or you’d like to place an order by phone, call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We’ve got folks here who can answer any questions you have about the Ever Thine Home resources. Again: the website, EverThineHome.com—or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Now, a quick word of thanks as we wrap this week up to those of you who made this week possible—those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, financially,—
—and who partner with us in our goal to effectively develop godly families, who change the world, one home at a time. We appreciate your financial support. We are grateful for your partnership.
In fact, if you can help with a donation today, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a book from Dennis and Barbara Rainey. It’s a devotional guide for couples. It’s called Moments with You—365 daily devotions that you can do together, as a couple. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner that says, “I CARE,” and make an online donation. We’ll send the book to you. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make your donation, by phone; and just ask for a copy of the book, Moments with You, when you do that. Or request the book when you mail a donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today.
Thanks for joining us. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.
And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about the movie that’s coming out Valentine’s weekend—the series of books that it is based on—Fifty Shades of Grey. Dannah Gresh and Juli Slattery are going to join us to talk about why these books and this upcoming movie are so dangerous and how they distort God’s design for sex. Hope you can join us for that.
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 Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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