Busy seasons with children can be challenging on a marriage, but you don’t have to let the fox of resentment ruin a beautiful thing.
Planning for a baby presents new parents with “all the feels”: from excitement to nervousness and from glowing to green expectancy. (Get the crackers!) Regardless, the husband and wife who want to grow their family eagerly anticipate their bundle of joy.
But the starry-eyed bliss can fade fast with the realities of newborn care. Who wakes up with the baby every two-to-four hours? Who is the primary caregiver? What if the support spouse doesn’t seem—well, so supportive?
Too soon, the little foxes of resentment can enter a relationship and multiply till discord is as much of a stench as the diaper pale that needs to be emptied—and who’s going to do that?
Identifying Little Foxes
As a disclaimer, I was blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband as we navigated the newborn days together. However, as one and then both of us went back to work, the added demands and our more limited time invited resentment to creep in. In other words, the little foxes arrived.
The idea of little foxes comes straight from Scripture. King Solomon’s famous book of the Bible on love and marriage warns about “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV).
These little foxes are nothing new to married couples. Maybe you discovered shortly after your honeymoon that your spouse leaves his dirty clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper. Or perhaps you learned that she doesn’t clean the house the way your mom used to. Newlyweds must address and resolve these little foxes that will otherwise sour the sweetness of the honeymoon phase.
Adding an infant to the family equation presents the potential for these little foxes to return in the wake of sleep deprivation and the demands of newborn care.
Guarding Against Little Foxes
The other day, I felt frustration rising. My husband had just walked through the door after his day of work. I had also worked a full day, but since I work from home, I don’t get the mental separation he does. I hear our baby fussing at Grandma (who helps for a few hours) and use my breaks to pump or make bottles.
My husband walking through the door made me resent the mental tug-of-war I have to deal with. All. Day. Long.
My complaint seems silly since my job’s flexibility allows me the gift of seeing my son during the day. But at that moment, the little fox was blinding me to those blessings and making me focus on how mentally exhausted I was.
See how the foxes work? They put blinders on us and cause us to resent the spouse who is really on our side (and probably just as tired as we are, though maybe in a different way).
So how do we guard against them?
- Recognize them early.
The little foxes stir up resentment for both actual and imagined injustices. Maybe your spouse forgot to do the dishes like he promised or didn’t empty the diaper pail when you asked. Most likely, it wasn’t his intention to forget or to upset you. Just like it wasn’t your intention to forget to defrost dinner or finish the laundry.
Here’s good advice for us all: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11 NKJV).
Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, just as you want him to do for you. Don’t wait until resentment festers. Forgive immediately and move on.
- Repent quickly.
Yes, resentment is fertile soil for sin to creep into our hearts. If we don’t shoo away those little foxes, resentment will turn into bitterness which can turn into anger and cause us to speak harshly to our spouse. In short, the foxes can create disunity in the home, which is the last thing any of us wants.
The Bible tells us to repent quickly and replace our wrong attitude with one that follows our Lord’s example. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NKJV).
- Refocus on truth.
If we’re not to dwell on annoyances or unfair situations, what do we focus on? Philippians 4:8 gives us a healthy list. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (NKJV).
Focus on the truth that your spouse loves you and is on your team.
Focus on the fact he took the baby Saturday morning so you could sleep an extra hour.
Focus on the way he provides for your home.
Think about those praiseworthy things about your spouse, and you’ll realize the little foxes are just that: little.
Fighting off Little Foxes
Even as I type, I’m fighting the little foxes. Our son just let out a cry early into his nap, and I groaned, “How am I supposed to finish this article?”
I checked myself. I can finish later. That crying baby is one of God’s biggest answers to prayer. My husband and I didn’t know if we’d get pregnant again after an early miscarriage. When we did, we held our breath through the pregnancy and clung to the hope that I’d carry this baby to full term. I could go on about the ways God answered prayer with our son.
Yes, some days are hard. Life with a newborn is not picture-perfect. We mamas can be tempted to resent everything we have to do and the little time in which we must do it.
But this season is wonderful in so many ways, and our baby’s smiles light up life with sheer beauty. New parents, don’t let the little foxes rob that wonder.
Dwell in the blessings, not in the frustrations.
Kristen Hogrefe Parnell
Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for women and young adults. Her own suspense story involved waiting on God into her thirties to meet her husband, and she desires to keep embracing God’s plan for her life when it’s not what she expects. Kristen’s books have won the Selah Award and the Grace Award, among others. An educator at heart, she also teaches English online and enjoys being a podcast guest. Kristen lives in the Tampa, Florida area with her husband and baby boy. Connect with her at KristenHogrefeParnell.com.