It often falls on the wife and mother to discern how to best support and nurture relationships within the family.

It wasn’t until our second child was born that we realised the difference between raising her and raising our firstborn — our son with special needs. Yet no matter the roles and responsibilities a husband or wife takes, it often falls on a wife and mother to discern how to best support and nurture each relationship within the family.

Two Roles – One Person

When it comes to the dual roles of wife and mother, I (Cindi) have been stretched through daily challenges and frustrations as well as through life’s victories and joys. I have learned to perfect the dance that best fits each relationship in my family — to master the movements that make each relationship work together. Our goals as a couple and as individuals are to develop our relationships with God, then keep our marriage relationship strong so that we have what it takes to raise our children and care for them the way God would want.

Balancing My Roles as a Wife and Mother

Work, ministry and friends — while important — should not take precedence over our relationship as a couple, or over our relationships with our children. It’s tough enough balancing the demands of everyday life, but it’s a whole new ball game when one child requires hours of therapy, hospital stays and seemingly constant attention.

My Role as a Wife

As a wife, I want to be a supportive helper to my husband. Each morning, Joe and I have individual routines to help our son get ready for his job. As Joe walks out the door to take Joey to work, we share one or two things we can pray about. We connect again over coffee or a snack to share the ups and downs of our day. We may have to wait until everyone is in bed and our son’s needs are met, but this habit has kept us on the same page these 30 years when we could have easily gone in two different directions. It’s allowed us the freedom to air the day’s frustrations and listen to each other talk about work, home and the never-ending responsibilities of caring for our son.

In a culture that continues to try and redefine “submission,” I’ve found it imperative to submit — to yield and follow my husband’s lead. We submit to one another on many issues and typically reach compromises that work for both of us; but during the times I’ve gotten little rest, faced too many decisions about our son’s healthcare and struggled with too much to do, I have followed his lead because he often sees what I’m missing.

I recall a time when I considered jumping into a “helping” role with someone who would have drained me. Joe reminded me of a similar situation that took a toll on me. His loving, protective reminder was the guidance I needed. As a result, I did not add that situation to my already-full schedule. Sometimes we spin so many plates at one time that we fail to notice how life at home is falling apart. (Or we are!)

My Role as a Mother

A solid marriage is one that’s better able to support and nurture all members of the family. The pressures of caring for our son has caused me to ask myself and God if I am modelling to our daughters (and others who may be observing) an attitude of service and a heart of compassion, willingness and sacrifice. It takes effort to reflect those traits. As I learned, I began to practice the following behaviours:

  • Protecting the girls rather than overprotecting them. (They had to be treated differently than our son with special needs.)
  • Giving attention to each child before they needed it. Sharing special times doing things they enjoyed — both quality time and quantity time.
  • Providing spiritual training, cultural opportunities and creative outlets appropriate to their ages, abilities and interests.
  • Valuing each child as an individual because God made each one so wonderfully different!
  • Being proud when they put forth effort — whether or not they excel.
  • Not comparing!
  • Helping our children understand that different seasons of life have different needs. Joey didn’t understand this, but it was a valuable lesson for the rest of us! (For example, riding bikes as a family lasted only until Joey was too big for an adaptive bike trailer.)
  • Teaching them that while life isn’t always fair, God gives us what we really need and the ability to handle it. (Psalm 138:8: “God will accomplish what concerns me.”)
  • Respecting our daughters’ individual social lives while also training them to care for our son. (But never expecting it to be “their job.”) At times, this meant arranging for a caretaker or paying them. We wanted them to experience freedom and responsibility, but never the feeling that we were taking advantage of their “free” services. As we have respected their young lives, they have become helpful and compassionate women who love Joey and want to care for him someday.

© 2010 Joe and Cindi Ferrini. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Joe and Cindi Ferrini

Joe and Cindi Ferrini married in 1979 and are members of FamilyLife’s National Speaker Team. Joe has practiced general dentistry for 31 years; Cindi founded Creative Management Fundamentals and has written several publications. Together they authored "Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change Our Course." They have lived their unexpected journey in the Cleveland, OH area along with their three children.

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