Parenting is hard, but marriage, for us, somehow just came naturally. So I wrote him a poem.Read More
I could see her in my mind as I read her email:
"I'm typing this with one hand and one thumb, wondering if you could help me - I'm struggling as a mom and wife. To give a little context... Right this minute I'm holding in my arms my sweet 16 month boy. He's my only child. This is not how I'd prefer to do his daily 2 hour nap time, but here I am. I'm kind of struggling with parenting. This 2 hour naptime is one of many reasons I find myself desperately craving a break. I don't have family that supports us as we fumble through parenthood. We feel rather alone. But what's become hardest for me right now is the inequality of free time (personal time, me time) that my husband and I each get. He is able to take off for a whole day to do things like bike ride thru the countryside or go on a day long relay run with friends and out for dinner. While all that I can get is an hour or two to go to the store alone or clean house because I'm so very behind on taking care of things. I feel like God would probably want me to just let this issue of inequality of free time go - aren't we called as mothers to sacrifice more than our husbands? He has a job he loves and coworkers he enjoys. I guess I don't see how he could have a greater need for more free time than I do. Can you help me? How do I ask my husband for help?
This woman could have been me six years ago - only my 16 month old baby had two preschool aged brothers running around in their Thomas the Train underwear, dripping popsicles on the carpet and leaving facets running in every bathroom in the house. All the while I tried to get the baby back to sleep.
By the end of the day, with dinner finally on the stove, my husband walked in with a broad smile and a fresh haircut. All three boys yelled "daddy," then ran to him with enthusiasm, but all I saw was the haircut. He'd said he would be home early that afternoon, but obviously early meant he now had the time to stop for a haircut. I hadn't had a haircut in 16 months. I was out of moisturizing cream. I haven't been to the dentist in two years. But he stopped for a haircut.
All the scripture I'd hidden in my heart came rising up and rang in my ears, "Greater love hath no (woman) than this, that (she) lay down their life for (her family.)" It was my own translation of God's Word, as I resolved to serve selflessly at home. So I smiled back at my guy, pulled my tangled hair back in a bun, and pushed my needs down further still.
Except eventually, without fail, I'd break down crying - and it would ultimately all bubble up and out with hot tears in just the wrong way, at just the wrong time. And he'd feel attacked.
This was our cycle for many years. He worked hard all day and tried his best to be present when he got home. I worked hard at home, trying to not resent him for the casual way he still seemed to get all his needs met. As I did dishes and bathed kids and folded laundry, he'd tell me about which friend he was able to meet up with for lunch that day, or I'd find a movie ticket in his pants pocket as I started the eleventh load of wash.
We didn't learn to communicate well in those early parenting years. And it never felt like I could share my struggle with other women because their advice never settled right in my spirit.
"You need to tell him what you need! You should have more help. He needs to do this... You tell him that you want him to..."
So I retreated further into what I imagined Christian submission looked like, all the while pushing through resentment, muscling my way through bitterness, until the next time it all bubbled up and out again.
And then one Sunday, sitting on the patio at church while the children enjoyed a second hour of Sunday school, we decided to ditch our adult fellowship class and simply sit and talk. And I mean, we really talked. I wasn't crying and he didn't feel attacked. Truth be told, it sort of felt like a miracle, even the memory makes me tear up.
That Sunday was the beginning of something extraordinary. And every Sunday thereafter, for the next few months, we sat together on the patio hearing and healing.
Here are four practical things I learned as we sat together on the patio at church week after week:
1) GOD CARES ABOUT MY NEEDS - While God designed moms to sacrifice and "lay down their lives" for this intense season at home, He never intended for us to actually DIE! He is absolutely enamoured with moms. He loves us to the moon and back. We are the apple of His eye.
We are as much His children as our children are His children, and His love for us has no end. He came that we might have life, abundant and free. But He knows full well that mothering is hard, and wants us to have His help in the weary years with our young.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)
There is nothing harsh nor demanding about God's love for mothers. He wants to gently lead us through our days and our trials. Sitting on the porch, my guy with a coffee and me with a sweet cup of chamomile tea, I began to learn this.
2) BELIEVE THAT YOUR HUSBAND WANTS TO HELP YOU - Early on in our marriage we coined the phrase "EXPECT THE BEST." I'll be honest with you - we both forgot a time or two in the busy years with babies, but we've always come back to this basic creed. EXPECT THE BEST.
Can I tell you something about your husband and mine? They never set out to take advantage of us. Your man didn't marry you with this hidden agenda of using you like a maid and a cook, a wet-nurse and a sex-toy. He took those vows seriously, and he still does. It's possible he simply doesn't know what to do right now. But he wants to. You know he'd take a bullet for you right? That's not elusive. But you and your needs... somehow that can be.
His vow was to love and support you, cherish and hold you, in good times and bad, during those precious honeymoon years, and these pressing ones with little people waking us multiple times through the night for months on end. He's tired. You're tired. But commit to believing that he has good intentions where you and the kids are concerned - even if you can't see them today, believe they are there.
