May 24, 2012

I realized something big recently. I often expect my husband to be me.

Me, as in, a substitute mom of sorts—a stand-in to handle the parts of my job that I just don’t feel like doing. Because he doesn’t have enough responsibilities stacked on his Husband / Father / Provider / Handyman / Garbage-Taker-Outer plate, right?

You can imagine how well this goes over.

It all started around midnight last Friday when our five-year-old bolted awake, scampered into our room, tapped me on the shoulder, and informed me she had to throw up. And she did—through the wee hours of the morning until sunrise, just about the time her little sister called from the crib demanding milk and Teddy Grahams.

Of course I camped on the family room floor beside my beloved sick one through every heave and sniffle. Moms are on alert for these moments, no questions asked. I kept watch just inches from her rosebud face, studying her eyelashes fluttering in the nightlight glow.

But when the storm quelled and daylight peeked through the windows, fatigue took over. I felt like someone dripped Tabasco sauce in my eyes and stuffed my brain with Jell-O. How was I going to face an entire day of doctoring and toddler-chasing alone? Surely my husband ought to help. We’re co-parents, after all. Isn’t this in the job description? Stay home from work to cover for your wife who was up all night with a vomiting child. It’s in the addendum somewhere, I think.

Yet my knight in pajama armor hit the shower and put on his office shoes. “Are you going to work?” I asked.

“Yes.” Dumb question?

I let my thoughts escape past my tongue. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage today.”

Can you believe he didn’t say anything in reply? He just kissed us all goodbye and drove away. The nerve!

I stewed. I felt sorry for myself. I played the wrong tapes in my head. How could he leave me here? Why do I have to be the one to function on fumes? I’ll bet he’s sipping coffee and chatting with co-workers while I scrub barf pails and run after a naked two-year-old.

And then I caught a hand-slap from the Holy Spirit. After a few minutes of pouting, I realized I was wrong. My husband goes to work so I can stay home. Monday through Friday until dinnertime, his job is at the office and mine is here. That’s our equal parenting deal. Sure, we’re flexible depending on the circumstances. But as a general rule, I shouldn’t pass the buck when my job gets tough. It’s still my job.

Let’s look at this from my husband’s side of the bargain. He doesn’t ask me to fill his seat in the conference room at high-stress meetings. He doesn’t even ask me to mow the lawn, which could technically be considered a shared household duty. We each need to take responsibility for the roles we agreed upon.

On Friday, that meant praying for a dose of supernatural energy to get through the day—and calling my husband to apologize. After all, the poor guy was just as tired as I was. Mom isn’t the only one on call at midnight. Daddy came to the rescue, too.

The root of this issue runs deeper than a tummy bug. I dug down and admitted that when I signed on to be a mom, I envisioned the fun stuff. The snuggling-with-baby, stroller walks through the park kind of joy-filled mommy theory that, in real life, comprises only a part of the job. Stomach flu isn’t an unfortunate blip in parenting. Stomach flu is parenting.

Maybe motherhood looks different than you dreamed. There are sick days, hard days, strong wills, special needs. Sometimes the challenges are all we can see. But the job is still worth doing. God did not make a mistake when he planted your child in your arms. He knew what he was asking of you. And he knows what you’re capable of. So rather than cherry-picking which parts of motherhood I want to face, I ought to seek His face—praying for the wisdom to do all parts well, with love, patience, courage, and perseverance.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” (Romans 5:3–4, ESV).

Yes, Friday was a long day. At the end of it, during bedtime prayers with our daughters, I received my paycheck for the week. “Dear Lord,” my husband prayed, “Thank you that Mom could be home with the girls today. And thank you for giving her the strength to get through the day.”

Awww, he noticed. I am blessed—barf pails and all.

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