There are two ways to really get to know someone: marry them and then have children with them. In some ways, it brings out the truest colors you will ever see of your other half.
Having a baby will either strengthen or destroy your marriage, or so my father says. I think he is right. One of the common times for divorce is not only when you first have kids, but also, when they leave and the nest is empty. The stress of children coming into your life impacts your marriage and totally redefines both your lives and, for many, that redefinition becomes about you and the kids and less about each other which leaves two strangers in the house together when the kids hit the road.
As a new mom, I naturally end up talking to other moms and I think the issue with most new families is the same thing from one couple to the next and it’s a BIG issue. It seems that the song everyone is singing is a two-part harmony. The lassie is singing that “he never helps me or doesn’t help enough” while the lad is singing “I work all day, I’m tired”. I think this has been a hit song since about 1400.
Luckily for me, I find myself on the good side of this story. My husband is wonderful at helping me out, although we both have our moments of pointing the finger at the other when we are tired. Sometimes this isn’t with words but certain glances or sighs when the baby cries and we both feel like it’s the “others” turn. You know what I mean. If you have kids, I’m positive you do.
BUT even though he’s great, I am still human and I have definitely felt like most women when I have those days that I feel like I do it mostly on my own.
I don’t work outside the home so I can’t speak for working moms but this is how a lot of stay-at-homers feel….
Our job is 24/7 and even when we leave ‘the office’ our office comes with us. Most of the time, getting out of the office is more stressful because it requires packing up the entire building and if the building gets out-of-order in the middle of a trip to the grocery, well….it can get ugly. Price check on anxiety pills aisle 3.
Lance and I recently had a real fast exchange of words about feeling like we never get breaks. He said to me that his job is stressful and non-stop. I totally agree and really, really, really appreciate that he works so hard so that I can stay at home with our daughter. But since we were one upping each other, that was beside the point… =0)
I said, “The day you carry your boss around with you all day on your hip and he cries and demands everything from you that very instance, then we will talk.” Also he needs to poop his pants and play with baby musical toys all day long to add to that list. Think you are going crazy at work? Add add the ABC’s over top of your most stressful moment. Ah, what a sweet melody.
It sounded like it was a serious argument but really it was lighthearted. I hate even typing stuff like that because it makes parenting and Eden herself seem like a burden but we love her and I want to spend all my time with her sometimes even if I feel like I need a break and that’s true for us both. Even in the moments when neither of us feels like going to get her when she cries, when she enters the room and starts smiling, all of the frustration sort of drifts away. At least until she fusses again…. ;0)
Still, I don’t care how much you love each other or how much you love your baby, at some point or at many points, the old familiar tune of who works harder or who is more tired starts to play.
Let me tell you what Lance and I have learned in this 8 1/2 months.
He works like a dog and he’s tired.
I work like a dog and I’m tired.
When that argument or thought comes up, here’s the universal deal: YOU ARE BOTH EXHAUSTED! And exhausted is exhausted no matter which way you cut it and since you can both relate, that is why you have to do it as a team. Parenting isn’t a one-man game and I pity the people who find themselves married but doing it all alone. If you can both do it together then you can both share the load rather than one person going way over their limit and then becoming useless in both areas of parenting and in being a spouse.
A spouse who is forced to carry the load alone is someone who is secretly heaping fault after fault of their spouse on top of each other building one serious case of bitterness towards their partner. This can and does destroy a marriage.
They argument should never be who works harder. The whole premise of that argument is selfish because it’s saying, my time and need for a break outweighs yours. If you are being a selfless spouse, when you and your partner find yourselves pooped on the couch together that’s where you should find yourself working together too out of love for your family and each other.
If you cook, he cleans.
You do the dishes while he folds a load.
He bathes the baby and you feed her dinner.
I heard my sister-in-law say that if my brother gives her a break with time out of the house on her own, when she gets home, it’s still team work and not one person taking on all the responsibility to make-up for having personal free-time. If you do the whole ‘It’s all you now’ attitude then you will start to dread your break because you know you will have to pay by working overtime when you get home. Team work works all times, in all situations. I think this attitude and way of helping your spouse and your family actually creates within you to want to out help your partner.
This is just how it works, folks. It’s a practical way to love not just your spouse but your whole family. You are teaching a silent but loud message to your kids this way too. Living your life this way in your family breeds feelings of love from the wife and brews respect up for her husband. At the end of the day, your partner’s needs are met and your kid’s needs simultaneously. It kills a lot of arguments to just support each other and be the active player in your family’s life like you should be, anyways.
Dads: You don’t want to check out when you get home because your job has been so tiring because only having the interest in spending time with your kids on the weekends means you only get to spend real-time with them 144 days a year out of the full 365. Your time is short anyways and most dads have, at best, 3 or 4 hours with their children when they get home. Your bonding time with them as children is reading the books, bathing them, feeding them, etc. That is how you bond. Hopefully you miss your kids during the day and see it as a joy to get the privilege of coming home to them. When they are older they won’t care how tired you were. They will just know you weren’t involved. They grow-up one missed day at a time.
Furthermore, love your wife by caring for her and making her job feel important. Love your wife so your kids will know how to love their spouses and be able to see how a man should love a woman when they make their choice in a partner one day. When you miss out on your kids because you’ve had a long day. Someone has to take care of them so your wife will end up doing it solo. Then, you miss out on them both. Be what you are: a family.
Moms: Trust your husband to care for your kids when he wants to and don’t criticize his efforts. Even if he leaves poop on the baby changer and the wipes open. I’m being such a hypocrite right now but I know I’m wrong for doing that to him.
Staying at home is hard and it’s easy to think you are spending a lot of time with your child because you are physically present but that isn’t always the case.
It’s easy to give your child things to entertain them rather than being engaged with them. You can be living for your child’s next nap or your next break and doing everything you can to make your day easier and in the midst of that, not be intentional in investing in your child.
You too can be so tired that you are checking out so it’s not specifically a man’s problem.
Both men and women can be MIA due to exhaustion. Basically, you have to both be intentional in loving each other, loving your children, and working together. As contrary to popular culture as it may be, love only occasionally comes easy. The rest is work.
So, who does really work harder, men or women?
If you are asking that question, you’ve already decided that it’s you that wins this argument. I challenge you to not ask who works harder but value that you both do and get to workin’!