I’m pretty sure there was steam literally coming out of my ears. And all because my husband Joe causally asked what was for dinner.
He had just walked in the door and I was about to pass the torch, kiss him and the kids goodbye, and head out to my eye appointment.
The day had gone well with only minor annoyances, but it was as Joe casually asked about dinner that I pounced like a rabid tiger. I can’t even be sure exactly what I said, but I know it was accusatory and dripping with condescension and sarcasm.
My rant was peppered with sweet words of encouragement like, “So because I didn’t make dinner you’re going to be a jerk to me?” and beautiful words of affirmation like, “How many meals have you cooked for the kids this week?”
I’m sure at that moment Joe wanted to rise and call me blessed. (Okay, so not really.)
Unfortunately for Joe, I’m a really good arguer. I come from a long line of fighters who’ve had generations to hone our skills of interrupting, over-talking, kitchen-sinking, and word twisting. You could say I’m a black belt in dirty arguing.
When my head was done spinning and my eyes popped back into their sockets, I was able to graciously back-peddle a bit and offer a pitiful, shallow apology.
I kissed all of the kids goodbye and headed out to my appointment. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, the Holy Spirit had whispered in my ear and my head hung low. I couldn’t go a moment longer without picking up my phone and calling Joe.
I told him the truth: I had an off day and I picked a fight with him. I’m not proud of that. But what’s even worse is that the reason I had an “off” day is because I allowed my selfish, self-centered wants to take precedence over my family. For the past few days, I’d been nursing supposed wounds over losing my sense of identity, my freedom, and my will.
With every diaper changed, with every long day spent in the charge of six kids from morning to night, and with every hour used to prepare for a holiday of guests with no help, I was feeling bitter. I looked past the tiny detail that my husband was working on a big project at my request and wasn’t available to be as helpful as he typically is. Instead of dying to myself every day and recognizing my family as the blessing that they are, I started letting little thoughts seep in and take up residence in my heart. I allowed myself to feel like a victim and see my family as a burden.
I never get any alone time.
I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself.
I miss being able to come and go as I please.
I’m the only one who cleans the house.
I feel trapped in these four walls.
I didn’t consciously allow these thoughts to take root, but I did allow myself to ruminate on them enough that they became louder than what I know to be true: My family is my first ministry. My husband is my top priority on this earth. My children need me and will only be in my constant care for a short time.
Being a wife and a mother is hard work, to be sure, but I only make it harder by waging an inner battle between my selfish desires and the needs of my family. When I take care of my family — my top priority this side of Heaven — God will fill me up and give me the rest I need.
And even aside from that, I do make time for myself to refresh and recharge. In fact, if I looked very closely at my and my husband’s schedules, I would see that I take more time away for “me” than my husband does for himself. Looking back, I now realize the heated words exchanged with Joe were really because my perspective was horribly skewed.
So tomorrow when a little hand reaches under the bathroom door, I will smile because I’m important enough in that little guy’s life that he hates to be away from me for even a moment.
When my daughter seeks me out to share a 20–minute tale about a 5-minute video, I’ll thank God that she’s chosen me to share what is important to her. And when I pick up the same blocks, dolls, and cast-off costumes time and again, I’ll say a prayer of thanksgiving that my children have so many choices of what to play and that they have the freedom and security to lose themselves in make-believe.
The roles of wife and mom require a great deal from me, and it’s a delicate balance that allows me to not only survive but to thrive in these God-given roles. Keeping things in perspective maintains that balance and ensures that my priorities are placed where they should be: with seeing that serving my family is a blessing and not a burden.
And when I remember this, I realize that being asked what’s for dinner isn’t such a big deal after all.