“After the baby came, I haven’t had time to pray, read the Bible, journal, go to church, or attend small group. In fact, I barely have enough time to shower, let alone think about God!”
For most new parents, this is a common sentiment. Along with these thoughts comes a feeling of guilt. ”I know I should make God a priority, but it’s just not happening,” they concede. ”I guess I just have to live with the fact that my relationship with God is going to be on the back burner now that I have a child.”
But it doesn’t have to be.
Life with a new baby does not mean your relationship with God needs to come to a halt — or even take a hiatus. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t look the same as it did pre-kid. You won’t have the time and/or energy and/or space to spend hours pouring over Scripture or sit in silent contemplation. But your relationship with God can continue to grow and even take on richer dimensions than before. See, the thing with Jesus is that once He’s invited into your life, He sticks around. So the matter is not the distance between you and God increasing, but rather your awareness of Him as you go about your every day duties.
Here’s a secret I’ve discovered: It’s not about you needing to work harder to incorporate God into your life as a new parent, but realizing that being a new parent means that you are included into the life and work of God. Read that again. It’s not about you needing to work harder to incorporate God into your life as a new parent, but realizing that being a new parent means that you are included into the life and work of God. God has invited you to participate in His work of growing and nurturing this little human being! I don’t know about you, but I think that’s amazing.
What does this look like practically? As I’ve journeyed through the chaotic waters of having a newborn, here are three ways I’ve found helpful in maintaining awareness of God’s relationship with me:
1) Be mindful of the natural pauses in the day
Every feeding time, I am essentially forced to stop doing anything else and simply be present for my daughter. I’ve learned that I could use this time to observe my child, to be amazed by her, and to give thanks to God for her life. It has been said that prayer is paying attention. In the simple act of being there with your child, you are participating in a form of prayer. Sometimes, I will use the time I spend in front of the sink washing dishes to think about people I know and remember them in God.
2) Replace guilt with grace
In the first three months of Alena’s life, we made it out to church a grand total of three times (and none of those were in the first month). There was a time in my life when I would have felt terribly guilty for not getting my act together enough to go to church. But I have learned that just because I don’t make it to God’s house, it doesn’t mean He can’t be in my home. And just because I stay at home on Sunday, it doesn’t mean I can’t designate it as a Sabbath day to rest and enjoy God’s blessings. God offers grace to us. So instead of feeling guilty for not having enough energy because the baby woke us up every two hours the night prior (something entirely out of my control), I inwardly turn to God and thank Him for the grace of His presence, and that He is with me even in my tiredness.
3) Make the most of your resources
Enlist the help of others to foster your relationship with God. Have someone watch the baby for an hour so that you can hide away in your room with a book or a journal (or, if you find outdoors more refreshing, take a walk). Ask your friends to pray for you. There are times in our lives where we need to lean on the faith of those around us, and being a new parent is certainly one of those times. Personally, I’ve found that my smartphone is another useful resource. I have a bible app that allows me to subscribe to a reading plan which I try to read when I pump in the morning. (Note: If I miss a day, I don’t beat myself up over it. I just pick up where I left off the next day. See above point for replacing guilt with grace.) Listening to inspirational music is another simple way to incorporate awareness of God into your day as you care for your child.
So if you are a new parent, struggling to hold onto both family and faith, know that God is there with you. He is as close as your baby. As you serve your child, you are serving Him. And as you love your child, you are loving Him. And that feeling of pride and joy you feel when you see that little toothless grin? Well, that’s how God feels about you.