Monday, October 6, 2008

Preparing to become a wife

"Dear Anna,

I'm preparing for marriage next summer. I am pleased with how my fiance and I are preparing for marriage together in terms of our relationship in our faith, discussions about our goals and desires for marriage, and matters such as finances and responsibilities. However, I admire your dedication to your job as a wife, and would like to ask you: How should I prepare in more practical matters to become a wife? I'm excited to care for my husband and our household, but feel that I should be doing things like preparing a recipe file, compiling a notebook with ideas for caring for our home in a frugal way, and discovering ways I can prepare for the duties that I will have as a wife. I'm just not quite sure where to start! My fiance and I are both young, and are thrilled to be making this commitment to God and to one another. If you could advise me on the ways I could practically prepare for the duties and roles of being a wife, I'd be so appreciative!"

My very best wishes on your upcoming marriage! May you be very happy as a new wife in your own home! I love being the keeper of our home - even though I'm definitely not perfect and have a lot to learn.

It's wonderful that you see the importance of preparing for marriage and homemaking - and that you have time to do so, without being overwhelmed by all the wedding preparations which are undoubtedly taking place.

I believe that each young lady who is preparing for marriage and running a household, should first and foremost focus on developing appropriate skills and abilities, such as cleaning, laundry and ironing, cooking, baking, organizing, time management, and living frugally. There are also extras such as sewing, knitting and other crafts, canning and gardening, which are lovely to learn, but can be acquired later on during your time as a new wife, which is a precious opportunity to become settled into a schedule.

Since I don't know you, I'm not sure where you stand in the area of homemaking, but now is a good time to improve any essential skills you feel you are lacking. For example, if you can't iron, now is the time to learn. Having a recipe file and a few schedule suggestions is lovely, in fact, it has been very helpful to me as a new wife so far - but I've also come to realize it shouldn't become my focus.

Remember a wife is called to be her husband's helper. This means you must first and foremost focus on your future husband's needs and priorities. There's no "recipe" for becoming an ideal wife - because all men have different needs and wants. Mr. X may like a clean, nicely decorated home and hot dinner most of all. Mr. Y will ask his wife to help him in a home-centered business. Mr. Z will want the family to have a garden. We sometimes have a tendency of trying to "have it all together", trying to live up to some standard - which usually causes unnecessary frustration.

My cakes and pies tend to be slightly burned at the bottom. It made me nearly rip my hair our countless times. I felt embarrassed; I felt inadequate; I wanted a new, better oven; I wanted to stop baking altogether... until I realized one simple, overwhelming fact: my husband loves my cakes. He thinks they are delicious, and he isn't faking it. He doesn't care about that little blackened layer at the bottom of the baking tray. He will eat it and enthusiastically ask for more! He still wistfully remembers the first birthday cake I made for him, which I considered so hopelessly lost that I baked another. Conclusion? While I will still definitely try not to burn my cakes, I stopped fussing so much about it. I realized it was stupid and pointless to drive myself up the wall about such a little thing that wasn't even important to my husband.

Sometimes, these matters can't be very easily defined prior to marriage, precisely because they are so flexible and practical. If you ask your fiance, "what is more important to you, a clean home or variety of meals, or always having an ironed shirt or..?" perhaps he won't be able to answer, until you are actually married and in the process of establishing a household.

Once you become a wife, adapt yourself to your husband's needs. Adapt your routine, as possible, to his schedule. Pay attention to what matters to him, and concentrate your efforts accordingly. Ask him if there's any specific dish he would like served, or anything in particular he would like you to do that day. Allow your husband to be involved as much as he desires. Perhaps he'll ask for your help with something. Perhaps he'll smile and say he doesn't mind as long as he has clean socks. In any case be his wife, his helpmate, and willingly commit yourself to what he needs. This is what truly matters.

***

Suggestions for this young lady from wives more experienced than myself will be greatly appreciated!

25 comments:

H and S said...

Anna, so well said. I've been a wife for 11 years and have only recently learned this - and it has changed my life. I'm still working on being helpful to my husband, and sometimes I'm afraid I am the opposite. But I am making progress. I wish I had been told this before I got married! One thing that I really wish I had worked on before marrying was the simple but extremely difficult skill of keeping one's mouth shut at the appropriate time. I find it so hard. Yet it is CRUCIAL for a happy marriage. Not that women should keep their mouths shut as a general rule... but I'm sure readers of this blog will know what I mean. It's a useful skill for anyone who wants to be a blessing to others rather than a curse.

TheRetroHousewife said...

