Your husband wants to be seen, too.

The kids were playing, their happy voices echoing off walls bathed in sun on a spring afternoon.

I used their distraction as an opportunity to wander around our downstairs, picking up abandoned shoes and socks that dotted the floor before heading back to our bedroom,

I grumbled as I made a mental checklist of everything that needed doing, and that whatever efforts I put in would probably seem undone by the week’s end.

I made my way to our walk-in closet with an armload of clothes. The cream colored walls looked like amber in the afternoon sun, but I didn’t notice as I rammed an armload of sweaters into the bowels of my closet. 

I remembered how excited we were when we bought our house. My husband and I  went from sharing one normal sized closet to us each having our own, complete with a small dressing area and full length mirror. It certainly isn’t Sunset Boulevard grand, but it is several steps up from what we had grown accustomed to.

I pride myself on how my closet is barely full because darn the incessant belief that every woman only dreams of a giant closet for just their shoes.

My husband’s closet? His is brimming with stuff.

Everything from his military dress blues tucked in the very back recesses to guitar cases leaning against each other on the floor. Combat boots and rugged Doc Martins mingle on the top shelf. Business suits, ties and belts, hats and keepsakes. You name it, it’s probably in there. Pieces of his entire life.

I noted all the cellophane wrappers and green tags on the floor and growled out a sigh. I’d given him a small waste basket for all the paper shirt tags and wrapping his shirts come home with from the dry cleaners. Why doesn’t he ever seem to use it?

Lately, my husband has moved through each day almost like a specter. He’s there, but he isn’t really.

He’s been bogged down with life. We have a new home that needs cracks repaired, rooms refinished or painted, and a bathtub that likes to backup like clockwork once a month – always at 10 o’clock at night after we have sank down on the sofa after the kids are in bed, because of course it does.

He has kids who are still small and need endless attention. He just finished another semester for his master’s program. He works full-time each week.

And he sometimes wakes up early each day feeling defeated before his feet hit the floor.

Up until that day, I had been so frustrated with him. Why couldn’t he try to make the best out of his days the same way I have tried to?? It wasn’t like homeschooling small children and cleaning soggy food out of a kitchen sink strainer was the answer I eagerly filled in on all those high school career surveys.

This life isn’t always the best version I could have conjured up when I was looking at college brochures.

I didn’t think adulthood would be having the cup holders in my car full of sticky rocks and coins, and how my house would constantly feel more like a dumpster behind a Toys R Us with four walls than home.

I did not think it would be chocked full of grief and anxiety while trying to be a responsible parent. I didn’t think being a grownup would be so astoundingly hard.

I also never considered the isolation and anonymity of parenting and marriage. How you spend your days wanting to build the perfect home, but then those four walls can surreptitiously swallow your identity from having to work so hard to safeguard everything.

They can even hide you from your spouse.

“This is so far from what we pictured most days” we both silently think as we convince ourselves the other one just wouldn’t understand how we feel.

Your husband wants to be seen, too

I snatched up each clear wrapper on the floor, wrapping them around my forearm as I began to hunt furiously for the black plastic waste basket I’d given him to contain his mess. I noticed one side of his closet was shut, and yanked on the handle. The bi-fold door sounded like an old book spine as it creaked open and I ran my eyes down the long line of hanging dress shirts, and the smell of leather and cotton filtered out.

I found it. 

The waste basket. Full to the absolute brim with paper tags. Then I noticed the rest of the tags. They looked almost like snow on top of his leather bag that lay on the floor. There were tags everywhere.

I slowly sank to my knees.

I reached in and picked up a handful of those tags, passed them through my fingertips like I was skimming them delicately across the surface of water. I let them fall, heard them rustle to the floor. And I started to weep.

Here was his waste basket. Full. So full there was simply no more room. I looked up at his closet and saw the stark division between him and “him.” On one side are dress shirts and suit jackets. A tie rack divides the closet, and on the other side? Polo shirts, the suit he got married in and his military dress blues. Button down shirts he has owned since before we were even dating, and the uniforms he wore every day when he was in the service.

I saw the guitar cases that haven’t been touched in months. His Doc Martin boots he doesn’t get to wear often on casual days out because he’s hardly out of the house. A tote full of keepsakes and letters, probably from me when he was deployed to the middle east.

