Best-selling author Dr. Gary Chapman offers practical advice to new parents in a discussion based on his book Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents. (Part 1 of 2)
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Young Mother: Well, I'm due to give birth to our first baby in about a week and there's a lot of things that are scary obviously about that, but one thing that you do think about is, as a husband and wife, you know, we've been on our own for six years and now we're gonna be adding another member to the family. And while that's very exciting and we're anticipating it with great joy, at the same time, you know, you wonder, well, how is this gonna affect our marriage relationship and what changes is it gonna bring about in our day-to-day lives?
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John Fuller: Well, that mom-to-be is thinking in the right direction, because a new baby is going to change just about everything. That's the topic for today's "Focus on the Family." Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Hey, today we do want to come alongside you and those expectant couples—the mom and the dad. Maybe it's your first child, second child, but it's all pretty new and we want to give you some, I think, great insight on how to take a deep breath, relax and understand what's in front of you for the next oh, 40, 50 years. (Laughter)
And I also want to say to the grandparents, hey, this is good for you to listen to, as well, because your life is changing, too and I think there'll be some great wisdom in this discussion for you, as well and some good things you can pass on to your adult children if they're not listening.
You know, here at Focus, we believe that the better prepared we are, the more likely we're going to be able to thrive in our parenting role and the end game, the healthier, spiritually, emotionally, in all ways our children are going to be when you launch them at 18-, 19-years-old. And just remember, we have many, many resources here at Focus on the Family for you.
John: Yeah, we're here to help and those resources can be found at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And to talk about the topic, we've invited back one of our most popular guests, Dr. Gary Chapman, who always brings wisdom and warmth and today he's here to talk about his newest book, Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents.
Jim: Gary, it's great, as always, to have you here at Focus. Welcome back.
Dr. Gary Chapman: Well, thank you, Jim. It's good to be back.
Jim: I just love your observation skills, what you've done throughout your life. The Lord's really given you some terrific insight, of course with the love languages, many, many Christians are aware of that and we'll work that into the discussion today.
But you did this with a co-author, Shannon Warden, as well and you've got some years of experience, don't you, in the parenting role? How many kids do you have?
Gary: Well, we have two children and two grandchildren.
Jim: (Laughing) There you go; you're doin' both.
Gary: Yeah, yeah, we're doing both and Shannon Warden, with whom I wrote this, is a long-term friend and she has children still in the home (Laughter) and that's why I invited her to join me in this and she also teaches counseling at Wake Forest University in North Caroline, where I live.
Jim: Oh, that's good and I know she's busy, as well and Gary, let's start with you and Karolyn, when you had that first child. Were you ready for it and what did you express in the book when that first baby, like that woman in the opening said, he or she is on the way; what do we do now?
Gary: You know, Karolyn had agreed or expressed the desire to be a stay-at-home mom. And so, I had the thought, okay, that's wonderful. All I have to do is just, you know, make the money and bring home the food, you know. She's gonna—
Jim: That's right.
Gary: --be the mother and she'll take care of this baby. (Laughing)
Gary: I had no idea that it was gonna change my schedule. I thought, you know, she's gonna be home. She doesn't have anything else to do--
Gary: --just take care of this kid, you know. (Laughing)
Jim: People out there …
John: Moms are bristling right now.
Gary: Ouch! Oh, yeah. I know; I know.
Jim: But you know, I gotta confess, I kinda had the same thought (Laughter), Gary. I still have kids in the home and that was my impression, you know.
Jim: Man I'll go. I'll work out there sluggin' away hard all day and I'll come back and of course, everything will be in order. Why does that cause such friction? A child arriving in your home changes the dynamic of your household.
Gary: Oh, it changes everything, you know.
Jim: What are some of those ways that it changes.
Gary: Well, you know, when the child was in the womb, you could go to the store (Laughter). You could do all these things. It was much easier when the child was in the womb. Then when they--
Jim: She could even do some—
Jim: --joggin' and other stuff.
Gary: –yeah. (Laughing)
Jim: It's crazy.
Gary: But you know, it starts off with the fundamentals. You gotta feed this kid and it comes very regular. And then you gotta take it out the other end, you know, (Laughter)
Jim: And that's regular, too.
