As for chores, I don’t think that mowing the lawn and doing the dishes carry the same weight. My husband mows the lawn about once a week and I do dishes for a few hours each day. He pays bills twice a month, but I do laundry always. But then I think about how he works full-time, is in Grad school and studies every night. And while I read what I want and make my own schedule, he rarely gets to choose how to spend his time. We learned in our pre-marital counseling sessions with Between Two Trees, that in marriage you can’t keep score. Well, you can try but it won’t work.
“I spent 6 hours with grouchy kids today so you must take them for 8 hours tomorrow.” “I went to the movies with my girlfriends last night so you’ve earned your night out this week.” Besides being elementary and exhausting, no one wins when you keep score. Marriage (or any good relationship) should not have a transactional “I’ll give as long as you give the same” attitude. Give and take, ebb and flow- these are the rhythms of relationships.
Selfishness comes alarmingly natural to me, so I’ve got to practice serving my husband so it can become my default. I’ve heard the challenge to try and “out-give” each other, which is cute and helps us practice, but this is not a competition. Most parents feel like they are giving more than they have and yet a gap remains. There’s too much need and not enough resources, I get it. But we want better so we have hard conversations and create some systems. You cook dinner and I’ll clean it up. You let me sleep in on Saturday and on Monday it’s your turn. And it helps. Systems keep the balance in our lives when we fall out of sync.
But even good systems will eventually fail if keeping score is at the heart of it. Doing the hard jobs when you don’t feel like it takes more than a system. It takes an attitude of love. Paying close attention and learning the other, choosing your need over my need and our needs over my need. Asking for forgiveness and trying again. When this is our attitude, we both win. We are on the same team after all.
Motherhood is a hard and selfless job and the list of things I contribute on a daily basis could give me lots of points. Most people recognize the priceless gift of moms and make a big deal out of anything that celebrates us. Good job world. I think we could do better at celebrating fatherhood though. Maybe it’s because a dad’s contribution to the family can be harder to tally up, but he needs to know you see it. It might only take an hour twice a month to pay bills, but the weight of our financial situation feels heavier on his shoulders than it does on mine.
He eats the burnt piece, climbs the sketchy ladder to paint the high corners and carries the kids on his shoulders much longer than I would. He deals with the dead birds in our yard and he’s the one that talks to our neighbor when his parties are too loud. He needs to know I see it.
He is humble, wise, tender and strong-all at the same time. He is already beginning to impart manhood to our son. He cares for my emotional needs with patience. He leaves our home each morning knowing that he’s going to miss out on whatever adventures the kids and I have that day. He needs to know I see it.
It takes daily vigilance to keep his eyes and heart pure while being bombarded with perversion. As a pastor, he cares for the needs of countless others while still holding his best for us. He finds balance between work, school and home when they all demand to divide his attention. He bears the weight of protecting us, providing for us and loving us like Christ loved the church- willing to give his life. And I see it.
I’m pretty sure he’s winning.
But oh ya, we’re on the same team. WE are winning.