Alright, on to why I can be rotten...
After five years of marriage, Philip is learning that choosing the right moment to address these kinds of things is crucial. God bless the man! Two nights ago, after our couple bedtime prayer time (one of our November Happiness Project Resolutions), Philip decided it was time to discuss one of my terrible habits: keeping score.
When I started staying at home, I began to notice and pay closer attention to the goings on around the house. I began to see all of the things that were left undone, the projects that hadn't been put away (or hadn't even begun!), and the general messiness of a house that's occupied by a family. Being surrounded by all of these things that I thought should be different stressed me out.
If I came across something that I felt I was responsible for or that the kids had done, I worked my hardest to finish it on the spot or circle back to it later in the day. By day's end, I usually felt that I had accomplished as much as I possibly could. If I didn't, I'd let myself off the hook for not getting around to that extra load of laundry or the wet diaper that didn't make it to the diaper pail.
If I came across something that Philip said he would do or I thought he should be responsible for, I either added it to my mental grudge list, or I'd let out a big 'ol sigh and do it myself, gosh darn it. I make a really good martyr. I'd routinely have these kinds of thoughts:
"Why couldn't he pick up that glob of toothpaste he dropped on the counter? Does he not see the glob of toothpaste? Why does this not bother him?!"
"Is he ever going to repair that curtain rod that's ready to fall down from the kids pulling on it, or should I just do it myself? He said he'd do it last Thursday! Ugh! Nothing ever gets done around here unless I do it!"
"Really? You couldn't just walk the extra ten paces to the hamper? You had to leave your work clothes on the bed? Oh, maaaaaaaaan! That brand new shirt has a huge coffee stain on it! Why can't he be more careful?"
After a bunch of sighs and silently adding each item to my mental grudge list, Philip would eventually come home from work. If he was unfortunate enough to have all of these strikes put against him on what was already a rough day on the home front (say, a teething or sick child), his wife transformed into Mt. Vesuvius. I'd be ready to erupt at any moment. Unfortunately for Philip, he didn't know about my mental grudge list and all of the things that I'd uncovered during the day at home.
We'd have our usual evening at home. We'd be in the midst of our usual evening routine when we'd hit a hiccup. It could be something as simple as Philip getting in my way while I'm trying to make dinner and him accidentally spilling Jane's cup of milk across the counter.
By that point, the mental grudge list reaches its limit, and Mt. Vesuvius explodes. "OKAY! Thanks! I got it from here! Just go and play with the kids in the family room."
Being the sweet guy that he is, he usually returns my eruption with a nice voice and says, "Sure, I'd be happy to give you a break. I'll take the kids downstairs while you finish. Let me know if you need a hand. Otherwise, we'll be downstairs."
I know, I know, I'm married to a saint. I mean it! Instead of returning his thoughtfulness with an adoring gaze, I'd focus on the task at hand and think something like, "Isn't that great?! Now I get to be the bad guy because I'm grouchy from dealing with his messes all day, and he gets to be the fun parent. Great. Just great. Ugh! Now the vegetables are burnt because I was too busy dealing with the spilled milk."
When the evenings go like this, we're usually too busy with the kids to work through whatever is going on, so we say, "Let's talk later." I proceed to be a brat toward him until the kids are in bed. Once the kids are in bed, I end up rattling off a laundry list of all of the things I noticed around the house that ticked me off during the day. "You didn't pick up this, you made a mess with that, you haven't even started this, and when are you going to ever do this?!"
Philip, sweet man that he is, usually listens. He listens, and listens, and listens. When there's a pause, he sweetly asks, "Is there anything else you'd like to say?" If I'm being a brat, I add a few more things to my laundry list if something else comes to mind. Even if I'm being 99.999999% irrational and he's done a great job around the house and with the kids, he always starts with, "I'm sorry." He goes on to say that he hears me saying whatever I'm saying, offers ways that he can be more helpful, and he promises to do the things I point out.
Two nights ago, we finally had our chat about my tendency to keep score. "Can we talk about something that's been bothering me?" When Philip says that, you know it's serious.
"Yes," I said, waiting for the bomb.
We talked about how it bothered him when I rattled off a bunch of things he had other done "wrong," hadn't finished, or made a mess of around the house. He made me realize that he doesn't have the opportunities to circle back to things the way I do since I'm home all day. If he's in the middle of some project and I need him to watch the kids while I finish making dinner, he'll gladly oblige--immediately, no questions asked. This means whatever he was working on takes a backseat. When things are left undone, it doesn't mean he's being careless--it probably means he was being caring by taking care of the kids or helping me with something else.
This conversation made me realize that I can't keep trying to change Philip and his habits that I find annoying. Sure, he did start tri-folding towels the way I like a few years back, but he'll probably crack his neck forever.
|Tri-folded towels. It's a beautiful thing.|
If I keep trying to ask him to do things or change, he won't feel the respect that I should have for him as my loving husband and fabulous father to our children. Instead, I can only change what I can change--my heart.
The next time I see the glob of toothpaste on the counter, I need to change my heart. I need to take that opportunity to be humbled, clean it up if I have the time (who doesn't have the time to grab a tissue and wipe it up?), and say a prayer. It could be something as simple as:
- Do small things with great love.
- Lord, please bless Philip as he works for our family today.
- Work is prayer.
- Bless this mess.
- Blessed Mother, please give me a dose of your docile spirit.
- I am blessed with work.
- Humble me to serve my family.
Philip understands his call as a husband from Ephesians 5. You know, that's the reading that a lot of people huff and puff about and love to nudge their spouses over when you hear it at weddings. If us ladies think we got the short end of the deal when we hear we should "be subject" to our husbands, we need to hear what our hubbies are called to. "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...He who loves his wife loves himself." Husbands have the waaaaaaaaaay tougher job! They are expected to sacrifice themselves completely for their wives--to the point of giving up their lives for them. I am proud to say that my husband is doing a heck of a job. I, on the other hand, need to work on changing my heart.
|There's my hunky husband in his scrubs after a 28-hour shift, hanging out with the kids and wearing our baby in a floral print carrier. What a guy!|
Lord, please help me to resist the temptation to keep score. Help me to serve joyfully. May I follow St. Therese of Lisieux in her "little way," doing small, unseen acts of service for love of others and God. May I stop seeking "gold stars" for acts of service and instead only seek an eternal reward in heaven. May I be a better example of self-emptying love. Humble me through these acts of service. May my small life as a wife and mother glorify you with the graces you give me. Mary was "only" a wife and mother, too. Blessed be God for the gift of our Blessed Mother and her perfect example.
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)