The question always arises concerning the household workload and what "he" ought to do versus what "she" does. I’ll share with you three bits of advice I received from my mother on my wedding day:
"First, lower your expectations, Sabrina."
"Second, laugh at his jokes."
"Third, remember that a marriage requires 100 percent flexibility — and 90 percent of the flexing comes from the wife."
The last piece of advice sounded downright silly and old-fashioned to me. I thought to myself, Maybe in your generation, Mom, but we’re going to have a 50-50 marriage.
Like most newlyweds, I found out that my expectations of marriage and the reality were two different things. My husband, Dan, later explained to me why he thinks my mom was right. Few things in marriage cause more sadness and heartbreak than unmet expectations. Generally speaking, it’s more pleasant to have your expectations exceeded than to experience the disappointment of being let down. Lowering our expectations gives us a chance to be pleasantly surprised when someone exceeds them.
Next, when you laugh at someone’s jokes, it is the most sincere form of applause. It opens the door to a great deal of joy. As the Bible says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine" (Proverbs 17:22, NIV).
Lastly, it’s easy to recognize when you accommodate, or flex, for your spouse. It’s never as clear when someone else is flexing for you. Even if a 50-50 partnership were possible in marriage, you would always be more aware of your effort than his. Always.
I suggest that you be very careful and prayerful about delegating to your husband. The temptation to go on the "must-be-nice-to-live-like-you-do" bandwagon is nearly impossible to resist. And this bandwagon is ultimately counterproductive. Believe me, I’ve tried it.
You probably work as hard as he does. You may even do more than the majority of women you know. But expecting him to be an assistant homemaker will almost certainly lead to disappointment.
Try to remember, most men today contribute more around the house than their own fathers did. And if you keep a running mental tally of your tasks versus his, it will not lead to a harmonious family life.
It just won’t. I’ve tried that too.
Throw Away the Scorecard
You’ll be better off if you resist the temptation to compare your workloads. The Bible calls this keeping "score of the sins of others" in 1 Corinthians 13:5. You have a choice: Is it more important to prove yourself "right" or to have peace and harmony in your home? When you need affirmation, appreciation and understanding for all you do and you don’t have a husband who’ll give it to you, go to the Lord and your girlfriends!
Look at the concordance in the back of your Bible for passages about God’s love for you and read them. Then go to your prayer partners and mentors for a little hands-on encouragement. It will be a lot easier to tear up your scorecard when you are filled with God’s love.
Practically speaking, what’s an overstressed, overburdened working mom to do? I’ll tell you what I did. First, I prayed about my situation frequently. Next, I resolved to pay closer attention to Dan’s strengths and look for ways he could contribute toward managing our family in a manner that would naturally suit his personality and talents. "Lord, show me how we can both use our strengths," I prayed. God was quick to show me the way.
Big Dan is a playful guy, and he loves to spend time horsing around with the kids. Whenever he gave the kids their baths, they had a great time and got clean, but the watery, soapy mess they left behind was simply something else for me to clean up (or nag about). My own style of "Wet down, soap up, rinse off!" was efficient, quick and neat, but certainly not fun. So we compromised for efficiency and fun.
I happen to be one of those people who is always in a hurry, and I naturally move at a fast pace. Nowadays, after dinner I usher the kids through their routine: military-style baths, pajamas and tooth-brushing. When they’re finished, Daddy swoops in like a breath of fresh air.
My husband now puts the kids to bed at night. The kids play, read stories, recount their day and say bedtime prayers with him. I make my exit and am free to do whatever needs to be done around the house, have some time to myself or just retire early.
There are times when the whole bedtime ordeal takes them two full hours after I leave. But after studying my husband’s strengths, I observed how long, drawn-out processes don’t upset him like they do me. This is a great method to utilize our respective strengths to the benefit of our entire family.
Another area where Dan has talents to contribute to the family is grocery shopping. I noticed that he takes a lot of pride in finding bargains at the store. On the occasions when he goes shopping alone, he proudly displays the receipts showing the percentage he saved using his shopper’s card, scouting out sales or buying in bulk.
So I should just let him take over the task of grocery shopping, right? Is it really so simple? Not remotely! I came up against the hurdle most of us encounter when delegating important tasks: Sometimes we have differing definitions of how to do a task.
Let me explain. I used the typical mommy-style grocery shopping method called "Walking-down-the-aisles-and-spotting-what-we-need-as-I-go-along." I certainly couldn’t expect Dan to do that. When I tried to write out a list for him, I found myself mentally exhausted trying to remember everything, and it took almost as much time to make the list as it would have to go grocery shopping!
It seemed like the pros of delegating the grocery shopping equaled the cons. This quandary led me to create a grocery list that would take the guesswork and aggravation out of the process. I call it the Working Mom™ Fast-Fax Grocery List. It’s a fast, thorough, one-page list that can be e-mailed or faxed. There’s a free, easy-to-print blank form on our Web site, workingmom.com. Simply put a checkmark next to what you need, print it out and in less than three minutes you have a foolproof list.
But suppose your husband doesn’t have any grocery shopping talents. Or perhaps you’re a single mom. In some areas, grocery stores are now starting to deliver, and they’ll do the shopping for you! All you need to do is fill out their form, select the items you need, and the store will now shop for, bag and deliver the groceries all the way to your kitchen at the time you choose. This option is frequently available at no extra charge, and some stores even give a $10 credit off your first home delivery!
There’s no downside to having your groceries delivered because any item you don’t think is fresh enough or doesn’t meet your approval can typically be returned for a full refund. A working mom simply cannot lose if there’s a grocery store in your area that delivers. Try it; you’ll like it.
A Final Word About Husbands
Every couple’s needs and inclinations are different, but again, it’s better to look for each partner’s natural talents and preferences and make some compromises. Maybe your husband loves to grill. Ask him if he’ll cook dinner on a specific night (or two) a week.
Maybe he wouldn’t mind folding the laundry while he watches the news. The point is to creatively and prayerfully think through the delegation question. Remember, nagging will not induce your husband to help out more, but it is guaranteed to add stress to your home life.
Many couples enter into marriage with false or unrealistic expectations. Some believe that marriage will solve their problems. Some to not understand that strong and growing marriages are a result of hard work. This article has been provided because of the generosity of donors like you.
Excerpted from Moms on the Job by Sabrina O’Malone, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2006, Sabrina O’Malone. All rights reserved.