I saw clearly his life, divided into two quadrants. The parts of him that are hardly ever touched because he lives the rest of his life for us. And the weight of just how much he forgoes for himself out of duty to his family. I saw him again fully for just a moment. The square-cut jawed man I married, tan and impossibly youthful, as he told me of all he wanted to do with his life, and I decided to myself what is life if not an adventure. And what is an adventure without your best friend? I saw him contrasted to the person he is now, beholden to responsibility, willing to set so much aside for the people he loves.

I know that we mothers struggle with finding ourselves again after children arrive and wreck shop. The ocean we are in is so staggeringly beautiful that we don’t even realize it sometimes when we are drowning.

We think nobody could ever feel as lonely as we do.

I think we are wrong, ladies.

The closet was bathed in golden sunlight. I saw it then, as I cried and dust motes hung in the air and our ceiling fan spun silently and cars raced past. Time stopped for just a moment as God let the scales fall from my eyes.

How often have I prayed for and craved deeper intimacy with my husband. I thought that meant heartfelt conversations at 1 a.m. and love notes and sonnets. Instead, it looked like a river of paper tags on a closet floor and my eyes bursting open when I finally saw where my husband is.

I didn’t realize as I hunted down that trash can I was actually hunting for him and for some truth, no matter how imperceptible, about where he is. Where he’s gone. About what is laying hard on his heart.

It was right there, behind two bi-fold doors, buried on his closet floor. The neglect that defines his life right now. Both my own and his. I had neglected to see the divine partnership my husband and I share. And how much he has neglected himself for the sake of his family.

He was doing his best, each morning. Each morning after sitting at the table with a plate of breakfast after a quick shower. Tossing tags into his closet as he tightened his tie, threw on his suit jacket and left his family for one more day at the haste of the daily grind.

I emptied his trash can. I slipped it back into his closet and closed those doors. Not before I poured out a prayer to God from our closet floor.

Women. That moment changed me. It affirmed to me what I should have known a long time ago. Me and my husband? We are so very much in this together. I am not alone. 

And he shouldn’t be either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Okay to Get Excited About Dads Doing Dad Things

In the internet universe, certain topics trend in relation to what everyone else is talking about on one particular day or another.

Whether it’s a climatic moment in pop culture, a news headline, a YouTube video about cats or just a plain old topic that everybody seems to be buzzing about at once. Blogging also follows this trend I have noticed. 

Right now, from where I sit and type, one of the most written about topics in the mommy blogging world is actually…dads. 

I see women who say that they are not going to make a big stink over dads doing what dads should be doing. Whether he is changing a diaper, giving the baby a bottle or keeping the kids by himself for a few hours, these are dads doing what they should be doing.

So why do they keep getting all the praise for doing what they ought to be doing?

I actually understand this on some level because, yea, diapers have to get changed, babies have to get bathed, the kids have to have food and glue cleaned out of their hair – why should it be such a revelation that dads also take part in this, too?

But I want to make a point:

For many, involved dads are not the norm. But maybe we can help change that if we celebrate fatherhood differently.

Let me start with saying that my husband, the father of my children, is both a great spouse and an *amazing* parent. I had some expectations going into the parenting business, but not many. 

And what expectations I did have he has since completely decimated. 

He might not always know where to find spare outfits for the kids even though I’ve told him, like, a thousand times where to look, and he may try to conspicuously pass the infant off to me when she has a poopy diaper, (really though, who can blame him for trying?) but he is an exceptionally great father.  He cleans up messes. He changes diapers. He disciplines. He loves on them. He is available to them. He holds them.

Fatherhood button

And I am so thankful for him.

I am also thankful to be surrounded by plenty of families that have wonderful, involved fathers. 

But I am also aware that I am surrounded by families and friends who don’t boast the same thing.

Whether the father is present but not as inclined to take part in midnight feedings for the baby or to be an occasional extra set of hands. Whether a family is separated and the parents have to work out arrangements between each other for the sake of their children. Or there are women who have children with little to no help at all from their children’s father, of any kind, there are plenty of families who do not fit the same mold that my family, and many other families do. 

One of the most prevalent, yet quietly overlooked crises out there is children growing up without their father. 

Fatherhood is one of the most
overlooked treasures of
the modern age.

 

Yes, there are homes where the mom is the absentee parent. Yes, there are homes where the dad is the primary caregiver for the children while mom works. I understand that families look very different from one another.

