Have you ever tried drawing a perfect shape without a stencil? Whether it’s a circle, square, or triangle, it’s hard to freehand anything into a perfect shape. No matter our skill, experience, or even dedication, there will always be some degree of human error.

When my wife surprised me and told me she was pregnant, I was excited about being a new dad. I was also determined to be better than the stereotypical dad I felt some statistics say an African American, 20-something like me would become. You know, the guy that has a low level of patience … is irresponsible … or leaves his family? I felt I had the love, dedication, and strong desire to draw a better outcome for my family.

So there I was with my “No.1 Dad” pencil, ready to freehand the shape of something I had never drawn or even seen up close. I called it: balancing marriage with being a new dad.

When being a new dad doesn’t start like you thought it would

Two months into the pregnancy journey, we joyously—but shockingly—discovered we were having twins. That shook my attempt to draw what I planned for fatherhood. Then my wife was diagnosed with preeclampsia, and the doctors became concerned about the growth of our babies. We were overwhelmed with scans, varying opinions, and weekly visits. Every visit was not a good one and our emotions followed.

At that point, it felt as though we were on a roller coaster. Doctors eventually put my wife on a month of bed rest, followed by a month in the hospital, and then a C-section delivery of our girls at 30 weeks, before topping it off with a three-month NICU journey.

Just like that, I plunged into being a new dad. I was ready to defy all stereotypical odds, but everything looked different from how I had imagined it. Such a stressful and tiring experience pulled at our connection as husband and wife, and such an irregular entry into parenthood challenged our confidence as parents. I still had the desire to be a great husband and dad, but I didn’t understand the best way to draw the picture given our circumstances.

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Finding balance

When we first brought the twins home, I wondered if my wife and I had forgotten about each other as our children became the focus. After a couple of passive-aggressive comments and expressions of annoyance, I retreated to crafting a routine and splitting roles to better handle the care of the twins and each other. I thought this would help us get the sleep we both needed, help the communication between us, and, in return, better our experience as a young married couple with twins.

My wife agreed and helped create a routine we could follow:

1. We shared a schedule of who would feed the twins and when.

2. We made weekly menus for dinner and who would cook each day.

3. We scheduled who would give the twins a bath each night.

4. We agreed on who would do laundry, when, and how frequently.

5. We scheduled movie nights during times we knew the babies would be asleep.

6. We agreed on who would wake up each night when the babies cry.

7. We gave each other uninterrupted time with God each day.

Though this solved much with twins, it was like putting a Band-Aid over something that needed more attention. There was a deeper layer to it.

I found being organized does not give us the persevering patience, kindness, and self-control needed in such a new season. Being organized helped, but I needed Jesus to lead my family in this new land we were in and to provide us with all we needed. With all the changes we’d been faced with, it took more than an organized schedule to speak to my heart and balance marriage with being a new dad.

Surrendering my hand

I thought I was doing everything right. I thought God would be proud! I led my wife and we had a schedule, we divided roles, and communicated. Despite all of that, I could still feel the tension and a lingering lack of patience with each other in our ability to adjust to this new season of parenthood.

Reflecting on the hard season we just went through with the girls’ birth, God’s Word reminded me:

  • To surrender my hand to Him and keep it that way this time.
  • To start inviting Jesus to lead me as I lead my family (Proverbs 3:5, Matthew 6:33).
  • That Jesus would give me the best communication skills to do so (Colossians 4:6).
  • That Jesus best teaches me just how to love and treat my wife through this season (Ephesians 5:25).
  • That Jesus would take care of my anxious thoughts (Philippians 4:6).

We will never be perfect spouses or parents. Jesus is the only One that can provide all we need to accomplish the great things God has planned for us (Ephesians 2:10), including the strength to do so (Psalm 73:26).

Being reminded of all of this did not cause the challenge of the season to vanish, but it opened my eyes to understand no schedule, app, or even twin blog could do what only God can. Only God can balance my marriage and being a new dad as I surrender to His way. All other things apart from Him are simply resources He can operate through.

The real No. 1 Dad

Each time my wife and I made logistical decisions as a couple, we’d bring it to God first, asking for the fruits of the Spirit. My wife added that we ask God to speak in ways we couldn’t ignore so we know it’s Him speaking.

After all, God tells us we can ask for wisdom, and He calls us to abide in Him (James 1:5, John 15:4-5). Allowing Christ to lead me as I led my family fed the union of our marriage, as well as my fatherhood.

As husbands and fathers, truly surrendering everything to God when attempting to draw plans for our family is the only way to balance marriage with being a new dad. I love drawing with my #1 Dad pencil, but I love it even better when the real #1 Dad is guiding my hand.

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Ashford Sonii is a writer for FamilyLife. He enjoys ministry, learning, and communicating practical life applications of God’s Word within marriage, family, and how to walk with Jesus. Ashford and his wife Olivia currently live in North Carolina with their twin girls, Ivey & Oakley.