Gary: And that's regular, too, you know. I remember after I changed a few diapers, I said to Karolyn, I said, "Honey, how long do we have to do this?" (Laughter)
Jim: I know.
Gary: When does the potty training come? (Laughing)
Jim: Yeah, yeah, please, quick, quick. I'll tell you, last night, we've got two foster kids with us and one of them's not quite potty trained yet. Last night at my age, I was changin' a doody diaper. (Laughter) I'm thinkin', really, Lord?
Gary: Good for you. (Laughter)
Jim: Really, Lord?
John: Good for you. One day you'll have grandchildren and you can do it with joy.
Jim: Now I'm gonna tell you, Jean's changed most of them. I'm not gonna sound like I'm (Laughter) somethin' special, but it does change and it puts pressure also on your relationship, doesn't it?
Gary: Well, it does and that's one of the things we discuss in the book, is the fact that marriages do not operate on automatic, you know. You've got to do something. And I think the first thing with the marriage is to resolve, both of you, look, we're gonna keep our marriage alive. If God allowed us to be married and have children, there's time to do both. We just gotta—
Gary: --figure it out--
Jim: Oh, without a doubt.
Gary: --yeah, how we're gonna work it, but we're gonna keep our marriage alive.
Jim: And you gotta work at it. You gotta be intentional. I would say that I'm not as intentional as I should be and have, you know, with our boys when they were younger, I was not as good. There's someone on staff here at Focus that really, John and Shelley Bethany, they would always carve out 15, 20 minutes when he would get home and he would say to the kids, you know, "Go do somethin', 'cause this is mommy and daddy's time." That's kinda what you're talking about.
Gary: Yeah, absolutely.
Jim: Maintain that conversation. It's not just, "Can you get the dishes done? Can you get the diapers cleared out, let's …" It can't revolve around the children.
Gary: And you know, one of the things we did, of course, you know, in the early days with sleep, it's gonna depend on the baby. Some babies sleep all night long. Our daughter slept 18 hours, I think, in the early days, you know.
Jim: Are you kidding me?
Gary: But our son, he thought sleep was a waste of time, you know. (Laughter) He was awake all night long. And so, children are different and that's one of the issues that we discuss, that children are different. You can't expect them to be the same.
But once they get a little older and they get on schedule, we put our children to bed early, 7 o'clock--
John: That is early, wow.
Gary: --you know.
Jim: That is selfish I think, right. (Laughing)
Gary: Yeah and when they got to be 6, we moved it back five minutes (Laughter), 7:05. And we moved it back five minutes right on up till they were 12. So, 7:35 at 12, they're goin' to bed. So, you know, that gives time. If you get the kids goin' to bed early, it gives you time to have time together with each other and that's important.
Jim: I was dumb enough to move that in like half-hour increments or hour increments (Laughter) getting older. Why didn't I think in five-minute increments? (Laughter)
John: And now they're teens and they don't start to talk or …
Jim: 10 o'clock.
John: Yeah, exactly, yeah.
Jim: That's crazy. What about modeling that relationship. You know, so often, Gary, we forget how we project to our children as we interact as husband and wife, communicates a lot to the kids. It communicates stability or instability, fear or contentment and safety. Speak to that, how to be mindful of that, even when you're not feeling it towards your spouse.
Gary: Yeah. I think the interaction[s] between the husband and the wife are extremely important to the development of the child. I mean, you are their primary model and if the child hears the dad yelling and screaming at the mother or the mother doing the same toward him, the equilibrium of that child, the emotional equilibrium it's just off and something's wrong here. And so little children can tell that.
So, I think we have to learn how to process our differences in maybe a way we haven't already learned. If you haven't learned this before you have the child, it's not gonna just happen. You have to learn how to talk rather than yell, how to listen and how not to interrupt each other and how to try to understand the other person, rather than tryin' to get your point across and looking for a solution, rather than tryin' to win the argument.
I mean, all of that can be learned and I would say to parents, if you haven't learned that already, oughta take a class at your church, oughta go see a counselor, oughta read a book, oughta to something to learn how to process life with each other in a healthy way so you're giving a good model to the child.
