I recently watched a couple of re-runs of “John and Kate Plus Eight” for the first time. Yes, I know, I am way behind. I know this show has been around for years, but with all the hype I thought I would check out a few episodes and see what all the fuss was about. (By the way, this blog post is not a commentary on the current controversy surrounding them.) What struck me was the condescending and “mothery” way that she talked to her husband in both episodes I watched. This is no judgement of her, because quite frankly, I can’t imagine how snappy and irritable I would be after chasing eight kids around everyday. But it did make me wonder how often I get into my “mommy-mode” and talk to my own husband like he is a child. I think we are all guilty of it from time to time. We get so used to telling little people what to do all day, that we become “Queen of the Household” and demand (either in word or in attitude) that everything within the home and regarding childcare be done EXACTLY as “The Queen” wants it. Then we treat our husbands like they are fools if they dare do something in a way that we deem as “wrong.”
Let me give some examples that may look familiar to you. Wife changes the kids clothes after he dresses them because their clothes don’t match. Moms sighs loudly and/or rolls her eyes when he tries to feed the baby because he isn’t doing it right. Husband does the laundry and wife complains that he mixed the colors or got fuzz from the towels all over her favorite black shirt.
When Sam and I were newlyweds, almost every time he made the bed, I would go back and “fix it” so that it looked “right.” I wanted the comforter smooth, and the decorative pillows set in just the right order, and when he made the bed, he didn’t make it look the way I did, so I would go in after him and re-do it. You know what happened? He quit making the bed! In his mind, why bother if I was going to re-do anyway? And I can tell you that he hasn’t made our bed in about 13 years! If I don’t make it, it doesn’t get made!
When we get in mommy-mode with our husbands, I truly believe we are setting ourselves up for trouble. We get into a cycle that can ruin a marriage. When the wife constantly criticizes or “corrects” the husband’s’ efforts around the house, he will simply quit trying. He will just withdraw and quit doing things to help. Then, the wife slowly starts to resent her husband because she is doing everything. She may think to her herself, “How can he just sit there and watch ESPN while I do everything!” The wife then over time starts to lose respect for her husband, and once that is gone, romance and intimacy seem to fall apart also. The wife may think, “Yeah, like I’m going to meet your needs tonight after you haven’t done one thing to help me today!” She may even feel that she is no longer even attracted to her husband, which would be normal since she is acting more like his mother than his wife.
At that point, when a man isn’t getting his intimacy needs met, he is even less motivated to help his wife and so the cycle just continues. Psychologists say that when spouses get into a “parent-child” relationship, it is headed for disaster because the “child” will eventually rebel and leave (either emotionally or physically.)
I just don’t think God intended for us as women to treat our husbands like they are children. Isn’t it amazing that some men can run companies, manage difficult situations, and make life-and-death decisions at work, but at home they can’t remember where the bowls go, how to change a diaper, or how to cut the kids’ sandwiches the way they like it? Is it possible we have created this with our micro-managing and nagging?
I wish I could say that I learned my lesson from the bed-making incident and that I have never corrected my husband again. But sadly, I too fail in this area. However, I am trying to do better. Here is proof:
- I stood by and bit my tongue when my husband dressed our then 5-year old daughter Jordan in Capri pants and short boots. I wanted to tell him that she looked ridiculous but I resisted the urge.
- I once thanked him for helping me fold the laundry even though the towels were folded too big to fit in our little cabinet. I wondered if he ever noticed the way I fold the towels, but I just crammed them in the way they were and figured he’d notice when he went to get a towel. Later he said, “Hey, sorry I didn’t do the towels right.” I just smiled and said, “that’s okay.”
- I have repeatedly over the years walked in the kitchen in the morning to find dirty bowls or plates filled with water and just sitting in the sink. Sam’s theory is that if it is full of water it will be easier for me to get the food off. My theory is that just rinsing the food out would take just as much time and not be so gross the next morning. But, I have learned to appreciate that it at least made it to the sink. It could be sitting there with dried food. (However, in the interest of full disclosure, this area is still one that I struggle with “commenting on” from time-to-time!)
- I have witnessed him take off a pair of jeans that he has decided aren’t dirty and throw them in the top of his closet or drape them on something in our room. Sometimes those jeans stay there for several days. (I call this his “clothes purgatory” because it is an area where they are too clean to put in the hamper, but too dirty to hang back up.) Sometimes this happens with multiple jeans but I don’t nag because I know that he will either decide to wear them, hang them up, or he will run out of clean jeans before laundry day. When that happens, he then remembers to put them in the hamper if he wants them washed.
So, for Father’s Day, I am thinking that maybe we should all give our husbands a little space to do things their own way, and grace if they fail to do it right. Who knows? Maybe all this space and grace will give him the freedom to actually become the Dad God intended him to be, and you might just realize that you do have a partner you can respect and trust! So when I see you around town and your kids look like ragamuffins, it’s okay! I’ll know what happened.