During the course of our seventeen years of marriage, my responsibilities and Chad’s have shifted and changed. In life, you adapt to your current circumstances, and marriages have to adapt as well. When we were young marrieds with no kids, we shared the (rather light) work load, both working outside the home, both working to keep the inside nice and neat. By the time we had our first child, Chad was an attorney and I was a stay-at-home mom. Our world had shifted dramatically, and so did our responsibilities. I started doing the bulk of the dishwashing, laundry, and almost all of the childcare, while he worked long, stressful hours.
Yet, he would do his best to come home for an hour in the evenings so he could rock Adelade to sleep before heading back to the office to work late into the night.
I could’ve tried demanding that he come home and bathe and feed her, but that would’ve been absurd under the circumstances. He was working hard for our family. He was doing a good job for his boss. He was providing for all of our needs. And, he seemed most at peace in those moments when I handed him a clean, sleepy, full-tummied baby and he could sit there and watch her little face as she drifted off to sleep. I was happy that he loved those times so much, and he still talks about those evenings in that squeaky hand-me-down rocking chair, with his first baby in his arms.
Fast forward a few years, and we had two older kids and a newborn. Chad took over the responsibility for getting the two older kids bathed and pj-ed and in bed while I nursed the baby. He started driving Adelade to school in the mornings so that I could remain in a zombie state in my robe for awhile longer. He did all the mowing, car cleaning, bill paying, and I tried to keep kids alive and tried to cook and tried to keep house. Expanding our family to three kids and two parents meant the two of us had to link arms even tighter, always trying to remember that we were on the same team, even though life with three little people got crazy at times.
These days, our kids are older. Things got easier. Chad became a pastor, and in some ways we’re back to the long hours and late nights, but on other days we aren’t. The ways we help each other ebbs and flows throughout the weeks and months, but I have taken back the job of getting the kids ready for bed. At least half of the time, Chad isn’t even home by the time they have to go to bed. The rest of the time, I’m content to let him rest or read or write or do whatever he wants to do while I get the little people bathed and tucked in.
When friends find out that he doesn’t help out at bedtime, they give me a hard time about it. They joke that I’m too easy on him, that I should negotiate for a better bedtime situation. Yet, if I were to name everything that Chad does on a daily basis for our family, they would quickly understand why, at this stage of our lives, I really don’t need him to put the kids to bed.
Marriage isn’t about keeping score. I put the kids to bed because I want to take that responsibility off of Chad’s plate. I want him to have down time if he can get it. I want him to feel free to counsel someone or minister to somebody without having to worry about whether I’m going to be mad that he missed bedtime. Instead of looking at bedtimes as something that he owes me for, I want to see it as one way that I can repay him for all of the good that he brings to our life, for all of the ways that he blesses me by taking care of truly awful things like buying car insurance and weed-eating our yard.
This post isn’t really about bedtimes. It’s not about bathing kids or about flossing teeth. It’s about how in marriage you do for each other what is best and most needed at different phases of life. It’s about how you look for ways to take a load off of your spouse’s shoulders rather than looking for more ways to get what you feel you have coming to you. Marriage can quickly fill with resentment if you let it. It can quickly become a never-ending game of what-you-owe-me. I have fallen into that trap many times over different issues. But, then I take just one tiny step back. Just one step is all it takes to see the bigger picture of how Chad takes care of me in so many ways. It’s almost embarrassing.
So, I’ll keep bathing these kids. I’ll keep giving the piggyback rides and brushing all those teeth and asking one more time if everyone went to the potty before bed. Because, in this phase, these aren’t just little ways to love and serve my kids. They’re little ways to love and serve my husband. And, since I usually can’t manage to keep clean underwear in his drawer, bathtime (with a good attitude) is really the very least I can do.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14