I was on my knees when I heard him pull into the driveway. My ears were tuned into the sound of him cutting off the engine and slamming the car door shut while they simultaneously listened to the splashes and giggles coming from the bath tub.
It was that time of day again already. Dinner time, bath-time, bedtime. Somehow the conglomeration of the three made for a strange vortex that sapped the remaining time right out of the day while eradicating any patience or energy I had left within me. By the time they were all under way the cycle of events would spiral downward into a seemingly chaotic, rushed chore to achieve.
The good times washing poop off a little white booty and wiping snot from dripping noses would seem like a distant vacationland when compared to the nighttime routine. I felt the awe of the disregard for the space/time continuum when I heard my husband arrive home. He was home already and the kitchen looked as if I had done nothing all day but let the children run amuck.
I heard high-pitched screams of joy and the sound when five gallons of water is being splashed upon the bathroom rug coming from the other side of the wall. The back door opened as I raked a second pile of thrown meat and pasta from the kitchen floor. The cheese sauce smeared a path across the floor as I attempted to gather the discarded dinner. Hadn’t I just done this right before I put them in the bath?!
As my husband walked in I finished haphazardly cleaning the floor with a damp paper towel and spoke to him, “It seems like I do the same thing over and over around here. And you can’t even tell.” Then I huffed off to the bathroom to collect wet bodies for pajama time. I could hear his half-hearted response of “I know” as I walked away.
As I carried a lotion-soaked, diaper clad baby into the living room I deposited a kiss upon my husband’s lips and felt a slight remorse over not greeting him better when he first arrived. I knew he understood. I also knew he didn’t expect a freshly mopped kitchen with newly scrubbed daughters lined up in their PJ’s ready for a bedtime kiss before trotting off happily to dreamland. Thank goodness. Because instead he was greeted with the usual disastrous remnants of leftover dinner, like an image of a battlefield captured after the war. He was welcomed home by a passel of wet, naked little girls exhausted from a day of play, and a weary looking wife with cheese sauce on her knees and bath water soaking her shirt.
Later in the night as children slept and silence reigned I joined him in the living room. I plopped upon the couch and we sat in a collective vegetative state sapped of all our energies from the day that was now essentially over. It was midnight after all. I watched him and I could see his weariness. I could tell he’d had a difficult day. Why had I not noticed earlier? I wondered.
“Bad day? Wanna talk about it?” I asked.
“Not really.” He replied quietly.
Those two words said so much to me. They spoke strength even when weary. They spoke of the inward silence of a man, taking his complaints and holding them. They made me proud to have a man so determined to take care of me and our children.
So I replied, “If you decide you do want to talk about it I’m here. I just wanted you to know that it’s important to me, that I care even if I don’t always act like I do. I do. And I’m here to listen whenever you need me to.”
A pause from him, and then, “Thank you.”
I suppose sometimes, most times, that’s what we all need. We don’t expect another person to fix things. We don’t need them to make it all better. It would be nice, but most of us are realistic enough to know our significant others or even best friends can’t wave a magic wand. No. What we want is to know someone else cares.
We need to know someone cares. After all, we certainly do. What I mean is that we are abundantly aware of our own problems. Sometimes we’re even too aware. We are so focused on our own nuisances that we fail to see the struggles of those we hold most dear.
It’s easy to become so caught up in your own work load, be it taking care of children or patient care, that we develop tunnel vision. We only see what we’re up against personally, and if we do happen to see the things that are bothering our spouse it’s simply because they’re affecting us in some way. For example, “I hate my husband has to work so late! He’s never home in time to help me with the children! And at the worst time of the day too!”
We see what bothers our spouse if it bothers us too, but do we see anything else? Do we see the rough patches through their eyes or with a heart for them? Do they know that we even care?
Sometimes you can know something but you still need to hear it. You can know your spouse loves you, but you still like to hear them say it. Right? Caring about what is important to your spouse is the same. Sometimes they just need to hear that you see. That you care. That you’re present in this with them. That they’re not alone.
When you can place yourself second in a relationship them you end up being first to the other person. Does that make sense? In other words, when you place the needs and emotions of another person above your own they tend to reciprocate. Or they should. If this is a new practice in your marriage then give it a bit. Don’t expect change overnight. Just continue to walk selflessly and see what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
It’s easy to become consumed by our own wants, needs, and daily struggles. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by keeping floors clean and little people alive. It’s easy to become consumed by building new websites and producing buzz over a newly written book. It’s easy to think “my job is so much harder.” But is it? A selfish view will never begin to see the beauty a relationship can hold. A selfless view will illuminate the best qualities of the person you walk beside in this difficult and challenging world. And it will also open their eyes to you. Empathy is contagious.
When you feel as if your day couldn’t get any worse try focusing on the needs of another. Amazing how it changes your perspective and lightens your own load while lifting up someone else.
Proverbs 11:25 ESV
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
Luke 6:38 ESV
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,