Let me start by saying that my husband and I get along pretty well. After being together for 20 years, we’ve figured out how to settle most disagreements in a civilized manner so that at the end of the day we still like each other. There was one memorable exception at the beginning of our marriage involving salad tongs, but we’ve learned to put the serving utensils aside and just use words these days. Since we know each other so well now, there are many times when we don’t even need to argue since we already know what the other person is going to say.
That being said, there are times where we still surprise one another.
Last week Aaron had a cold. It was so bad that he actually left work early to come home and rest (which is saying something since we have four kids and our house isn’t very restful when everyone is awake). Now I know many women joke about “man colds,” you know, when they have a tickle in their throat and think they’re dying.
My husband is the complete opposite of that. Have you ever seen that old movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Do you remember the black knight on the path that gets in a sword fight, and then when his arms are cut off he is still jumping around declaring, “it’s only a flesh wound!”?
Aaron is a lot like that. The few times in his life he has voluntarily gone to the doctor without me nagging him to death have been for, in chronological order: a heart condition requiring surgery, a life threatening bacterial infection, and a case of the flu that was so bad that he cracked a rib coughing.
So needless to say, when he comes home from work early because he isn’t feeling well, I get pretty concerned.
Fast forward about a week. Aaron’s feeling better, and we’re sitting on the couch discussing some things that are going on at church. He asked what was decided on a council I’m on, and I told him that I wasn’t sure since I missed the meeting it was discussed at because he was sick and I had decided to stay home instead so that I could help with the dinner and bedtime routine.
He got irritated.
At first I couldn’t believe it. I mean, hello, I was helping HIM out while HE was sick. I missed a meeting at a TACO restaurant to feed the kids and put them to bed so HE could get some rest. I’m a stay at home mom, I know it sucks taking care of kids when you’re sick, couldn’t he see I was trying to HELP?! (I was this close to breaking out the salad tongs).
Now, this could have dissolved quickly into anger and hurt feelings, but the neat thing was, instead of that we were able to have a conversation that revealed some really important things that neither of us had realized about each other.
My Husband is an Equal Partner in Raising the Children
Aaron is, and wants to be treated as, an equal partner in the raising of our children. Of course, I knew that and do my best to treat him like that. However, to him that means doing the hard stuff, too. Such as taking care of the kids even when he’s sick if there is something important I need to do.
He gets upset when he feels like other moms expect him to need help when I’m not around. In his words, “I’m the Dad.” The Dad isn’t the secondary parent, or the parent that is clueless most of the time. The Dad cares just as much as the Mom when it comes to what the children need.
Now, there may be times when he doesn’t know all the little details of the kids’ lives as I do since he goes to work each day and I spend more time with them, but he is still just as interested and involved in their lives. Yes he works. Yes he has to do so outside the home to provide for our family. But that doesn’t make him less of a parent. And parents show up, even when they’re sick.
My Job as a Caretaker Extends to Him as Well as the Children
As a wife and mother, part of my job, part of my calling, is as a caretaker. I take care of our children – making sure they are healthy, rested, fed and emotionally nurtured. That nurturing, though, doesn’t stop at our kids. For me, my husband falls under that “nurture umbrella” as well.
When he’s sick, it’s part of my job to make sure he has access to the medicine he needs. When he’s tired or stressed, I try my best to give him space to rest or to be a sounding board if he needs to vent. I would do no less for my children, so he doesn’t escape that caretaking just because he’s an adult. If I would bring a sick friend some soup and wash her dishes, why wouldn’t I do the same for my husband?
So in that regard, if I think he needs help or rest, I’m not going to say to him, “Suck it up, I have something more important to do.” I’m going to rearrange my schedule to try to help because that’s what you do when someone you love needs something.
All in all, it was an incredibly important conversation, and one I’m surprised it has taken this long for us to have. While I knew he felt very strongly about his role of father and what that entails, I didn’t realize he would feel like I was treating him as the weaker parent by rearranging my schedule. While he knew I took my role as caretaker very seriously, he didn’t understand that he falls under the same umbrella as our children.
I suppose the lesson here is, sometimes it’s good to go ahead and have the argument, even when you think you already know what the other person will say. They may just surprise you.