Jim: Well, and that's good encouragement. And of course, people are hearing you as a parent of adult children and as a grandfather. And I know your co-author is still in the midst of kids at home. Were you there at 24, 25 or 30? How did you learn these principles and what kind of person was Gary Chapman back when you were raisin' the little ones?
Gary: You know, I wasn't there. I knew very, very little about raising children when our first child came. The second child came four years later. But I was open to my wife and so, when she asked me to do things, I was willing to do those things. And together we kinda learned the process.
And then we asked people questions. You know, don't try to do this alone. Whatever you're struggling with, reach out to your mother, your daddy. Reach out to an older couple. Reach out to someone that's had a child three years older than yours and ask questions, because we can learn from each other.
So, I think the openness to learn was there for me and I did learn as we went along. And we made mistakes to be sure, but you know, when I look back on it, I'm so grateful that the kids are grown now and they're both walking with God and they're doing good things for God and—
Jim: That's the goal.
Gary: --you know, that's the joy, ultimate joy of raising children.
Gary: John said that. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
Gary: He was talking about spiritual children, but I'm talkin' about our physical children.
Jim: Yeah, no, it's good stuff and that's was on the heart of every parent.
Jim: They want good things for their children that way. Let me move back again to that feeling, because it's important to me to bring that wisdom down to a younger and younger age like we talked about. I would [have] loved to have had this conversation with you when I was 30 and tryin' to figure out my wife still. You know, we'd been married five years at that point.
But in the book you talk about organization and some people not being organized. I think for me, that's been one of the things. I tend to like neat and tidy and you know, when especially if spouses at home and tryin' to keep things organized; it's overwhelming I think if you're working outside the home. And I know in today's culture it goes either way and I get that.
But one spouse in the home, one spouse outside the home, you can really let that boil under your skin. You come home and there's all this chaos goin' on and you're goin', my goodness. You had eight, nine hours. I mean, you wouldn't say that--
Jim: --but you're thinking it.
Jim: And it plays through in your communication, maybe non-verbal, maybe like me, you were stupid enough to say something a few times. (Laughter) But how do you relax as a younger person who hasn't lived a full life yet? What triggers do you use to say, just chill out?
Gary: Yeah. Well, I think we have to recognize first of all that this is a team effort. We cannot depend on the mother to raise the child, you know. There's a reason why it takes a mother and a father to have a child and the reason is, that they're to be there for that child. That's the ideal. That's what we hope for.
And as a father, I think we have to recognize we don't know what that mother's been through all day long and all the things that she's done. So, we have to prepare ourselves that, yes, it may be messy when I get home and I'm a part of this team.
So, one of the things I'm gonna ask is, "Honey, how can I help you? What can I do that would be helpful to you?"
Gary: It's that openness, you know and she will have ideas on what you can do to help her. But if we see it as a team effort, it's not that she does all the parenting and I do the work outside the home. No, no, no, we're doing this together. And the more a husband is open to that and ask his wife on how he can help her, the more likely they are to work together as a team.
Jim: Is it too rigid to kinda line those things out in almost like a contract, to say, okay, here are the things I'll do? 'Cause I'm sure couples, you try to find mechanisms—
Jim: --that allow you to have that communication. An example of a husband who might say that may not follow up. And now you got a frustrated wife and vice versa. So what are some tools they can use that will be practical, rather than just verbal acknowledgment? How do they really get down to getting it done?
Gary: I think it can be helpful to assign certain tasks to different ones, depending on your interest and your ability. For example, in the early days, my wife kept the books for us. You know, she paid the monthly bills.
John: She took care of the finances.
Gary: She took care of the finances, you know. But I don't know where it was in the journey, she said to me one day, "You know, honey, could you do this?" I said, "Well, I could." And I said, "Why?" She said, "It hurts my stomach." (Laughing) And what she meant was, it's so tight, I don't know which one to pay this month and not pay the other one. You know, and so, I took that over you know, and I really in retrospect, I was more equipped to do that than she was. So, it's finding out, you know, what your gifts are and then accepting those responsibilities and organizing it in that way.
