Before our marriage seven years ago, my husband and I went to some sessions of premarital counseling. (It was paid for by my parents who wanted to make sure we were getting started on the right foot.) The counseling was pretty straightforward, as we were a confident couple who'd already dated for five years. (Part of that time was spent long-distance.) In any case, two agreements came out of that counseling:
1. We'd have a weekly date night throughout our marriage.
2. We'd divvy up household chores equally; partially to share the workload but also to spare each other the tasks we disliked.
While these are nice agreements for a DINK lifestyle (Dual Income, No Kids), they aren't essential for a good marriage--at least, I hope they aren't, because neither of those decisions still hold true in our relationship. My husband and I are making date night more of a priority again, but in terms of household chores, our roles have changed--especially mine, now that I'm a stay-at-home mama. It would be unreasonable to expect my husband to do multiple household chores after his workday when I can now complete a fair amount of those tasks during the day. But with our respective roles of breadwinner and home manager, there are times when I am tempted to dwell on the adage my grandmother once quoted:
"A man's work is from sun to sun,
A woman's work is never done."
While true in general, this platitude is not a mantra for a healthy marriage. Viewing marriage as a scale that should balance everything between spouses is actually an equation for resentment. Yes, in this age of gender equality, women still do far more than their share of housework, but statistics show that today's husbands are far more involved in chores and childcare than their fathers were. Realistically, we ought to acknowledge that husbands are indeed contributing to the home in significant ways.
Part of the ongoing household task imbalance has to do with gender differences: men tend to focus on a single task; women, in contrast, habitually multitask. So we mamas tend to maintain the Martha mindset of getting things done--and as much as possible in the time that we have--rather than taking moments to relax. But as a wife, when I feel resentment rising at my husband for his moments of downtime at home, I ought to remember that my man needs downtime as much as I do. After all, he is my partner, and I shouldn't begrudge him his rest. Dwelling on negative thoughts in isolation will not lessen a wife's workload; rather, being together and supporting each other will lighten both of our hearts.
If you're like me, you probably need a reminder to make a habit of stopping to relax with your husband instead of trying to complete that endless to-do list. Don't we need to take care of ourselves and have more fun? In terms of long-term priorities, getting things done is not nearly as important as reconnecting as a couple at the end of the day. As a wife, I ought to sit down once in a while and let our conversations go back to the memorable moments of the day--the parts I'd like to revisit together--and save the home management concerns and schedule issues for another moment of the week when we are both less exhausted. Marriage satisfaction doesn't rely on equally partitioned chores; instead, it thrives on communication and mutual support.
In short: I'm learning to sit down together more often to enjoy each other's company, even with children present and tasks waiting. As a matter of fact, I can put the children to work on those chores. But that's a topic for another post!
Do you struggle with resentment or chore fatigue? This is something I've caught myself struggling with lately and I hope that by reflecting on this I can get back to an attitude of gratitude. Wishing blessings on you and your marriage!