But when I hear women/wives/mothers saying that they aren’t going to get overly excited when they see men being fathers to their babies…something inside of me is unsettled by that. 

Because It’s just not that simple.

Yes, there is and should absolutely be an expectation of involvement from fathers. Yes, I personally expect my husband to both help me and to take charge when it comes to our children.

Rob and the kids

Yet despite my expectations, am I still excited as all get out that my husband is thriving as a father? You better believe it!

I know that I am incredibly lucky to have a father like him for my children, just as I am sure that he is grateful to have a mother like me for his children. 

No, moms, it’s not our job to try to force dads be more involved. No, it’s not our fault when they are not. That is their choice, their mistake to make. 

This is not a call to celebrate the bare minimum, this is a praise for the richness that is passionate fatherhood.

This is looking at fathers and saying that we need them, too. We notice when they are gone, and more IMPORTANTLY, we notice when they are here, getting it right. 

We don’t necessarily need to be excited about each individual task, no matter how big or how small. But we should be excited about fatherhood. We should recognize when we see it being done well and be excited about it when the men in our children’s lives break the mold that modern-day society is setting.

It does not diminish the importance and impact of one role when we celebrate the greatness of another. 

We should absolutely be celebrating the men who are beyond involved in their children’s lives. Especially the men who shatter the out of touch expectations our society has had fatherhood in the past and who break the mold of what is becoming the norm in this generation of lackadaisical parenting.

Just like we should also be singing the praises of moms who do incredible things every. single. day. for their children. 

We can’t want to feel appreciated and seen and treasured, ladies, when we aren’t willing to extend the same courtesy to the fathers of our babies. Be EXCITED about fatherhood.

See your children’s father for the gift that he is when he gets it right…and even when he gets it wrong (cake for breakfast is not a well thought out idea.) And go ahead and swoon a little over the men who absolutely, sold-out, all in love their babies.

 

 

“What the world needs more of is people holding babies.”

Jeremy McKeen

How to bless (and survive) your very tired wife

Maybe you haven’t thought about this before, husbands. So, I’m here to help you.

Did you know that in some small way your life may be in danger once your wife’s energy capacity reaches zero? You just never realized how close to the chest you were playing it before now.

For instance, if you clip your toenails and leave them on the floor after she’s been awake all night with screaming children: you’re probably in danger.

If you walk in the door at the end of the day and find your house messy after she’s dealt with potty training, kids fighting over Legos and a dog who puked on the carpet, and you ask, “what did you do all day?”: you’re probably in danger.

If she collapses into a sweat-pants-wearing heap on the bed next to you with messy hair, wearing that old t-shirt from high school that she wouldn’t want anyone to know that she still has (and you had better not tell) and you ask,”are you tired or something?”: you’re probably in danger.

That is, once she takes a nap or actually manages to get six uninterrupted hours of sleep – then you’ll be in danger. Just you wait, mister. Just you wait until she gets up from wherever she’s sitting. Then you’ll be sorry….

I was trying to broil chicken earlier tonight. And it was all that I could do to stand barefooted by the stove, blink away the fog from my eyes and nom on the chocolate Teddy Grahams I’d made a bowl of. That was as graceful an effort in multitasking as any. 

Sometimes, I feel trapped by these people who keep asking me to feed them. It’s almost like they know where I live or something. And they feel the need to keep coming back to ask things of me. 

How to bless your very tired wife.

I know that you may also be exhausted, husbands. I get it. The workforce is not all rainbows and baby unicorns playing badminton. I have been there. I understand.

It’s just that I can strictly speak from the point of view of the wife. And I know I’m not the only woman out there who is so very, very tired. 

Husbands, I know that sometimes, we wives devolve into something that…doesn’t even resemble your wife. We’re part machine, part animal. We waver between pure survival mode and an automatic existence. 

We can be…scary.

You might not know what to do. You might not know how to get through to us and bring us back to reality. You’re willing to help but might not know where to even start. 

How do you get your wife back?

I’ve been there with my husband, that’s for sure. Able and willing, just not sure what helping looked like in that particular moment.

The truth is, learning how to encourage and help one another is an art form that takes practice. Thankfully, I’m married to someone who gets it and is incredibly helpful and supportive.

I’m happy to pass on some of the knowledge that I have gained from being served by my loving husband these past nine years.