I love her idea of a notebook with homecare ideas. I have one like that. I took out a bunch of housekeeping books from the library and started taking notes. I encourage her to try natural cleaning methods as they work just as well and dont make your house smell like a bleach bottle.

I also looked through home magazines and put pictures in a binder of decoration of rooms so I could try to emulate them.

TheRetroHousewife said...

Oh yeah, and if your husband does the smallest thing around the house, notice and heap on praise.

asinamirror said...

Anna, your advice is excellent - this is something I wish someone had told me before I got married. I was 29 on my wedding day, had tons of experience running my own home, cooking/baking, cleaning, frugal living, etc., and all I wanted was to be a perfect wife. But I was SO hung up on what I thought was a perfect wife that I was making my husband miserable. Good guy that he is, he never complained, just tried to support me in my quest for perfection. About a year later (yes, a full year) I finally realized how rotten I was being by focusing on ME and forcing my concept of a perfect wife on my husband. So yes, no matter what you know going into it, adapt to your husband - you will both be infinitely happier!!! One more piece of advice from me is this - let him know how much you respect him and how you trust him to be the head of your household. It's something he needs to hear (just like ladies need to be told by their husbands that they are beautiful and loved), and he will always continue to grow, nurtured by your encouragement.

Gothelittle Rose said...

I'm glad I read this this morning. It's interesting on my end, because what my husband likes to see best isn't what I even think of when it comes to being a housewife. I go nuts trying to keep the place clean and do all these extra things... He likes to have a house that isn't too messy, and he likes to not have to hunt too far for socks in the morning, but he's very easygoing about the state of supper or the amount of baked goods in the house.

What really seems to light him up is when I write. He reads my stories, offers suggestions and encouragement, and offers me various ways of distributing my works.

It's amazing and almost seems unfairly good to me, but then again, I have to realize that I went looking for a boyfriend who understands how I love to write and lets me do it. So why should I not have ended up with a husband who still does?

His faith in my writing scares me a little, though. He thinks I can be the next Rowling, while I doubt I will ever turn out very popular works. :)

eli said...

As Anna said the needs of different men are different and so husband and wife should get to know each other first and try to accept and appreciate their differences.

Its not like once you got married you would have to conform to EVERYTHING your husband wants regardless of your own special situation and ability. In a loving union though, where there is mutual respect a Godly man would, I'm sure, be reasonable in his expectations so that his wife would actually LOVE to be of help to him and to satisfy his needs.

What I have gathered through 6 years of marriage is that no period is more influential and important than the first few months or perhaps the firt year/s of marriage.

During this time due to the special circumstance in terms of love being at its climax(in a very special way as you know!!) in every aspect, both man and woman would be more ready to change some of their previous bachelor needs in order to conform to the living situation required of a union and it is very crucial to make the best use of this time by making a good start.

During this time-span both parts find it much easier to (and in fact should) sacrifice their personal needs for the happiness of the other and in fact this is what a "happy marriage" is all about!

I would therefore think that strengthening a sense of sacrifice in ourselves and just as "TheRetroHousewife" hinted trying to increase our patience would be much helpful in producing a peaceful, loving atmosphere which would (if continued throughout life)hopefully result in a warm,loving atmosphere for you and your husband and hopefully your future darling children.

Good Luck to all ladies.
Eli

Anonymous said...

I don't know that I can add much to what's been written here....I am a more experienced wife, true, but you've outlined quite well, Anna, what this soon-to-be-married young woman needs to know. I would just say that it's a lifetime of learning (for both!!), & the wise wife will observe her husband, & try to learn his ways, meet his needs. My husband likes not to have to move things in order to sit down when he arrives home from work, & I learned that early on. He also doesn't like having to hunt for socks or clean underwear. So I stay on top of those tasks. He's been fabulous about meals. Honestly, I can not remember one time when he's complained about what I make. I know that he likes certain things better than others, & he will tell me so. But he has always been very gracious when meals are perhaps a bit unexciting, or even less than humble. That's a winning attitude in my book!

I wish this bride the best of everything, as she continues her plans for the future. God's blessings!

Brenda

Seashell / Chelsea said...

Off topic:

Just a thought about the oven...Sometimes things burn on the bottom because the pans are too big for the oven and cause the hot air to stay in the bottom of the oven and not circulate. This could of course be completely unrelated to your problem. But it was something I didn't know about until recently and I thought it might help!

Anonymous said...