3) CREATE A WEEKLY SAFE ZONE - Finding a safe block of time each week to address your challenges can be life altering! Knowing that I had that Sunday hour coming up gave me hope daily, because I knew that he would listen with ears purposed to hear my heart. I didn't explode because "Sunday was coming." That gave me great comfort.
Now I know that many of you don't have the finances or family nearby to make a date night feasible, but figuring out some way to create this time together each week is crucial. Maybe it's a Thursday night date night on the couch, or on the back porch under the stars. Something, anything, as long we it's safe and consistent time together.
4) ASK HIM FOR HELP - Sure, you knew this was coming, but there's a twist in my advice. Don't outright tell him how you want him to help you (Unless he's the kind of man who asks you to tell him exactly what you need.) Instead, try to remember that at the core of most men is a heart that wants to rescue and serve. Share with him what needs you have that are going unmet, then ask him to work with you to make a schedule that will allow you to get those core needs met. Engage him by asking for his opinion, not just his help.
I said something in this price-range:
"Sweetheart, my only time alone these days is when I run to the grocery store, and I always feel anxious when I'm gone, like I need to hurry back and start making dinner. I know that you don't want me to feel stressed, but I do. I cold really use your help to come up with a consistent schedule that wouldn't just give me more time for errands, but would allow me to fit more of the things I need and enjoy (without baby) back into our lives again. Work outs, friendship, my interests. I feel like I'm losing myself right now, and I need you to rescue me. Would you help me?
What do you say we look at your weekly calendar and figure out two times a week for me to get out to get things done. And maybe one Saturday a month when I can go to the hair salon or shopping with friends or just take a walk on the beach or whatever. Maybe I should choose a weekday every few months so I can get to the dentist and the doctor and that stuff. Do you think I should hire a babysitter for those days since you have work? What do you think? Do you have any other ideas?
As the weeks go by, my guess is that your husband will see how basic yet crucial your needs really are - and as your joy begins to wax and your resentment begins to wane he will likely suggest more ways to communicate his love to you. "You know, we really do need to have some date nights that aren't at home. Would you set up a babysitter so I can take you out."
It might not go as smoothly as I'm painting the picture here, but it's a start - a good, safe, healthy place to begin. So take a deep breath and remember that you are loved by God, that He never intended you to actually lay down your life to the point of death during these mothering years. Remember also that you are loved by your husband too, and that communication is possible. So find a safe time and place, ask him for his help, and expect the best.
With much love and respect for all you do,
My husband isn't.... My husband doesn't... My husband never...
(dot dot dot) You fill in the blanks.
You fill in the blanks each day, painfully aware of all he isn't doing, all that's not been said,
The tasks that fill your waking life, until it's time again for bed.
And there he is wanting to be close, waiting to touch you in the dark,
but you've exchanged the foreplay of life, for a grumbling question mark.
How does it happen? How does it go?
This journey from love to drudgery so?
From all that he is to all that he's not!
From the joy of our vows, to a martyr's long lot.
When did our men journey from their gifts to what's lacking,
In their character and marrow, their doing, their asking?
We once celebrated their bodies, dreams, and laughter!
But praises have faded, complaints reign in the rafters.
What happened as we grew their babies and birthed them -
staying home in the trenches of life, to raise them?
Was the cost of life's war, the death of a marriage?
But life's not war, and he's not the enemy I disparage.
We need a resurrection miracle to bring life from this wreckage!
Or maybe, just maybe, we need a little honey mixed into homemade granola.
I'd done the shopping and planned meals that would bless, only to get the call that he wouldn't be flying home tonight. Fists went to my hips with a sigh, as I looked out over my counter-space, mounded high with oats, separated egg whites, vanilla, nuts, and dried fruit. All set to make My Honey his favorite breakfast for the next morning - a culinary welcome home after long days away, but now he won’t be here.
I decide to make it anyway. Not for him, today I need to make it for me; not for my belly, but to soothe my resentful heart. And as the wooden spoon moves around the bowl, grace finds her rhythm again. Round and round, pouring in then pouring out, letting all my plans and expectations fall and change.
Stirring in the honey, I realize that I like his wife better when she continues to love and serve, rather than grow bitter, weighed down by unmet expectations. I like My Honey’s Honey when she is sweet. But how do we keep our hearts tender and sweet, and words dripping with kindness?
Eat Honey Each Day!
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24) How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103) Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 24:13-14)
I drizzled those verses into today's post for you... and for me. Because I'd forgotten in the busyness of my husband's travel, forgotten the blessing of his new job. In the last minute itinerary change, forgotten our vows, "for better or worse, arriving tonight or tomorrow, till death do us part."
It took a spoon, finding it's way around the largest bowl I own, to hanker again for the taste of real, satisfying honey. Honey to sooth the conviction: I haven't let God's sweet words heal my weary bones during the stress of our transition, amidst travels and travails.
