I led a homeschool group for several years when my children were young. Occasionally, I wrote a newsletter article to inform or encourage homeschool families. This is part one of a two-part article that bears repeating.
Life in the Pressure Cooker - Part 1
by John Oberon
I can bring home the bacon...fry it up in a pan...
And never, never, never let you forget you're a man.
'Cause I'm a woooooooman!
Many of you may remember that popular jingle. It popped into my mind one day as I watched my wife whiz around the house completing a hit list of chores. Like most women, my wife can juggle several things simultaneously, and juggle them well, while I, a mere man, plod through one thing at a time in my narrow, sequential way. I believe it's a basic gender difference most people recognize. It's a strength I respect in my wife, but it's also a strength that can become a weakness when people begin to view it as an expectation in all circumstances.
Let me describe a not too uncommon scenario in our home that illustrates my wife's abilities and my family's sometimes unreasonable expectations. My lovely wife is at the sink washing some pots. She washes one and begins to dry it, when the phone rings. She clamps the receiver between her jaw and shoulder as she continues to dry. Then she puts the washcloth into the pot she holds in her left hand and sidles over to her desk. She finds a pen and notepad and begins writing down some information as she acknowledges the unknown caller with a variety of "yes", "ok", and "uh huh".
Enter Child #1, who begins tugging on my wife's pants and, like a doll with a stuck pullstring, says, "Mommy...mommy...mommy...". My wife stops writing temporarily and holds up her index finger to Child #1, indicating she must wait until mommy is off the phone. Child #1 waits quietly close by her side.
As my wife continues writing, enter Child #2, who says, "Mommy, can I go play at so-and-so's house? Her mom says it's ok and..." My wife holds up the same index finger to Child #2. However, Child #1 takes Child #2's interruption as a signal to press for her rights, so she tugs and says, "Mommy...mommy...mommy...". My wife simply shifts the index finger from Child #2's face to Child #1's face. Both children wait close to her, silent for the moment.
My wife takes this small respite to finish drying the pot. She lays the washcloth on the counter, fills the pot half full with water, puts it on the stove, then turns on the burner to boil the water. Then she takes the receiver in her left hand and heads back to the desk to write some more with both children following like vultures.
Enter Child #3 who says with a chuckling grin, "Mom...Mom, guess what I just read..." This time, my wife stabs the index finger twice quickly at the receiver and looks at Child #3 with an expression that says, "I'm on the phone!" There's a moment of silence as my wife writes with a pack of three children surrounding her.
Child #1 wavers. Certainly she should be able to talk to mommy since Child #3 just talked to her. Plus, it's just a small, quick thing she wants anyway, so she ques up the tape and starts tugging.
Child #2, who feels her matter is even smaller and quicker, chimes in. "Can I go over to so-and-so's? She has a secret fort and..."
Child #3, who just knows he can speak loud enough to drown out the other two says, "Mom...Mom, it was so funny what this guy wrote. Listen to this..."
Enter the humble, adoring husband, who says, "Hey, have you seen my toolbox? I can't find it anywhere. Did you..."
Suddenly, my wife looks like Charles Manson with a phone and a pen. I and my children quickly exit the kitchen to a place of safety.
Sound familiar? I don't doubt it. I've long believed that the average mom multitasks in a way that makes the average corporate CEO look incompetent and pathetic. But that ability, so vital in household management, can often overwhelm our wives with cares if we as husbands don't direct and shield our families. For me, it is easy to expect my wife to do ten or fifteen things at once because she does it so often.
You know what I mean. There's swimming, gymnastics, and all manner of sports in which our children must participate. There's seminars, conferences, and meetings we must attend. There's church duties, activities, and responsibilities which we must include. And of course, our friends want to go out with us, or they need babysitting, or they need help moving, and we simply must be there for them.
I don't know about anyone else, but if I let my wife's abilities have their head, she'd try to do all these things and more for a multitude of reasons, and most of them good -- and we'd probably catch a used curriculum sale on our way to the asylum. More than once, out of her goodness my wife entangled herself with too many commitments, but then she spied a strength of mine that helps her immensely: I am a neanderthal.
I know what you're thinking: if there were such a thing as evolution, I'd be at the pinnacle of it. But looks can be deceiving. Underneath lives a caveman with the social skills of an ox. How is that a strength, you might ask? Well, unlike my highly refined and diplomatic wife, I have no problem saying "no" to people and meaning it. Pleas for help rarely penetrate, veiled accusations of selfishness bounce off me, and questions about my priorities yield naught.
I remember one of the first times my wife availed herself of this strength. When we first moved to Columbus, I had a low-paying job, and my wife eventually decided to help by taking a job as a Welcome Wagon representative. It was flexible, but added definite stress to her life. Soon, I landed a better paying job and told my wife to quit Welcome Wagon. The next evening, she called her female boss. By the end of the conversation, she agreed to stay on as a rep for two more months to help out her boss who was scrambling for reps. I could tell she didn't want to do it, but she didn't want to offend her boss or make her life more difficult.
In shuffles the neanderthal, dragging his knuckles. I asked my wife if she'd like me to handle this for her, and she nodded quickly with a tight, nervous smile. I called her boss and said, "Hello, I'm John Oberon. You just had a conversation with my wife, and I think there may have been some miscommunication. As of this moment, she is no longer a Welcome Wagon rep. We thank you for the opportunities this job afforded us, but we no longer need it. So my wife no longer works for you...understood?"
There was a moment of silence before the woman groaned out a "yeeeessss" that would've suctioned truckloads of sympathy from my wife. "Good," I said. "I hope you find a replacement quickly, though I'm sure she won't be near the caliber of my wife. Bye-bye."
Me husband. Me tell boss-woman bye-bye. Ugh.
God commands us to love our wives and to provide for our families not simply material goods, but protection and leadership as well. God calls the man who doesn't do these things "worse than an infidel". God uniquely equips most men with tough emotional hides so we can shield our more sensitive wives from emotional appeals that bite into family life. Does this mean we say no to everything? Of course not, but it does mean we keep our fingers firmly on the pulse of our family so we know when to say no, and that takes persistent, consistent communication. It's much easier for a woman to submit to the reasoned and considerate direction of a husband with her highest good at heart, than the seemingly arbitrary commands of a strong, silent "lord".
So watch your wife. Does she seem stressed or worried? Do her words reveal that stress or worry? Is she constantly running somewhere? Does she always seem to be late to something? Does she have little time for herself? It may be time to swing the schedule ax, brother neanderthal, but don't clip your wife with it. Be considerate of her feelings as you lead your family in a less harried, more peaceful life.