Well, there’s really only one answer to this.

Our elder shares her memories to give a father-of-four — and a reluctant helper — a different perspective.

Dear EWC

My wife and I agreed that she would be a stay-at-home wife and mother while I would earn the money. We have four children together. Our oldest, six years old is in 1st grade. Our twins are three and our youngest is three months old. My wife complains when I don’t do dishes or put the kids to bed after I get home from work. She is always stressed out even though two times a week the kids go to their grandmas’ house. I feel bad that she has to deal with four kids quite often but I also feel like my job is just as stressful and I’m there 50+ hours a week. I feel like we agreed on responsibilities prior to having kids and getting married. Should I help out more?

Granny-Nora replies

I think I might be able to help. Let me try to give a different perspective.

No one knows how much work parenting is until they have children. It is simply not possible to understand the amount of stress that children cause, no matter how much you love them. Your “deal” was made prior to either of you understand the full extent of how your lives would change after four children. Thus, in my view, the deal is null and void.

Let me ask you this. What do your marriage and your family mean to you? Did you get married and have a family to be a party to a contract, or to be a husband and a father? A very wise man by the name of Harold B. Lee once said, “The most important… work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home.”

My husband and I will celebrate our 42nd anniversary in December. One of my favorite memories is when our children were small. We didn’t yet own a clothes dryer. I would wash clothes and hang them on the clothesline to dry. Those were in the days of cloth diapers, and I would wash those last. There never seemed to be quite enough daylight hours to dry all the clothes and the diapers. My husband had to be at work at 6:30 in the morning. He would get up before daylight, dress, and go the garage to pull the diapers out of the washer. He would hang the diapers on the clothesline in the dark — stomping snails with his work boots — before he went to work. By the time I was up, had the babies fed, bathed, and dressed, the diapers were dry for me to fold and put away. It may seem like a small thing to you, but he has remained my hero for 42 years because of that one small act of kindness. That’s just one of the ways he became my hero.

I quoted Harold B. Lee, above. He went on to say, “Love can be nurtured and nourished by little tokens. Flowers on special occasions are wonderful, but so is your willingness to help with the dishes, change diapers, get up with a crying child in the night, and leave the television or the newspaper to help with the dinner. Those are the quiet ways we say ‘I love you’ with our actions. They bring rich dividends for such little effort. This kind of loving… leadership applies to your children as well as to your wife.”

My husband worked two jobs for many years, and for a short time, he had three jobs to support us. I stayed home with our four children. Two to three nights a week, I worked in law offices as a part-time legal secretary, but that was mainly for my sanity. It gets awfully lonely when you are left to talk baby talk day in and day out. I would go to work as soon as my husband walked in the door, and be at work by 4:30pm. The full-time staff left at 5:00pm. That gave me 30 minutes to have some adult conversation, and then a full evening of peace and quiet away from the children.

Your wife is getting peace and quiet when the children go to visit grandma, but she needs adult conversation. My guess is that she spends the time cleaning while the children are away. Find a way to provide her opportunities to chat with other adults. She will be much happier if she feels she is valued as an adult.

You work 50+ hours per week, but your wife is a full-time mother 168 hours per week, 365 days a year — until she dies. Even when the kids are adults, her worrying and nurturing never stops. Even when the children are with grandma, your wife’s work is not done. Even when she sleeps, she has one eye open and one ear peeled for the sick child or the crying baby. Begin to notice how often your wife is able to actually eat a meal in peace. I don’t think I got a hot meal until my kids grew up and left home! Now, as a granny, when I visit my children, if the grandchildren need attending to during a meal, I do it so my kids can eat a hot meal.

Your marriage will be sweet and full of cherished moments if you nourish it. Value your wife. Cherish her. Be willing to sacrifice your time, talents, and energy for her happiness. As you do this, I promise, she will do the same for you. Marriage is all about sacrifice.

If you do these things, you will be setting an example for your children as to what kind of people you want them to become. You didn’t say whether you have boys, girls, or both. How you value your wife will show your boys how they should value their mother and their future wife. How you value your wife will show your girls how you value them and how they should expect to be treated by their future husband.

Another way to nourish your marriage is to set aside one night a week as a date night. Find another couple and trade off babysitting. If you can afford it, you could pay a babysitter. Date night does not have to be expensive. Just get away for a couple of hours. My husband and I have laughed over the years about going to the Dairy Queen a few blocks from our home, getting ice cream cones, and driving home. We would park the car in the driveway and watch our kids fight through the front window. It was better than going to the movies! The kids were so busy fighting among themselves that none of them ever noticed we were watching from the car. Of course, our kids were a little older than yours, but you get the idea.

Other favorite dates were taking a ride down the river road, or eating a picnic lunch in the park, or going for a walk together.

In a nutshell, yes, help her out more with the chores. It will be well worth your time and energy. You are building a family, and that’s the most important thing you will ever do. She can’t do it alone. It would be like asking her to be a single parent. Single parent homes are possible, but extremely difficult. You want better than that for your family. You want a home full of love and joy.

I hope I’ve been of some help and given you a little different perspective.

Letter #: 428415
Category: Marriage

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