I have always been a stay at home mom. I love being a stay at home mom. This is exactly where I want to be. My husband never demanded that I stay at home; he would have supported me in working, had I chosen to do so, though his preference would have been for me to stay at home. But I chose to be here.
On the whole, I am very conscious of the benefits of that choice. I have a close relationship with my daughters, especially since we also chose to homeschool. I have more flexibility with my time. While I do feel frazzled, I don’t think I feel as frazzled as much as I would otherwise.
But nevertheless, there is one part of this arrangement that has always irked me. It’s such a minor thing, but let me see if you all agree. Ever since the girls were babies, and I was nursing, I have never made a single decision when asked if I could go out or do something without first thinking, “who will look after the kids?”, or, as they have grown older, “what are the kids planning for that time? Do they need to be driven somewhere?“. Sometimes I have decided to go anyway, and have arranged for someone else to drive them or to look after them. Other times I have asked my husband. But my kids have always been my first thought.
My husband, on the other hand, rarely considers them when he makes decisions about meetings, work, etc., because he knows I will always be there. It is not that my husband doesn’t spend time with my kids; on the contrary, up until two years ago he actually took them 1-2 days a week. It is just that on the whole, he assumes that I am with them, so they don’t factor into the equation when he has to decide on church meetings, or work meetings, or anything else.
If he’s doing something for leisure, of course, he always checks with me, but if it’s work or church, he goes right ahead.
Now my husband works hard. He works harder than I do, and I have it really good. But sometimes I just find myself a tad bitter that I am the default caregiver. If I need to work, I need to make arrangements. If he needs to work, he doesn’t.
It’s not really that big a deal, and like I said, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. My husband bought me flowers this week just to show how much he loves me, and he really does adore me. He takes amazing care of this family.
But yesterday morning, when he wasn’t at work, but we both had tons of errands to do, I asked him to drive the kids to piano on his way downtown. He bristled, because he was so busy. He assumed I would do it.
This is a very minor thing, but all day it ate at me. It wasn’t even that I wanted him to drive them particularly; it was just that I was getting a little bit sick of it being assumed that they were always mine to figure out, especially since this year I have taken on 100% of the homeschooling (when he used to do some).
So, dear readers, that’s a very typical scenario in marriage. You’re angry at your husband about something that is not huge. It is not life-threatening. It is not a make it or break it issue. But nevertheless, you are angry. What do you do?
Here, I would like to give you a blueprint for how to handle these little things in marriage. The blueprint works for bigger things, too, but I often find it’s these little things that we allow to fester.
1. Admit to yourself that you are upset. Don’t hide it. It only pops up later.
2. Have it out with God. Don’t just lambaste into your hubby, and don’t nurture it in your mind. Have it out with God, and confess that you’re angry and ask Him to take any bitterness away. Confess any sin that you’ve been harbouring in your heart. Make things right with God before you try to fix it with your husband. Ask God to show you how to deal with it.
3. Think of things from his point of view. Did you do anything that he might also find difficult? (In this situation, I certainly did. I did not react well when he told me he didn’t want to drive them).
4. Plan a good time to talk to your husband about it. I’m one of those who has to deal with issues straight away, so much so that I’m often tempted to call him at work. In general, this isn’t a good idea because at work, men are often focused on work. Figure out a time when you both can be more relaxed and you can really hash this out. Right when he gets home from work usually isn’t a good time, either. Let him relax a bit.
5. When you talk to him, stick to the facts on this particular issue, and don’t bring in other issues. Don’t make it larger than it is.
6. Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. It sounds corny, but it matters, and it gives a whole new dynamic to your discussions. Look at the difference between this:
“I feel put-upon when it’s assumed that I’m the one to take care of the girls’ schedule, no matter what both of us are doing.”
“You always assume that I’m the one who is going to drop everything and rearrange everything for the girls. You never have to plan your schedule around them.”
A big difference, isn’t there? In one, I am owning the problem. I am saying “I have a problem, can we talk about it?” In another, I am expressly giving blame. I am saying, “You are the problem”. One is much easier to talk about. The second just makes him feel defensive.
7. Voice where you have made mistakes in this issue, or where he has been positive. Don’t use words like “you never” or “you always”, because then the focus becomes on whether there’s an exception, and you start fighting about how a year ago last Tuesday he didn’t actually do that. Acknowledge up front where he has done something you appreciated in this area. Make room for some grey.
8. Work towards a solution you both think is fair. Work to the win/win, not the win/lose. Remember in marriage, if only one of you wins, you both really lose.
9. Make up and hug and pray together.
I think if we treated every problem this way, we’d have far fewer issues between us in marriage. Deal with things when they happen in an appropriate way because you’re working towards building up the marriage, not building up walls.
Did I handle things this well? No, not exactly. I got a little too emotional when I was talking about it, and sometimes, when I don’t feel like Keith understands me, I shut down. But we talked it through, got over my bitterness, and came to an extremely workable solution that is fair to both of us. I’m still going to end up doing about 99% of the stuff with the kids (which I don’t mind), but he’s going to check in to see if I need him to do anything before he plans his off-days. Chances are I’ll say no. But it’s the fact that he’s checking in with me that matters.
So all’s good. And if you’re a little ticked at your husband about something right now, I’d suggest you deal with it, too!