By John Oberon
In my last post, I wrote about husbands monitoring and directing their family schedule to reduce stress and promote peace for their wives. Simply saying no to added commitments is a great way to lighten your wife's burdens. However, there's an even more active role a husband can play. A husband can assume responsibility for jobs previously thought to be women's work.
It's time to introduce what was once a revolutionary concept to me: work is genderless. Yes, it's true! MEN can do laundry. They can wash dishes. They can clean bathrooms. And, unbelievably, they can even balance checkbooks!
For years, my wife took care of our family finances, because that's the way it was in both of our homes growing up: the wife spends and tracks the money. But then, we had children and started to homeschool, and her ability to keep track derailed in a big way. It was just too much for her. If our checkbook balance was within $50 of the actual balance, we felt relieved. I saw how much stress it caused her, so I half-heartedly offered to take over the responsibility. I knew pictures of my sloppy, disorganized work desk with scattered papers floated through her mind.
"Oh no, you don't," she said. "You'd be TEN times worse than me!" Relieved, I left her with the responsibility because, after all, I offered to do it.
But the problem worsened, and I decided to make an alternate offer. I said, "You know, a computer is designed to handle tasks like this. Why don't we track our finances on the computer? It would make things a lot easier for you, I bet."
She shook her head. "I barely know how to turn that thing on. I don't have time to learn how to do something as complicated as this on it."
I didn't know how to track finances on a computer either, but I certainly had a firmer foundation from which to start. So, swallowing hard, I said with sincerity, "Well, I'll do it, then.'
Again, the mountains of paper on my desk weighed on her mind. "No way," she said. "You'd bankrupt us inside of a month."
Well, I slowly read up on computerized financing, until eventually, the day came when my wife cracked. She said, "Ugh! I've had it! You do it! Take it all! If I ever see another bill or bank statement again, I'll go straight out of my ever-loving mind!" Or words to that effect.
It's amazing how necessity often spurs achievement. Our checking account has balanced every month since I began tracking it. I tracked how much we spent on various things and printed a nice graph of all our expenditures after a year. It was a real eye-opener - we spent that much eating out? On movie rentals? Sheeeeeesh...
It goaded me into developing a budget. For the first time in our lives we had a rough budget to live by, and we saw how well we kept to it day by day. I saw the load lift from my wife - she was noticeably happier. She often tells me how glad she is that she no longer needs to worry about the money. And really, there's actually times that I kind of enjoy tracking our finances.
I seek to teach my children this truth I've learned. There is no "women's work". There is no "men's work". There is just work. True, the structure of our family or the strenuous nature of some work makes me or my wife a better candidate for particular tasks, but on the whole, I want my children to know that if they see work to be done, they're elected. Unfortunately, my children suffer from work blindness...but back to my point.
Brother neanderthals, if you're like me, you like to relax after work. Who am I kidding? I like to relax wherever and whenever I can. I am a congenital goof-off, much lazier than the average guy. It's one of my broader, more pervading sins, in my mind. The last thing I want to do is to help my wife with "her" work. She had all day, maybe even all week, to finish it; why should I suffer for her failure? This is my time to play, or nap, or read, or do whatever I please. Yes, I've really thought those thoughts before...and recently.
But God is merciful to me in my sin. He gave me a strong counter-balance to my laziness and selfishness: my love for my wife. It is a powerful and vibrant force within me. It trumps the most lethargic and stubborn laziness rooted in my soul. And God gave me words to activate that love: "What can I do for you?" Whenever my wife hears those words, she knows (at least, I hope she knows) that regardless of what I am doing, and no matter how lazy or tired I feel, I am prepared to do whatever she wants - and not after a nap, or after another chapter, but immediately. I make it a point to ask that question often, because, you see, my children get their work blindness honestly.
Brothers, remember your first love for your wife. Remember when anything she asked, you did with eagerness simply to make her happy? If time is stiffening your love into a bloodless, abstract thing. then it's time for a transfusion. Nurture and strengthen your love for your wife through service to her. Talk it over with her. Is there a responsibility that you can relieve her of permanently? Maybe it's an easy job she really hates, or maybe one she doesn't mind at all, but ratchets up the tension of her schedule. Whatever the job, offer sincerely to transfer it from her shoulders to yours.
The strength of most men is the ability to work, to plan for and achieve a goal. The strength of most women is to love and relate. Use your strength to enhance the strength of your spouse.