I really have gotten better at the brutal game of comparison with other women. I don’t handle it perfectly but it no longer consumes me as it has in the past. But recently I’ve found myself wrestling with another art of comparison that I thought I left behind long ago.
My husband had the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. It made for some great memories, a few magical moments, and other moments when I wished for bedtime and a normal routine.
When he went back to work, I found myself suddenly the only adult to whom the children could offer their requests. Three people constantly plying, and often whining (we’re working on it), about the things they wanted, needed, or injustices that were being done.
My response was irritation at my husband whose life I had suddenly decided was much easier than mine. After all, he can go to the bathroom in quiet, whenever he likes. He can leave work and come home to eat lunch, or stay at work in the conference room ordering lunch in like an adult, or leave and run out to get fast food. No buckling other people in car seats or telling children not to fight while they wait on their turn to walk out the door.
He doesn’t deal with the effects of a fourth pregnancy on his body or handle the battles of a dramatic four-year-old who is still learning that he is not in charge of the world. And I do. All day, every day, and therefore, my life is difficult.
Don’t get me wrong, many days it is difficult. Maybe I do have it harder than my husband does. I’m not here to debate that. Honestly I have to confess here (and this does not make me look good) that my husband has good priorities and loves us well. This is a problem with me. But the answer is not convincing myself that my husband’s life is as challenging as mine on the same levels. I’ve tried and I can’t do it, right or wrong.
The answer is to stop comparing. Quit looking at his life as a marker for mine. Instead I put my eyes on Jesus and my hands on this work that He put in front of me. Not just to stop being miserable, but because I love our marriage. In marriage games, no one wins. The marriage suffers. Both players are a loss.
We’re entering our tenth year of marriage. We’re going to wrap up our first decade as one at the end of the year and I find myself at a place that I suddenly remember being in several years ago. That place where I wave bye to my husband in the morning surrounded by our children and realize that he worries that I’ll be miserable that day.
If my children aren’t a burden, if I really enjoy being able to spend this time with them- or at least appreciate it on the days I can’t enjoy it- why would I want that to be his impression? Expectations. I want him to appreciate my work. I want him to realize how hard I have it so that he will know how much I handle. But I don’t really want that. I don’t want to burden him with the responsibility of my happiness or cause him sadness over the work load that a family of (almost) six requires.
So I’ll quit texting him about the fights or the whining. When I recognized this was necessary, I knew I was at the same place of three years ago where I made that same decision. No complaining about the work or the problems. There’s room for honest discussions, for suggestions, for a sharing of the responsibility of a family, but there’s room for it from a place of a mutual love, not a burdened jealousy.
I’ll fight for the radical gratitude. The constant pouring out of praise of Jesus for the opportunities, the love, the giggles, the stamina that’s growing in myself as I temper my responses and discuss the Gospel reasons we don’t hit our brothers.
I’ll stop comparing our lives; instead I’ll pray over his and pour the work into mine. For whatever reason, this is my place. And I dishonor the work when I consider it lowly or beneath me. I ignore what the Bible says about children and families and servanthood when I despise this small work that greets me every day.
I’ll free him from my expectations. The expectation that he’ll notice how frantic life can get when three people want something at the same time or that I’m repeating a lesson for the tenth time and everyone acts like they’ve never heard it before. I’ll let him go from my counting if the work with the kids is a 50/50 split or if I’m overextending so that he can do other things.
I want to come back to my core missions. One of them is that my husband can serve God better because he’s married to me. That means I want to be a propellant and not a burden. And if that means that I offer him to God and the world instead of keeping him for myself- because I enjoy his company and the more evenly matched adult/child ratio- then I make the offering gladly and freely.
I don’t expect one single day of this to come easily. Most days are days of immense frustration and several high points. Let’s be honest that it’s easy to leave out the good in acknowledgement of the difficult. I know how easily I keep score, and make a list of cares and worries, and how quickly I skim over the difficulties that he faces. But I’ll face tomorrow with prayer. For me. For him. For my attitude. For the sake of my marriage. For the sake of the Gospel.
It all ultimately comes back to my obedience, not if my life is harder. God won’t ask if my life was harder; He’ll ask if I obeyed Him. I want to say yes.