Jim: Gary, we've talked about that situation where there's a spouse that's able to be at home. What about the double income—
Jim: --household, which is pretty normal today, where--
Jim: --you have both parents working—
Jim: --and kids are in daycare. How do they manage those things?
Gary: Yeah, I think this is where a lot of other questions arise. You know, if we're gonna both work outside the home, then who's gonna take care of the child while we're working outside the home? And sometimes that can be extended family. You know, if grandparents are around, sometimes that's workable.
If not, it's gonna be a preschool at a church or an independent preschool. I think the key thing there is, we really want to examine what's going on in that preschool, how it's run, make sure we're getting the best opportunity for our children to be learning while they're away from us.
And then I think obviously, the arrangement, who's gonna pick up the child in the afternoon? Well … will, it depends somewhat on what our work schedule is. But one of us is gonna pick up the child and go home. And when we get home, however, now it's our responsibility and we want to work on that together.
And let me just throw this out for husbands. You know, I think we're probably gonna have to simplify our life. You can't go to the gym three days a week and play golf all day Saturday and work, you know, long hours and then when you're home, be on the computer all night. You're not gonna be able to be a father and do all those things.
So, along the way we have to examine how do I simplify my life? What are some things that I maybe need to drop off for a while here while I'm raising a child? Uh, it's hard. It's sacrificial.
Jim: I know.
Gary: But that's what love's all about. Loving a child is sacrifice.
Jim: Oh, I appreciate that. This is a moment of truth though. Have either of you ever forgotten your child at school? (Laughter) You didn't pick them up? (Laughter) This is like a man thing. I don't know why. (Laughter) Come on.
Gary: I don't think I ever forgot—
Jim: Gary, did you ever forget the kid?
Gary: --the child. (Laughing)
John: Yeah, it was my job to drop Zane off at school and more than once, I have driven right past the school (Laughter).
Jim: On the pickup?
John: No, just dropping him off in the morning. (Laughter) And he'll be in the backseat sayin', "Dad, were you gonna like take me to school? Or am I going to work with you today?" (Laughter) So, it can be kind of a fun moment if you smile about it.
John: Gary Chapman is our guest today on "Focus on the Family" and we're talking about the book that he wrote with Shannon Warden. It's called Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents. And Jim, these are things I wish I could forget sometimes (Laughter) along the way. Iappreciate what you're sayin', Gary about the husband-wife discussion about preschool. Some of these decisions for new parents, you make it sound like and I'm not saying you make it sound like, but it sounds like it should be so easy. I mean, how do we decide things like bedtimes and preschool arrangements? How do we have those conversations without reaching a flashpoint?
Gary: Yeah, well, I think first of all, we both need to be open to the other's ideas. And we will have different ideas, no question about it, 'cause we were raised in different families. But I think beyond our own conversation, this is where it's helpful to talk to other couples and get ideas from others on how they have handled this.
And then you bring that into the discussion and the two of you make the decision. Obviously, it's your decision. It's your child, so you make those decisions. But getting all the input you can from others can be very, very helpful in making the best decision for your child.
Jim: Gary, you had two children and I have two, so you have the one, the first one and things flow a certain direction. And then No. 2 comes along and it's different. I mean—
Jim: -- it's just different. And Jean had a great line one time. She said, "Well, no child is ever born into the same family." And it's true, 'cause you're—
Gary: It is true.
Jim: --either the family of three or the family of four. It's never the same family.
Jim: And tell us the differences and how as parents, we need to relax about these differences, that Johnny and Susie are not gonna be the same type of child.
Gary: Yeah, well, you know, that's so true. Our daughter could've raised herself. I mean, she was so compliant, you know. She slept and she did the right things and all. And Karolyn had said early she'd like to have five boys, you know. (Laughter) And I was in love at the time before we got married and I said, "Fine, baby, whatever you want."
Well, our second one was a boy. The first one was a girl. The second one was a boy. He came along, you know, and it wasn't very long along the journey, Karolyn said, "You know, I think one of each is probably enough." (Laughter) They were very, very, very different and they are—
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Gary: --different as adults. And this is one of the points we make in the book, is that no two children are alike. And we tend to compare babies. You know, even when the baby is born, what does mother say? You know, guys don't mess with this, but the mothers think, "Now, how much did the baby weigh? And how long was—
Jim: Yeah, the guys don't.
