Loving Your Wife Begins with Recognizing Her Challenges

While wives are wonderful, mothers are magnificent.  Some husbands recognize the efforts and needs of their wives; others show little understanding of the daily expectations and demands placed upon the mothers of their children.  In either case, a true appreciation of all that women do is beyond the grasp of most of us, since we live in a world (called ‘work’) insulated from homemaking.

Homemakers take the lead in fulfilling children’s physical and emotional needs.  This includes performing the daily rituals of cleaning, cooking, shopping, and doing the laundry; ensuring that schoolwork and extracurricular activities are attended to; and helping children with the ups and downs of daily life.

Homemakers live at work, putting in ‘overtime’ every day of the week.  They receive no pay, no promotions, no holidays, limited vacation days, and are at work even on sick days.  Praise from ‘co-workers’ varies from family to family.

The sheer amount of time spent with children means that, compared to fathers, mothers are bound to deal with more conflicts, problems, and emotions.  Mothers therefore experience an inordinate number of the children’s complaints, angry words, and misbehaviors.

When such problems lead a family to seek my help, it is not uncommon for the husband to cavalierly assert that his wife simply needs to be more consistent (or firm, or patient, etc.) in her discipline. While this may indeed be part of the solution, I sense a lack of sympathy from him for his wife’s difficult position.  In such cases I am reminded of the saying, “We should be lenient in our judgment, because often the mistakes of others would have been ours had we had the opportunity to make them.”

Part-time homemakers must juggle household tasks and other responsibilities (e.g., school, outside employment).  Full-time homemakers face different challenges.  For instance, a day with diapers, Legos, and whining often creates a hunger for adult conversation and attention.  Most homemakers also experience times when they feel trapped, isolated, and ‘lost’ in the endlessness of their mundane tasks.  The adage “A woman’s work is never finished” is an understatement.  Imagine having a textbook that you must continually re-read but that you never finish.  That is laundry.  That is cooking.  That is cleaning.

On rare occasion, my wife takes a vacation (defined as a weekend free from the children and me).  I used to think that such vacations allowed me a chance to experience life in her shoes.  I soon realized, however, that I’m not even close, for a number of reasons.

First of all, when things get stressful, I can fall back on a very reassuring thought:  “My homemaking venture is temporary.  Relief is just a Monday away.

Second, I’m typically fresh and geared up for the task.  Because it’s the weekend, there’s not a rush to do homework, and the kids and I often spend time getting out of the house or doing novel activities.

Third, do I touch the laundry?  Do I take time to clean the toilet?  Do I cook more than Ramen, hot dogs, or burritos for the kids?  I’m not so noble.  Nor so bright.  Nor so daring.

Finally, I am invariably showered with praise for my valor, sensitivity, and chivalry in ‘allowing’ my wife a reprieve.  Whereas I am heralded for being a responsible parent, similar efforts by my wife are hardly noticed.  Societal roles and expectations have gotten out of hand.

Lest anyone think the art of homemaking is without its rewards, I admit that my focus here has been skewed towards the challenges of motherhood.  Clearly, the choice to become a mother must be enticing, since so many women choose it.  The number of homemakers in the world over attests to the appeal of creating and maintaining a comfortable refuge for families.

I just figured that we men, you and I, can do a better job of supporting and helping our wives.  And I knew the best place to catch you would be here in the newspaper, fresh off ‘work.’  I think it’s high time we forego the Sports section and find out if the darks are washed in cold or warm water.

 

Steven M. Gentry, PhD., is a Child & Family Psychologist and the Executive Director of
Psychological Assessment & Treatment Specialists in American Fork, Utah