Not only is my relationship with my husband never running at a 50/50 share of responsibilities, it’s probably more like 80/20. Let me explain.
Life is ridiculous sometimes, amiright? As I’m typing this, I can hear my 1 year old crying downstairs because he wants to get into the bathroom where my husband is helping my 3 year old brush her teeth. Meanwhile there’s a PILE of unfolded, clean clothes mocking me from the chair next to my dresser. The breakfast dishes are still on the kitchen table and nothing has been started for lunch.
There are never enough hours in the day and at the same time, sometimes it feels like there are too many. Like, when will my tribe go to sleep already?! Then once they do go to sleep, I have the impossible decision of staying awake just to be alone or going to sleep myself because I know that someone will be up shortly needing my assistance to use the bathroom or wanting a cuddle.
I’ll admit it (where’s the raising hand emoji?) that occasionally I get so burnt out that I subtly just start dropping balls. The kids are living on cereal and the chores start piling up. I get exhausted – sometimes emotionally, sometimes physically. My husband usually notices and starts to pick up the slack. If he doesn’t, I oh-so-gently make sure he knows that I’m over it as I yell, “I NEED A MINUTE” and
slam gently close my bedroom door. This is when he starts doing my stuff on top of his.
Now we don’t have clear responsibilities around the house that are only mine or only his (excluding the obvious like me being the baby maker and him being the meat griller). However, we do have jobs that are better suited for us or that we enjoy so we tend to make them our own. My husband typically carries the bags of pellets up to the stove each morning and night and vacuums it as needed. He’s also the kids’ Arts & Crafts Coordinator. I’m the one who is forever filling the diffusers and slathering my kids in essential oils to keep them healthy. I’m also the laundry queen and Story & Song Time Teacher. You get the idea. Here’s where it gets tricky.
Picture a parent, or anyone really, like a big cup. In order to overflow and pour love on their children, they need to be refilled themselves. I think it’s safe to say that most parents pour out faster than they’re able to refill. When this happens to me and I’m running on empty, my husband will start doing more than his fair share while I take a minute to myself. By minute I mean eating sitting down or taking my time in the shower. This minute could also mean an hour or a day or two. It depends on how long I’d been running on a deficit. I feel like during the most extreme times of this, the responsibilities can fall to a very uneven 80/20.
Before you start lighting the torches, this absolutely works both ways. My husband has a stressful job which becomes overwhelming in the summer. I can sense when he’s mentally checking out because he’s like a zombie when he gets home. It takes him longer to engage with us. It’s especially apparent when he stops doing “his” chores around the house and the added load quickly becomes noticeable. I usually check in with him about how things are going and when he confirms that he’s being stretched a little thin, I pull up my big girl pants and try to manage until his cup gets filled back up. For the record, his usually replenishes faster than mine. Must be a guy thing.
I have seen other articles about marriage not being 50/50 because it’s more like 100/100. There is an argument for that, as well. But in this phase of our life with a thousand balls in the air and 3 little people to keep alive, I find that our efforts tend to ebb and flow. Sometimes it can happen seamlessly and we work like a well-oiled machine picking up each other’s slack without much verbal communication. Sometimes it’s not so smooth and one of us needs to have a small meltdown (usually me) before the other one (usually him) sees that some extra help is needed for a short period.
Either way, whether it’s 100/100 or 80/20, I think it can be agreed that marriage is rarely 50/50 and I don’t think it should be. Those rare 90/10 situations are where the roots of your marriage grow even deeper into the ground. Trust and love are growing at rapid speeds in those trenches. You may not see or feel it at the time. In fact, you may feel like it’s pulling you apart but if you stick it out, I’m willing to bet that you’ll reap the benefits on the other side.
If you’re reading this, and you’re not married yet, don’t let it scare you. I hope that it encourages you and helps you to see how much more important it is to find a partner who will get on this crazy seesaw with you as you fill each other’s cups during the ups and downs.
If you are married then I hope that the Lord blessed you with a spouse like mine and you can relate. If you can’t, then maybe 2018 is the year to try to be that spouse who looks for signs of burn out and acts without needing to be asked. I pray that you do and that your roots grow so deep that you have a lifetime of 80/20ing ahead of you.