I'm re-posting the following from Erin Franco over at Humble Handmaid. I thought it was a great reminder to all wives about what it means to do what we can to support our spouses and build up our marriages.
When we both need a hero at 5:00
Recently, I had a good conversation with my hubby and two dear male friends of ours about how chaotic the end of the day with our little ones can be. Our two friends are both wonderful Christian husbands and fathers, and both have multiple young children, with their oldest under six years old. All three guys are also the sole providers for their families. I was taken aback a little when all three men admitted to sometimes dreading going home. In a lighthearted-but-not-so-lighthearted way, they joked about how long they dare to just sit in the driveway some days before getting up the energy to walk in the door.
All three of these guys have Godly wives and strong marriages. All three are some of the best men I know. I have had many a conversation with my girlfriends about how hard this season of life can be, when we get so tired. God knows we women struggle with wanting our husbands to know how tiring a full day of our work can be, whether we are stay-at-home moms or work outside of the home.
I haven't thought enough, though, about how tired our husbands get, and how hard it is to come home from a full day at a stressful job to a needy evening of getting tired, hungry little children fed and bathed and put to bed.
All I've got tonight is a few little thoughts and the hope that me admitting I'm in the trenches too might make some of you feel a little less "Is it just me?!" and a little more, "Me too! So I'm not just being a selfish weenie about all of this."
There are a thousand ways that spouses can struggle with dividing up the responsibilities of home and family. And every marriage and situation and season of life is so different. To be honest with you, there are a thousand-and-one ways that Michael and I struggle with the responsibilities of home and family. Definitely one of them that we've been back and forth and up and sometimes down on is the few hours between when Michael gets home from work and when we put the kids to bed.
Truth be told, some days we both need a hero at 5:00. And when we see each other for the first time since breakfast, we're hoping the other one just knows we need a break. Hoping he'll offer to do the dishes. Hoping she'll do bath time tonight. Hoping he will cheerfully shove her out the door to go for a run (by herself).
So what are we to do when we start to get tempted into all of those easy-to-fall-into "who is more tired?" thoughts at the end? First, we must always pray unceasingly about all things, and be intentional and persevering in developing a strong interior life. Secondly, I think that there are probably some practical things we can do to be intentional about making our homes an easier place for us to live and our husbands to come home to.
Practically speaking, I want to share a few things that I have been striving to do in my particular life and situation that really have helped make evenings go more smoothly.
First of all, I try to have a set evening routine to help with the craziness of tired, hungry little ones. We eat dinner around 5 or 5:30, then we do story time (or family wrestling or a dance party:), bath time (some days), pajamas, pick up all toys, Family Prayer, then get babies into bed around 7:30ish. Anyone who knows us knows that we love to be spontaneous though, but the balance we've sought (and found, I think) is that we stick to our evening routine enough so that when we divert from it, the kids aren't totally thrown off, and they go back to it pretty easily the next day.
As far as easing Michael's transition home every day, house-wise I try as hard as I can to have the living room and play room picked up when he gets home from work. I only keep a few toys out at a time, and I try to pick up as the day goes on, so I can usually pick up everything in less than 10 minutes, which is very helpful. I make it a point to clean the kitchen and pick up the play room and living room every day during nap time. This really helps the house to not be a total disaster at night. I learned from a good friend to restrict how many "messy" toys we have out at a time. For example, if the kids are playing with the big wooden train set, they have to pick up the Legos first. If they've been playing with Mr. Potato Head, his body parts get picked up and put back into their basket before taking out the 25-piece Princess Tea Set. It's really tough to stick to making the kids pick up before taking something else out, and I'm not always on top of it, but I have been surprised to see the kids so used to it by now.
To try and help with the whiny-ness of those tough evening hours, I constantly talk Gabe and Faith through what they are going to be doing next. I give them little choices of activity within the next activity, so that they feel like they are choosing what to do instead of me. "It's time for Table Time! Would you like to read books or do puzzles today while I cook dinner?" I also often save TV time for the end of the day while I'm cooking, too. Also, sometimes I give them little jobs to do to help me while I cook.
Marriage-wise, when Michael comes in the door in the afternoon, I make it a point to always ask him, "What can I do for you right now?" Usually, he asks for a glass of ice water. (Lawn care and landscaping company owner, remember?) Sure, sometimes I really just want my husband to walk in the door with a bouquet of sunflowers, a box of chocolate-dipped fruit, a babysitter, and two tickets to that evening's performance of Wicked downtown. (I have gotten some lovely flowers and little surprises from time to time from him, though.)
The fact is that I just try to be the hero even when I wish he would be one. Because that's how we're supposed to live, as Christian spouses. We have to throw those, "My day was probably harder than your day" thoughts out with the trash. We have to accept the peace that God wants to give us when we give without holding back. We have to choose the live the hope that God is using our giving to His good purpose, and that He is working in our soul and the soul of our spouse to have a good and happy marriage.
When I really, really need a hero, though, I do let Michael know.:)
Being a hero does feel nice sometimes, you know. It's hardly all about being stoic or tough or long-suffering. Because sometimes your husband does come home and that new Pinterest recipe you tried out for dinner is delicious and after dinner you have a hilarious family dance party to old 90's high school dance music and the kids go down easily and you get to watch a couple of episodes of Once together before bed. Every day isn't horrible.
Another thought, too: when you're the hero for your husband in small ways at home, you touch and soften his heart so that he is more primed to be a hero for you. At least I've seen that in my own marriage. Our husbands listen more than we think they do, and every once in a while they surprise us with their thoughtfulness and awareness of our struggles when we least expect it. I will never forget one day when Michael stopped in unexpectedly for lunch and found me in tears over an altercation I'd just had with Gabriel. He came home at dinnertime that day with flowers and a card telling me what a great mom he thought I was.
One last thought. I've started offering up difficult moments for all of the young families I know--including my blog readers and their families. When I'm at mass with the kids or breaking up the 64th Dramatic Toddler Fight of the day, I pray that God would help me remember to stay calm and offer up that tough moment.
You know what offering it up means? It's a fancy term for saying in your head, in a heartfelt prayer that is as short as a breath: "My God, I give you this feeling of wishing so badly I were anywhere but here right now. I choose to stay calm, to do the right and loving thing in this moment, and to keep on going. I trust in You."
God bless each of you abundantly! May he sustain you, guide you, make your marriages strong, and fill you with hope and peace!