My wife and I recently celebrated six months of marriage. We are new at this marriage thing, but there have been a few times we’ve talked about our dreams about the future of our family. We are excited about having kids one day, but the conversations often drift towards one question: “Do you think we are ready to be parents?”

In my optimism, I usually respond, “Sure, whatever comes, we’ll figure it out,” but deep down, how do we really know if we’re ready to have kids? How do we really know if we are ready to raise a person from birth?

As I’ve reflected on these questions, I believe there are three important things couples can do to prepare for the joys and challenges of parenthood.

1. Serve People Who Can’t Serve Back

The first way to prepare for parenting is to serve people who can’t serve you back. Are you able to serve others, when they can’t return the favor? Raising young children is often a thankless job. When babies are born, they can do nothing for themselves but have endless needs.

Men and women thinking about parenthood should be prepared to serve and serve and serve. They must be willing to serve for years without so much as a thank you. Can you love and serve like this?

In the years and months leading up to parenthood, watch for opportunities to serve others who cannot repay you. Look for opportunities to serve the poor. Ask God for the grace to serve to those who may not ever be able to return the favor.

2. Give To People Who Can’t Give Back

Not only do parents have to be seasoned servers, they must also be prepared to give of their time, talents and treasures. Parents must be willing to give their financial resources, their time and their energy to their children.

Many young people put off giving to others until they have more. Life is expensive and many believe it’s foolish to start giving until they have more to give. I encourage young couples preparing for parenthood to start giving now. Even in small amounts, it is a good habit to give without expecting a return.

If you rate yourself low in the giving category, one way to improve your generosity is to consider all you’ve been given. Make a list of all you’ve been given in your life. Think about your own parents, teachers, coaches and leaders who have selflessly sacrificed for you. Meditating on people and their gifts is one of the best ways to soften a stingy heart.

3. Fast From Something You Love

Another great way to cultivate a heart ready to be a sacrificial parent is to fast. When most of us hear the word fasting, we think of the discomfort of going without food, but fasting is a discipline that can be used in a variety of ways.

Parenting babies flexes our fasting muscles. Fasting teaches us to function without creature comforts like food, entertainment, peace and quiet. These are things that we may be forced to go without as we care for our infants. There will be days when we don’t feel like missing sleep or changing another dirty diaper, but fasting can help us stretch the spiritual muscles that will give us strength to do just that.

The bottom line is that parenting will require us to do hard things. We will have to serve, give and sacrifice our own wants and needs for the wants and needs of our child. Thankfully, these are sacrifices we can practice now. Serve those who can’t serve back. Give to those who can’t give back. Discipline yourself to fast from creature comforts and you will grow in ways that will make you ready for the challenges of parenthood.

You may also be interested in A Beautiful Mess: Embracing The Chaos Of Raising Kids

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