It’s happened so many times. My wife tells me of trying to encourage some frazzled mother she met who is overwhelmed by parenting, home school, and every thing else. The story is usually the same as she tells me they were sweet and sincere and just a fine lady. The final piece of this recurring story is the guilt this young mother feels.
Why all the guilt? Everyone convinces them they should be. They must be Martha Stewart in the home (minus the prison time), Susanna Wesley with the children, Charlotte Mason in schooling, and laywoman of the year at church. To make it worse, some women project themselves as having it together at this level. That is, of course, some of the best fraud around today, but for some of our wives it is a burden too heavy to bear. They try and try and lose their joy.
The other problem is that we husbands fell for it first. I am ashamed to tell you for how long I really thought that my wife’s task was really easy. I conveniently overlooked just how impatient I could be on days I kept the children and only did the lightest of chores. The old logic that we men just aren’t wired for it like women (though on some level we aren’t), made me ignore the obvious. This is work of the heavy lifting variety.
What made me change my mind? Or see the light, as it were? It is really a combination of two things.
The first was when my Alicia because paralyzed 4 years ago. We soon had a newborn to go with five others. She was stuck in a hospital bed for several weeks in our living room. So it fell on me. How did I fare? I’m laughing as I type! I failed in every way. I didn’t even have to take care of the baby much as Alicia just held him in her bed. My oldest daughter Briley helped cook some. I couldn’t keep up with anything. Once I was talking about how hard it was and Alicia asked what exactly I had done. It wasn’t much, but just thinking about it completely exhausted me. I think I kept the dishes washed, but little more. Home school? I can’t even remember!
As these years roll by I have some of the chores to do still as we divided the work in a way that made sense with her disability. The washer and dryer are downstairs so I wash and dry and carry back up unfolded, still do a good bit of the dishwashing but usually forget to wipe the stove, and I help some in meal preparation but I technically can’t cook. I pick up and sweep some and am fully responsible for mopping (only because that is a big nuisance in a wheelchair). So I do more than most men but far less than most mothers.
How am I doing with that? We still run out of clean clothes to wear, sometimes we can’t find a clean spoon, and don’t even ask me how far behind I get on mopping. I have only a portion of the work and I fail so often at it. Since my office is at home, and on occasion Alicia’s paralysis might require a little extra rest, I know what it is like for the children to bombard me with petty issues and break my concentration and get me fully frustrated.
So what was the other thing that taught me to see things differently. It was my Alicia. She told me some time ago she couldn’t be superwomen, and sometimes she gets behind on her part of the chores too. But she taught me something special. Priorities. My six children at any time of the day can come with something troubling them and their mother will drop everything (not just chores but activities she likes as well) and comfort them. She told me their little hearts were her focus.
She is right. I have seen it pay dividends in our children. Will I really care if my home can’t pass a white-glove inspection if my children someday look back with the greatest fondness for our home? Will we sit around in our old age and care if home school got behind here and there?
It is so easy in life to live for the lesser instead of the greater. We worry about these things and lose the joy we could have. Why is it that when you talk to older ladies they always speak of their child-raising years as their very favorite?
Men, our wives are doing heroic work–hard work. Let’s not make the load heavier by unreasonable demands. If they are pouring love into our children and teaching them of our Lord, they are wildly succeeding. Let’s let them know and sincerely tip our hats to them this Mother’s Day. In any event, I am glad to say it to the wonderful mother of my young children!