Not that this has anything to do with the posting, but I've been reading your blog for sometime. Congrats on your marriage and your soon-to-be-born child. I recently had a child myself and am off work for several months. I will return to work part-time next year for financial reasons. The day my husband returned to work, I cried, as I wanted to be the one returning to work. I love my child, but I hate the isolation and loneliness of being home alone all day. I pretty much spend all day in the rocking chair feeding her or rocking her to sleep. And often I can't wait for her to fall asleep so I can get some work done around the house. I know you're not a mom yet, but I was wondering if you or your readers have any suggestions, because I feel like I'm a bad mother already.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon, as someone who lives in an isolated little place, I'd love to address this in a separate post, as time allows.

Jacqueline said...

Off topic to begin with, I can't resist responding to Anonymous :) I also recently made the transition from working full time outside the home to being a full time wife and mother. So I really do understand your feelings of isolation!

Get out of the house! Even with a new baby (with the help of a baby sling!) you can get out of the house. Take your baby for a walk in the park tomorrow morning- you'll run into many other mothers doing the same thing! I also searched online (your church may have one too) for a mother's support group.

I've had great success making friends with other stay at home moms this way :) You just have to keep an open mind and you can't be afraid to start a conversation with another mother.

For the new bride, I'll share what happened the other day :) I was having the kind of day that leaves you exhausted and overwhelmed. I found myself explaining to my husband that I couldn't sit down on the couch and rest with him after he got home from work because there were household things that I "HAD" to finish. His answer: "No you don't. I'd rather have your company, and a happy and rested wife, then a perfectly clean kitchen." The hardest thing to learn (that I'm still learning!!!) is that my husband doesn't subscribe to my idea of perfect!

Melinda B said...

Wow, Anna, this topic couldn't have come at a better time for me. We moved into our new home a month ago and still aren't quite finished unpacking. Not to mention I am 5 months pregnant with twins and have lost my love for cooking because of food aversions. I worry and stress over the clutter and the bathroom being a little in need of a scrubbing and all I think my husband wants is for my to cook a meal and make the house smell delicious. He has commented on the fact that he misses my cooking..any cooking! And he hasn't had time to organize his clothing in the closet. I was just leaving it for him to do when he had a free moment, and in the meantime I watch him chasing underwear. I think I'll stop focusing on what I think is wrong with the house and surprise him with a clean closet and a yummy dinner, even if I'm nauseous during the preparation! LOL

Neuropoet said...

Anna, I love how you emphasized the importance of being a wife to your specific husband. Wonderful post!

~Jenny

Anonymous said...

Yep, all husbands are different! The more I get to know mine (4.5+ years) the more I'm thankful he is mine and not somebody else! :)

My man is also very forgiving of what I would consider 'burnt'!

Learn to communicate. You might phrase something in a way that you know your friends, or your mom would instantly understand, but he might interpret it slightly different. You might have to learn how to explain things different ways.

Personally, I grew up in a very close-knit family, and I had to let go of my expectations that he would "read my mind". After almost 5 years of marriage, he almost can! But if you expect it, it can trip you up. I try to remind myself that it's rather rude. I *love* it when it happens, but it's quite the assumption!

Recipes can be helpful, but remember that he won't like everything you do necessarily. My mom was from the South and my dad from the Midwest, so he taught her how he liked to eat over a period of years. B/c my dad enjoyed food from everywhere, though, many of the dishes I take for granted have been new experiences for my husband. He does enjoy many of them, but not all.

It is a learning process. Don't take every bit of advice you hear to heart. My mom warned me to never let him be in control of our finances ... another "pitied" me because "all engineers" are tight with money. Neither is true, but are labels he doesn't deserve.

Only two people told us the marriage is wonderful and gets better and better ... they were right!

God bless
Ashley
www.homesteadblogger.com/Jonash2004

Anonymous said...

To the young woman who asked the question, congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

I can't agree more with the idea of relaxing and not being harsh with yourself. As a new wife, there are undoubtedly things at which you will fail at first, usually through no fault of your own. There are things, after almost five (wonderful) years of marriage, at which I fail. The willingness to try, I have found, is far more important than the result. Project a sense of desire to please your husband, and he will probably be very forgiving of any mishaps.

In the premarital period, it is important to talk about several things which you're probably not accustomed to discussing with a man. In general, you will want to know what your future husband expects of a wife, especially in the areas of home management, physical intimacy, finances, spiritual life, and having children (how many, whether to use birth control/NFP/breastfeeding to delay or space conception, and especially whether you can come to an AGREEMENT on these things). But of course that is preparation the two of you need to do together, not separately.

