3.08.2011

Marriage and Motherhood

Years ago, while Rick and I were getting married, the temple sealer gave us a little bit of advice before the ceremony started.  He talked about how in marriage it is rarely ever 50/50-- that both partners are putting in an equal amount of work into their duties, and into the relationship at the same time.  He said that when we feel the most like our partner is not putting in as much effort as we are, that is when we need to take the hardest look at ourselves, and ask what we are contributing, and then to look at our partner and to look at everything they are contributing.  He gave us lots of other advice, but this is the only thing that stuck with me-- the only piece of advice that I remember from my wedding day.

I'm glad that this is the piece of advice that I chose to hold on to, because it has been extremely helpful to me in my marriage.  It never fails that when I am upset with Rick over (usually) something petty, or am feeling like he's not carrying as much weight as I am, that I take a good hard look at myself, and then make a mental note of all the things that Rick contributes.  My list usually goes something like this:

  • He goes to work every (working) day, and works hard, does a really good job, rarely misses a day, is never late, and makes a good income for us.
  • He comes home from work and wrestles and plays with the kids.
  • He puts the kids to bed every other night, and reads to them, and tells them good stories.
  • He lets me sleep in every Friday morning and sometimes on Sunday too.
  • He cooks at least one meal, but sometimes two or three meals a week.
  • He helps me with laundry, and helps straighten the house.
  • He cleans out the garage, and helps keep things fixed and running in our home.
  • He encourages me in my interests and my friendships and relationships.
  • He visits with me about the things he's interested in, and the things I'm interested in.
And I could go on...  The point is, that this never fails to turn the tables on me-- instead of feeling like wacking  the top of his bald held and telling him to stop leaving his stupid dirty clothes on the side of the bed (or whatever little things that's eating me up), I instead feel like a big jerk for even being mad at something so stupid.  Even when I feel like the thing that I'm upset about, or is weighing me down still warrants a conversation, I'm at least able to approach the topic with him feeling humbled, and realizing how hard he works, and how much he does for our family.

In short, this bit of advice has been a great tool for me in my marriage.

Yesterday I was having a bit of a bad day.  I didn't feel very great.  I spent way too much time in front of the computer.  I fed the kids cold cereal for two out of the three meals we ate.  I let the kids watch three episodes of Phineas and Ferb.  I had a short fuse, and just wanted to be left alone.  I didn't smile or say hi to people that we walked by on a hike.  I purposely ignored a friends phone call, because I was grouchy and didn't feel like visiting.  The house was a mess for most of the day.  I didn't shower or get ready all day.

About an hour before Rick got home I decided to at least do something productive, so I started cleaning up the house.  As I was cleaning I started thinking about my day, and was focusing on all the things I didn't do.  It made me want to start crying.  For some reason though, I thought about the tool I use when I'm feeling critical of Rick, and thought I might try it on myself in this situation.  I took a really hard look at my day, and started thinking about everything I did do, or the things I did right.  My list looked like this:
  • I got up out of bed and smiled and visited with the kids
  • I gave our new kitten love and attention, and took care of his food and kitty litter (and protected him from a certain two-year-old that he's rightfully terrified of)
  • I took the boys hiking to red rock canyon, and let them climb all over, and played hide-and-seek with them in the caves
  • I read them a handful of books before nap time
  • While Mase was sleeping I worked with Vaughn on reading me a book (he's learned to read-- mostly on his own doing), and was patient and encouraging with him
  • I kissed their heads a bunch, and told them that I loved them
  • I said I was sorry when I hurt their feelings from getting angry at them
  • I fed them healthy food on our hike (homemade wheat bread, nuts, oranges, and sugar snap peas)
This exercise was surprisingly helpful to me.  When Rick got home, and I was in the middle of cleaning up, and dinner wasn't made, I was able to smile at him, give him a hug and tell him all the things we did do during the day, and was able to feel happiness at those accomplishments.  I didn't apologize for the things I didn't do, and decided that the day was past, and that even if it wasn't my best day or most productive day, that it still had value to it.

Instead of feeling guilt, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.  I decided to let myself take a hot bath, and to give myself a pat on the back for what I did do, and to work for a better tomorrow.  Later that night I went to a neighbors house with some girlfriends and watched reality telivision, and had fun visiting and snacking.  I almost wasn't going to go, because I felt like I didn't deserve it.  I'm so glad I did.  It was good for my soul.

I think as women (or just people) we all have days where we look back with dissatisfaction at our day and actions, sometimes rightfully so.  Maybe those are the days that we need to take the hardest and sincerest look at what we do accomplish and contribute, and to give ourselves a big thank you-- a big pat on the back.

Maybe those are the days when we need it the most.