Gary:--the baby, you know.
Jim: Yeah, right.
Gary: Oh, that was a little bit bigger than my baby or a little bit less, here we're already comparing right there, you know.
Jim: How tall is he?
Gary: Yeah. (Laughter) And it's natural, I think, to compare and particularly if you have two children in the same family; we tend to compare them. But we're going down the wrong road when we do that. God made each of us unique and our children are gonna be unique. And we have to relate to them as a person.
Jim: How quickly as a parent, do you need to recognize those differences in your child and even then begin to stay true in the center in terms of your parenting on principles and convictions—
Jim: --but you know, adapt to the child's personality so that they can connect to what you're saying? Does that make sense?
Gary: Yeah and it starts rather early, you know. You begin to see personality differences. For example, even in terms of activity, one child will be much more active. They're just reaching out and touching everything and doing. (Laughter)
Jim: Right. (Laughing)
Gary: And another baby'll be content just to sit there and you wonder, well, what, is there something wrong here?
Gary: You know, they're not responding like the other child did. So, you can see some of these personality differences right along the way. And some are more resistant, you know. Some will push back more than others will push back. So, these things begin to emerge and if we just keep our eyes open and recognize 'em and don't think that there's something wrong with the child because they're not like the other child. They're being who they are and we have to learn to relate to them. But they all need basic fundamental principles—
Gary: --and teachings and boundaries and all of that.
Jim: The core stuff.
Jim: But I've seen that in my boys. You just have to approach things slightly differently and it probably took me too long to figure that out as a dad. And I'm sure for moms, it's the same, as well. You just can't use the same template with each child and that's what you're saying.
Jim: That comparison game, I remember we went to the pediatrician. We had a funny pediatrician. He had more fun with us just toying with us as parents. So, one of the kids took a little longer potty training and so, Jean was conveying this to the pediatrician and saying, you know, "This one's just not potty training that fast." And he looked at her and said, "You know, Jean, I can appreciate your concern, but I don't see many 14-year-olds in here wearing diapers, you know." (Laughter) "So, he'll figure it out. (Laughter) Don't be overwhelmed by it." And it was a great statement and I think probably that's true, mostly moms who are worried 'cause they're seeing their girlfriend's kids are advancing at a different rate and that's normal that you'll have some variance in early development, right?
Gary: Yeah and then, you know, you'll hear a parent who says that they trained their child to potty … go to the potty in two or three weeks.
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right.
Gary: I wouldn't believe that—
John: And everybody's envious.
Gary: --if I were you. (Laughter)
John: And we're all takin' notes.
Gary: Maybe it did—
John: Man, I failed.
Gary: --happen for them, but it's way more like three to five months for you, so … (Laughing)
Jim: And then the one that is not potty training quickly says, "But recent research shows that they'll be better readers (Laughter) if they potty train later." (Laughter) I love that we all come up with our …
John: There's a justification.
Jim: Yeah, there really is.
Gary: Well, you know, one of the problems is that we start too early in the potty training thing, because we want to get them on the potty, you know.
Jim: Yeah, right.
Gary: So we try too early and they're not ready for it.
Gary: So you have to wait till they begin to give you some signals that they're ready for it.
John: Dr. Chapman, do you find that that phrase "start too early" characterized a lot for first-time parents? I mean, for me, that was the case. I think we wanted it, the earlier is better.
John: But it's not always the case, right?
Jim: Earlier means smarter, better.
Gary: Yeah, yeah. I think in all their development, we have to recognize that, you know, this child is developing at a normal rate and we're gonna cooperate with God in the way God made this child. And so, you know, that's the key, is to not to force your idea of what their development oughta be like. It's okay to read development books about what's supposed to happen at certain times and all of that and that's good, but just don't try to put your child into that mold, because they may not be in that mold.
Jim: Right and it's not dangerous.
Jim: That's the point. You're not losing ground. Gary, in your book, Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents, you also talked about the importance of emotional health in the lives of our children. I think we all think of those things as parents. I don't know if we exactly know what to do to help them emotionally. Physically we want them to eat right. We don't want them to eat much or any sugar, but you can be as a new parent, very intent on nutrition and stumbling or bumbling when it comes to emotional nutrition. What does it look like?