The biggest thing you need to do, besides learning everything you can about home management and frugality (I think the notebook is a grand idea, by the way), is to be absolutely sure this is the young man with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. I presume that you've examined your heart about this and have found that he is, but make sure that you are 100% certain. When you walk down that aisle and take your vows before God, and then consummate your union that evening, you will be one flesh and there is no turning back. That is a beautiful truth of marriage, but it is a truth that some of my friends have not grasped very well prior to marriage (their heads clouded by hormones rather than reason), and some of my friends dearly wish they had chosen their spouse more carefully.

The Bible says we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. It also says that a man who will not supply the needs of his family is worse than an unbeliever. If the young man loves the Lord and shows a clear desire to work hard to care for his soon-to-be family, that is usually enough to ensure a successful marriage. If both of you truly love God, then you will extend the grace He's shown you both to each other. You will put each other first and not be selfish. You will have servant's hearts. If you are falling all over one another trying to put each other's needs first, you will find your marriage a very blessed one indeed.

Preparing for marriage is twofold. It is both practical (in terms of learning home keeping skills and preparing for intimacy) and spiritual. I urge you right now to begin praying for the success of your marriage, praying for God's blessings upon it, praying for the children you may have, praying that the Lord helps you have a submissive, loving, teachable, graceful spirit and relieves you of any selfishness that might be hiding in some unreached corner of your heart. Learn kindness and goodness and mercy and pleasantness and love.

And one thing I wish I had done, spend lots of time with your family of origin. Once you are married, you will probably not see your family quite as often, and you will probably miss them at first. So take these remaining precious days with your mother and father, brothers and sisters, to grow close and show love before you leave them.

Then, after you are married, leave them. It's okay to call mom to get her recipe for stuffing, but it's not okay to call mom because you had a fight with your husband about his socks in the floor for the eleventy-billionth time. Don't soil your parents' opinion of your husband by airing each miniscule grievance. Learn to be an adult and settle conflicts in a peaceable manner.

And never ever ever ever EVER let the sun go down on your anger. Wounds get ugly and fester over time, so be sure to make peace after a conflict.

Marriage is wonderful, beautiful, and blessed, but it takes work. What kind of work it will require, however, is mostly an unknown until after you are married. The biggest thing right now is being sure to cultivate a willingness to do whatever is necessary, even if it requires a sacrifice on your part.

May the Lord bless your union richly as He has mine and so many others. Put Him first, and all the other stuff will fall right into place.

Anonymous said...

As a wife of 17 yrs, I guess I'm in the experienced camp. I consider myself a feminist, but here are my 2 cents....

The most important thing a wife (and husband!)can do is learn to compromise and to take things easy. Practice not being overly sensitive; try not to take offense, when none may have been meant.

While it is important to discuss issues before marriage, I would not go too much in depth. I definitely would not bring up subjects like frequency of intimacy, as a previous poster suggested (unless the couple already lives together). I don't think it's modest to bring that up if you're abstaining before marriage, and I also think neither husband or wife can have any idea of how often they will desire intimacy before they try it out! This is an example of an area where flexibility will always serve you well.
Even the number of kids one wants....well, I think it's important to discuss, of course, but always keep in mind that a husband or wife may well change their mind as to size of family once they have a real live baby at home. One's fantasy of an ideal family changes when one actually starts raising one. I would tell the wife, learn to be flexible with issues that bother you less, so that you can emphasize the importance of things that really matter to you.

As for practical matters. Most husbands would love a tidy, clean home, basic home cooked food, ironed clothes. It would be good for a stay at home wife to know how to do these things (everyone should know how, actually!). Men often don't really care about all the extra stuff women like to do around the home, like home decor, arts and crafts, fancy tablesettings, even gourmet meals (many prefer the basics). I've got to agree with Anna that a woman should be attuned to her husband and try to focus on the areas that really matter to him.

Important: that's not to say a stay at home wife shouldn't spend lots of time decorating/crafting/looking up strange recipes or whatever she loves. She needs to find joy in her role, and if those areas bring her happiness, well, a happy wife makes for a happy family.
Tammy

Anonymous said...

This is the longwinded anon from above...

I have to say that I disagree with Tammy. Couples need to have at least a basic idea of one another's expectations for intimacy and children BEFORE they get married. I have seen more than one marriage break up because couples were too "modest" to discuss these things.

Husbands and wives have a sacred duty not to refuse to be intimate with one another, so it's important to understand how often that is expected to be. While it cannot be foolproof, because you will know more about your drive after you are married, it should at least give some idea.

As for the number of children one expects to have, that very well may change as time moves on, but the change in number/methods/etc. will need to be a joint decision between husband and wife. If the wife-to-be wants a maximum of two children, and the husband-to-be wants 20, then this needs to be somewhat resolved before marriage. If the woman will not budge from her number and the man will not budge from his, then in my opinion they should not get married. I have seen way too many marriages torn apart by disagreement about children. While you may not be on the same page before marriage, you at least need to be in the same book, know what I mean?

