A few weeks ago, I had to go out of state for a business trip. I was absolutely swamped with work and had already put in well over a full workweek. And mere hours after I was scheduled to come home, I was scheduled for a 12-hour weekend shift at my second job as a labor and delivery nurse.
Just thinking about everything that I had to do made me absolutely exhausted.
So what did I do?
Instead of plowing through or asking for help like a normal, sane human being, I did what a lot of foolish women like myself do–
I snapped at my poor, unsuspecting husband.
Even though he had almost four days ahead of him wrangling our three children almost entirely alone, after his own full workweek, I was entirely focused on myself.
“Great, just great,“ I said with a giant martyr-like sigh as I stuffed my suitcase full of wrinkled, most-likely too small dresses. “You have no idea what it’s like. Not only do I have to do all this work, but when I come home, I will have an entire house and 500 loads of laundry to catch up. I literally get no break! Hey, by the way, did you check the oil in my car?”
When I came home a few days later, totally exhausted, I flopped into the house, fully expecting mass chaos, crusty toilets, and kids awake and screaming.
And instead, found a gleaming house, angelically sleeping children, and a husband who was silently folding what appeared to be the last lingering load of laundry.
Cue remorseful feelings of shame here.
Ladies, I admit it: sometimes I am a horribly self-centered wife.
I am so focused on everything that I have to do around the house, working from home with our young kids, managing their schedules and doctor’s appointments and being the one in charge of the grocery list and bill-paying that I often take for granted everything that my husband does.
I honestly feel like there’s a lot of talk for women about having it all and doing it all and urgings for us to take time for what matters to us, that sometimes, there is one crucial piece of the puzzle that gets forgotten–
The man behind the woman who has it all.
Nothing in my life–and I mean nothing–would be possible without my husband. Not our beautiful children, not the writing career that I love, maybe not even the nursing degree that has allowed us to purchase our first home or buy a car big enough for three car seats.
He gets up every day and goes to work, comforts a screaming child in the middle of the night, takes out the garbage dutifully every Friday morning, rain or shine.
And a lot of times?
I really don’t give him enough credit for that.
I get so focused on what I have to do and how much is on my plate that I take his contributions for granted. Well, of course he will be the one that always drives and the one to kill the ginormous spider with fangs lurking in the corner. Of course he will give me time to exercise if I ask him or take the kids to the babysitter’s if I need a day off–I deserve it, right? I’m the woman struggling to balance it all.
But in all honesty, I don’t deserve it.
It has taken me a long time to see that the only way that a marriage can work is for both partners to recognize the contributions that the other makes–and in my case, this has meant learning to get off my high and mighty martyr horse and offering my husband a simple, “thank you” for the work that he does for me and our family.
I don’t deserve more just because I’m the woman, or the mom, or the wife.
We are equal partners. And if I’m going away on a business trip and start to feel stressed that the laundry won’t get done while I’m gone, will it really help if I start complaining and sighing and nagging him the moment I walk in the door?
What will help our marriage, however, is I can reframe my thinking and realize, ok, hey, he is working just as hard as I am.
Instead of focusing on everything he isn’t doing, why can’t I realize all the things that he does do?
And that has been a game-changer for me.
Nagging, complaining, or playing the martyr trump card doesn’t get me anywhere in my marriage.
But saying “thank you”?
Can go a lot further than you realize.
Image via J & J Brusie Photography