Gary: Yeah and I think this is really important that we tend to think that, you know, emotions just take care of themselves, because a lot of us are not in touch with our emotions. But we want that. Let's just start with the thing of empathy.
We want that child to learn how to hear the emotions of another person and be able to identify, whether it's a negative hurt or whether it's a joy. So, how do you do that? Well, one thing is helping the child learn how to identify their own emotions and this can start rather early.
You know, so the parent says to the child, it sounds like you're feeling disappointed because you can't go out and play because it's raining. Disappointed, that's a feeling, okay?
Gary: So, you're identifying a feeling for them.
Jim: Rather than just get in here—
Jim: --'cause I told you to.
Gary: And a little while later you'll hear the child say, "I'm disappointed." You see, they've now come to recognize that emotion and attach a name to it. So, you start early with the child with that sort of thing. And when we do, we're helping that child develop their emotions. Anger is an emotion, you know. And so, the mother says, "[It] sounds to me like you're really angry about that." Well, and then the child will later say, "I'm angry about that." So, they're identifying their emotions and they will be able to identify emotions in other people.
Jim: Can I throw a land mine into this discussion at this point? When you have the teenagers and you're seeing behavior that is unhealthy, as a parent, how much should you own of that? I mean, we go both directions. We either own it all or we say, "Ah, you know what? It's just the personality I have. I didn't have much to work with."
Gary: Yeah. (Laughter)
Jim: But I really I'm asking that question—
Jim: --because I think we undervalue those early years and how we train them in a way that …
Jim: So, if they're expressing anger as a teenager, it's possible that you overdid it when they were little.
Jim: And we've gotta own it.
Gary: Yeah, yeah, I think there's both sides of that, you know. There's the reality that much of what a teenager does, they learn from us. I remember when our son was yelling and screaming at me and it dawned on me, I was yelling and screaming at him.
Gary: And that was a big moment for me and we together had to learn how to work through the whole anger thing. Because many of us as parents have not handled our anger very well and whether it's been angry expressed with the child in a negative way or expressed to a spouse in a negative way, the child's seen that. They grew up with that and they're handling their anger the way that we handle our anger.
So, at that juncture, then we have to learn together and that's what I said to my son. "You know, Derrick, why don't we try to learn when we're angry, to sit down and listen rather than yelling at each other?" And that was the beginning of a whole new learning experience for both of us.
Jim: That is so good and maybe that's the place to pick up next time. Gary, this has been a great conversation I hope for particularly those new parents or the parent-to-be. I mean, they found out this is it, or they're planning to have a child. Maybe even your kids are 3-, 4-, 5-years-old. This is still wonderful content for you to apply. And I hope we have met our commitment to give you some thought and allow you to ponder your parenting practices or your future parenting practices and the way it should be done. That's why Focus is here. It's what we're here to do, is equip you to be the best parent you could be.
John: And if we can be of any help, our number is 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio to find Dr. Chapman's book, Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents or a CD or download of this program or other helps.
Jim: Gary, as the guru of love languages, what's yours again?
Gary: Words of affirmation.
Jim: (Laughing) Okay, John, how about you?
John: Well, the same thing actually, words of affirmation.
Jim: I don't know what I am. Okay, tonight …
John: Physical touch, Jim.
Jim: Well, you and I gotta talk about this (Laughter) and it's not physical touch (Laughter) and John keeps doing that to me. But, we'll figure it out and next time I'll tell everybody what I think I am.
Gary: All right.
Jim: Okay, let's do that.
John: And I'll just stay over here on this side of the table and invite our listeners to join us tomorrow and on behalf of Jim and the entire team here, thank you for listening and be sure to be with us tomorrow as we hear more from Dr. Gary Chapman.
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Gary ChapmanView Bio
Dr. Gary Chapman is the senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. He's also an international public speaker and the best-selling author of numerous books including The Five Love Languages which has sold more than five million copies and has been translated into nearly 40 languages. Dr. Chapman holds several academic degrees including a Ph.D. in adult education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.