So, here are a few tips for surviving your tired wife.

Take the kids…

It seems so simple, right? I’ll build upon this later, but for now – let’s start here. 

Take them outside. Take them to the park. Take them on a walk. Take them to another country. Take them to play upstairs. Just take them away from her.

Literally, sometimes all it takes is a thirty minute chunk of time without the sound of small, squeaky voices or someone hanging off of her leg for her to find her sanity again.

Even if only a bit. 

Let her out of the house…

If you love something, set it free. 

If you really, really love something, set it free with a bunch of its girlfriends, some mexican food and margaritas. 

The trash goes out more than your wife leaves the house without the children in tow. And there is just something utterly divine about going out without having small people attached to you that makes a difference. And don’t even get me started on the chance to enjoy a hot meal without interruption. A meal we didn’t have to cook, no less.

Us moms can’t explain it, but it’s as true and unavoidable as the laws of physics. 

You can plan an evening out well in advance OR you can be a total gangster and surprise her with your spontaneous spontaneity skills and tell her to get out. Like, right now.

She’s a peacock, you gotta let her fly.

motherhoos

And while she’s out…

…don’t think it’s enough to simply keep the kids alive. Feed them dinner, bathe them and put them to bed. KEEP THE SAME ROUTINE YOU AND YOUR WIFE WOULD HAVE ANY OTHER EVENING.

Then, do something SUPER crazy. Ready? 

Do the dishes. 

Pick up the toy area. 

Put away the basket of laundry that has been sitting on the floor of your bedroom for three days. 

Do what SHE would be doing if she was home. It’s no good to leave her extra work piled up high causing her to regret ever even going out. Time out should be worthwhile. She shouldn’t have to play catchup when she gets back home. You can play mom tonight. I believe in you. 

And let me emphasize you putting those children to bed. At the very least, please send them off to beddy-bye.  She doesn’t want to stroll in at 10:46 p.m. to find you all eating popcorn in your underwear, watching Aladdin on the couch. That’s a no-no.

 

Or…Volunteer….

To negotiate with terrorists – aka putting the kids to bed.

To make miracles happen – aka cook dinner.

To take over bath time aka wrestle the child flailing about like an octopus in the bathtub. Make sure you clean the play-doh out of their hair.

Say you’ll do it. Without having to even be asked

P1110345_2

Wake up with the kids

Here is another idea: wake up in the morning with those little people.

And by “wake up” I don’t mean wait “five more minutes” to actually get out of bed when you first hear them rattling in their cages. The moment you hear them, stand up and go. Take them far enough away that your wife can’t hear them.

Why right away? What’s with all the hurry?? Because by the time YOU hear them, your kids have long since been making noise, and your wife has already been listening to them for seventeen minutes. Speaking from experience, the moment I hear my children start rustling around, my brain, despite my best efforts, tries to turn itself on. At that point, I may as well just get up with them.

So wake up with them. And do it quickly. 

Tell her she’s beautiful… 

She may not be sure what you mean at first. She may be skeptical. She may even be grumpy or seem unreceptive at first.

But after those miniature love demons are in bed, and the house is still and you’ve both collapsed into the bed, brush the hair from her face and tell her “thank you.” And tell her that she’s beautiful.

If she’s like me, she’ll be sure that you’ve probably done a bunch of drugs before getting into bed if only for the fact that she’s wearing the same pants as yesterday. She might not get it at first, but we both know that you do.

So say it.

Also, tell her…

That you see HER and you see what she does for your family. And that you’re sure there are a thousand little things you actually don’t see her do (like scrubbing behind the toilet and emptying the lint trap in the dryer), and that you’re glad you have her. 

Why? Let’s be real here for a second. If your wife spends any lengthy amount of time with your children, if she gives up her ability to go to the bathroom alone or to be able to walk to mailbox by herself  – if she sacrifices all of that, willingly, she will from time to time go a bit crazy.

And the best person to bring her back to life (and possibly Earth), the person she wants support, confirmation and encouragement from the most in the world is you. You can give her stability and peace when she has days that may not give her any.

You can affirm her and build into her with the words you choose to flush into her wounds and bruises on the days that don’t go right. They’re more important on those days than on the days that everything goes swimmingly.

 

So that’s why you serve her. That’s why you love her. That’s why you lift her up. 

And all of this reminds her of why she does what she does. Every day.