And let's not be falsely modest - God created sex for marriage, and it will be a semi-big part of life after you are married. Discussing it in broad terms (not specifics, God forbid!) is not "immodest" - it is smart.

Susan said...

To sort of pick up on what h and s said, I would add, let him have the last word. I used to think I always had to be right and have the last word. I've been married many years and have realized that our "verbal scuffles" have always been about trivial things that in the end do not matter. Just let him have the last word, even if you know for certain you are right. Let him have it and let it go. Then pick up a friendly conversation about something else and move on. And DON'T DO SILENT TREATMENT!! That is self centered childish behavior and has no place in a successful marriage. Ongoing, open communication is so important and the pouting, "I'm not speaking to you routine" is immature and attention seeking and very unbecoming...ok, I'll get off my soapbox now. :) My best wishes for a happy marriage!

Looking Heavenward said...

I would only add that anyone preparing for marriage be sure to develop a deep relationship with the Lord. Married life will bring many challenges, and it is only as we lean on His strength that we will be equipped to serve our husbands and children. In my younger years as a wife, I was prone to leaning on my husband too much for emotional strength and security. When hard times came, and he,too was pressured and didn't have much to give, I felt abandoned and very weak. It has taken me years to reach a point of greater dependence on the Lord's provisions for me, and it has made a much more secure, confident, and helpful wife. I am always aware of the Lord's presence nearby, and am so thankful that He is there to rush to my aid in ways my husband cannot.

Also, learn to focus on serving God with all you do, including your work as a wife. This will get you through the tough times, when maybe your husband is away on business trips and you are lonely, or when it seems like the hard parts of family life fall on your shoulders, or when he forgets to take out the trash. :-) Viewing all of my life as service to the Lord helps me to keep going, and helps me to continue with my service to my family even when I don't "feel" like it!

Alysa said...

Thank you to the young lady that asked this question. While I am not at that point yet, I feel the Lord is using this time to prepare me for marriage.

It is so lovely to hear ladies talking about the deeper issues of marriage. So often, all we hear are the negatives, how difficult it is, and how much hard work, that us younger girls begin to wonder, "Is it worth it?"

I have one question about two points of preparation you mentioned. Frugality and time management... how does one begin to prepare in these areas? How do you structure your day, etc, and avoid wasting too much time on things such as blogs and email (I'm so guilty in this one!)

I'd also love more information on the notebook, and what is recommended that it contain.

Thanks again to who asked this question, and may the Lord richly bless your marriage!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Alysa,

For single women, check out the "Dedicated Daughters" series on the sidebar of my blog.

Minnie said...

i was raised by my father(alone, he is more hous eproud than any house wife i know it's so cute!) and ill pass on the advice he gave me, "it doesn't matter how much you plan, be calm, open to change and work a daily walk and a cup of tea in there some where" i find it works well for anything :)

midge said...

One practical thing that you can also do is ask his mom for her rescipies. After your dh has a real hard day sometimes what is best is that cookie that mom used to cook.

1 John Chapter 3 said...

Here is the best advice for you. You AND your fiancé should put God first...ALWAYS, have a real, living relationship with Him.

If you study God's word you will see that we are supposed to submit to our husbands. Of course, people have gotten out of balance with this and stayed in abusive relationships. I'm not saying you're in one, but never think you have to stay if that's ever the case (side note). Also, the Word says the husband is to love their wife as Jesus loves the church. Jesus gave his life for us! That's huge! (Read Ephesians 5:22-33) This is a two-way street here. As you both are looking out for the other's interest it will make for a happy, peaceful home.

Check out this DVD by Mark Gungor. It's called "The Tale of Two Brains". It will explain a lot of things you may not know about the differences between a man and woman and how they think. It is bible based.

Be blessed in your marriage. May the peace of God flow in and through the both of you. I pray for strength, courage, endurance and definitely not the least of these, love. Above all things love. I pray that you love God passionately and submit to Him so you may be able to submit to your husband. You trust and obey the living God and He will direct your paths. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 = Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. Be patient with yourself in your new role as well as your husband. Be blessed and live the full life God has for you.

Lovely Girl said...

I'm not married....I'm not even in a relationship yet, but one day I will be and I have learned so many wonderful things here!!! I love hearing the wisdom of my elders, Thank you for all your wise words. I am so excited for one day being married and taking care of a family, and i have gotten so many great ideas and so many little nuggets of wisdom.