The dot dot dot becomes suddenly clear.
Our judgement says more about us than it does them.
Quick to fill in the blanks when we ourselves are running on empty.
I haven't... I never... I always... I want... I'm empty...
I pour the oats into the pan, patting them down, then slide them into the 400 degree oven. As it bakes, the scent of cinnamon filling our home, I pick up God's Word. And I read...
Because God’s Word is pleasant and sweet to my soul; And sweet sticky Wisdom doth make me whole. I sweeten with it, and am sweetened by God’s courage to persevere when I’m dry.
Another Grace-drenched mother of boys shared her father’s granola recipe with me (and the rest of the world) here. Ruth at Gracelaced, gave us “Baba’s Awesome Granola recipe”. From the first hot crumbles straight from the oven, I knew this recipe would become my daily love offering to him.
Sometimes the offering is harder to give than other times.
There he is, home again, weeding my garden as an offering to me.
Honeysuckle vines, honey kind lips, honey baked granola,
and My Honey comes to the table to receive my offering back...
Smothered in vanilla yogurt with fresh berries.
Summer is the Season of Yes.
"Yes, you may swim... Yes, I'll play a board game with you... The beach again? Why, of course...
I've already championed our need to Slow Down and Say Yes to our Kids This Summer! Saying Yes to their summertime fun is actually saying Yes to our relationships with them. Meeting them in the sunshine and rubbing bronzed shoulders, because we only have a limited number of summers left to collect these Coppertone scented memories.
But today my husband is top of mind, because when the children are grown and gone, and all we have left are memories of summers past, our relationship with their father remains constant and tangible. Wake up, role over, and there he is. Again. And so this summer I am purposing to set aside a hefty quota of Yes' for him too.
So why is it so hard to say yes to my husband?
And why is it so hard to say yes to your husband?
Why do my Yes' come so slowly when he asks...
"Want to stop by Home Depot on our way home from church?" um...
"Can you finish that later? Come watch this movie with me." well...
"You want to get a babysitter so I can take you out on the motorcycle. ... not really.
"Why don't you grab your computer and sit outside with me while I work on the sprinklers." uh...
When I think about My Honey reaching out to be in relationship with me, I want to say Yes. But in these busy days of saying Yes to three little boys, my husband's requests for my attention often get my last fruits. Ladies, here's what may happen: Say No often enough in these early days of summer... and by Labor Day he will have stopped asking.
But today, with summer still young,
there are plenty of long days & warm nights before us.
Here are 3 Things To Say Yes To When Your Husband Asks...
1) Say Yes in His Language -
Si... Oui... Ja... Jes... Da... Hai... Shi... Oo... Gee... Sim... Ken... Sea... Baleh... Na'am... A-yo... Haan... Ho...
No, I don't mean Spanish, French, German, Russian, or Mandarin. I'm talking His LOVE language. Ask yourself what is most important to him, and say Yes to that. If it's your words and full attention he most craves, put your phone down and listen. If it's touch, slide up close. If his love language is acts of service, plan his favorite meal, clean out the front closet he grumbles through when looking for his boots, or simply bring him a fresh cup of iced tea when he's doing something around the house. And if his love language is time together, then BE WITH HIM. I'm preaching to the choir here, and am purposing YES' for the summer days ahead.
(Cause and Effect - Saying Yes to Him will fill His tank and cause Him to say Yes to you and the children too.)
2) Saying Yes to Sex -
I touched on this above already, for the men whose primary love language is touch. However, saying Yes to sexual intimacy is crucial for both husband and wife. Unfortunately we get tired. Not only do we get physically tired at night, we've grown emotionally weary when our own love tanks are on empty. Many of us need to be touched, listened to, or just plain acknowledged before we feel available to physically have sex. But let me challenge you to initiate before He's met your needs. Say Yes before he even asks, and Yes before you want to. That's right, say Yes by initiating, you beautiful, exhausted Woman!
Yes is always a gift... sometimes more than others.
(Cause and Effect - Saying Yes to sex (before he says Yes to however you receive love and intimacy) has great power to generate a healthy cycle.)
3) Say Yes to Laughter
...she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25
We don't mean to be quarrelsome and fretful women, we just get tired. But there's no better season than summertime to pull back, sit down, and laugh. When we serenade our husband's with laughter, we bring us both back to love with the soundtrack of our early years. And summer is the easiest time to practice this musical Yes, when we sit and play with family and friends during lengthy days. Join him there, letting dishes stack up in the sink. Move that pile of fresh linens to the side and join your husband on the couch, with legs and arms entwined. Throw you head back and laugh.
Laughter is a wife's musical Yes. Serenade him.
(Cause and Effect - Laughter makes you beautiful. Beautiful to him and beautiful to you too!)
Say Yes to Your Husband, Dear Ladies. And I'll Say Yes to Mine.