Let me go ahead and acknowledge this post is making some broad generalities. Mainly, that women stay home with children and men go to work. Obviously, this is not true, and I’m not even trying to advocate there is only one ideal. I know some incredible men that stay home to care for their children, and I know some incredible women who work their “9 to 5” job. However, my hope is to address the pervasive tension that happens between husbands and wives. It’s a tension that arises when the woman’s main responsibility is to stay home with the children and the husband is away from the home working in the professional world.

 

Before I jump in, let me give you some context. My wife, Casey, is a stay-at-home mom, meaning her primary responsibility is to be home with our children during the day. However, she also has three other jobs. Yes, I said three. Talk about a massive juggling act. But even with her jobs, she is home with our children during normal “business hours”.

 

Recently, we adopted a baby boy, which means that I have been taking paternity leave trying to help navigate our family through a transition of adding a new-born. We can’t complain about the transition, but it hasn’t been easy.

 

During my time at home on paternity leave, I struggled being away from work. There were many things that needed to get done and initiatives that needed my leadership. I knew I needed to be home to help with our three children (one of which was being potty trained), but I felt the pressure of being away from work. This tension began to wear on my patience, joy, and overall attitude. Being at home with three kids was overwhelming and often exhausting.  When I expressed my feeling and angst to Casey, it brought up the tension I mentioned earlier in the post. It’s a tension I believe for most couples has caused more fights, arguments, and disunity than we would like to admit.

 

In the moment when I expressed how difficult it was for me to be away from work, it inadvertently communicated a few things to Casey. It said to her that I didn’t think staying home with three children was difficult or really that important. It communicated in a subtle way that I didn’t want to be home to help and would have rather been at work. But when Casey began to express her own emotions, here is what I heard (albeit not what she said). I heard that she didn’t think I had a tough job and there wasn’t a ton of pressure on me.  I heard that she didn’t appreciate the time I took off of work to be home. Enter the “crazy cycle”.

 

You can see where the crazy cycle begins and how easy it is to go there. When was the last time that you and your spouse got on the crazy cycle? Well for Casey and me, this wasn’t the first time we have been face-to-face with this cycle of emotions and frustration. This may have been a new season for us, but they were not new emotions.

 

However, something different happened this time. The experience got me thinking and us talking about what was going on below the surface. I want to share what we concluded because not only will it help bring understanding to families in this situation, but I think it will bring deeper levels of love and unity to the marriage. There are two things that ultimately each party wants in these situations:

1. Empathy

For a moment, can you put aside your own emotions and feelings and step into the shoes of the other person?

 

Stay-at-Home Moms:

>She wants her husband to know how difficult it is to not be able to “leave her work” and the fact that her “job” never ends.  

>She wants her husband to understand how hopeless in can be to feel like you have lost your identity and sense of purpose since having to step away from your previous profession.  

>She wants her husband to know how difficult it is to not be able to see immediate “fruit” from all of her hard work and investment into the children.

 

Working Dads:

>He wants his wife to understand the demand and pressure on him to provide for the family. 

>He wants his wife to understand the pressures that come from performing and excelling at work from his boss, peers, employees, and customers.  

>He wants his wife to understand how utterly draining and difficult it can be to shift gears from work to home and still be “fully present”.  

2. Appreciation

Ultimately, after empathy, each person wants to know they are appreciated for what they do. Both want it, but rarely give it because they are waiting to receive and reciprocate. Because they want appreciation and don’t get it, they are less likely to give it.

 

Stay-at-Home Wife:

>She wants to know her husband can feel and understand how difficult and important her role is. 

>She wants to know her husband appreciates and values her for who she is and what she does. 

 

Working Father:

>He wants to know that his wife can feel and understand how difficult and important his role is. 

>He wants to know his wife appreciates and values him for who he is and what he does.  

 

In order to show appreciation, it takes a level of humility to put aside our own feelings and wants for the moment. But that’s the beauty of marriage. Because if both parties do this, then, in the end, both will get what they ultimately want… empathy and appreciation.

 

So, the next time you are tempted to either lash out or retreat in because you don’t feel like your spouse understands what you do, instead choose empathy. Choose to take a step back and into your spouse’s shoes. Feel what they feel and try to understand the situation they are in every day. That empathy will allow you to express genuine appreciation. Empathy precedes appreciation.

 

Stop the crazy cycle. Be the first in your marriage to practice empathy and appreciation. Watch how God will use that to bring greater unity and growth to your marriage.

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