I was on my way home from work when Mel called and told me she was about to crack. The kids had been arguing all day, and making messes, and arguing, and making messes, and arguing… you know the feeling.
She’d finally had enough and was hiding in our bedroom to get a break.
I rolled my eyes. Hard. I let out a long exacerbated breath and told her to calm down. I told her she was overreacting and it wasn’t that bad. I said, “How hard is it to be home with the kids all day?!” I told her she was being ridiculous. I gave her a good toughen up talk, because women love that. And she agreed with me and changed her outlook on life and motherhood. And once I got home, she was so grateful that she made me a sandwich and we had sex.
NAH! Just kidding.
I didn’t say any of that because that would make me huge dickhead. And honestly, if you have ever said even a fraction of that, check yourself, because you’re a jackass.
What I actually did was listen to her. I didn’t make suggestions, or criticize, or talk down to her. I didn’t say a word. I just let her vent because she needed to get it out. I reaffirmed her from time to time, with an “oh wow” and “I’m sorry” and “that sucks.”
When I got home, I didn’t go to the bedroom to talk to her. I didn’t ask her to come out, or tell her to get it together, or state that I was home, and ask how I could help. I just started making dinner.
I talked to the kids about how they were acting. I sent one child to her room because she was throwing a fit and punching her sister. I got the other two cleaning the table and taking out the trash.
But, most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, I left Mel alone in our room until she was ready to come out.
Listen, being home alone with three kids under 12 for weeks and weeks, trying to get ahead on projects, trying to clean, trying to do summer workbooks, while also trying to be a fun mom is exhausting and maddening with only the occasional brief Instagram-worthy moment.
I know this because I was a stay-at-home dad for one summer. Just one, and I couldn’t believe how long the days were. I couldn’t believe how much I wanted to get done at the beginning of each day, and each and every day, I was sidelined with fits and arguments and messes. I can remember cleaning the living room. I felt good about it. I dusted my hands and went to do the dishes. By the time the dishwasher was running, my kids had filled the living room I’d just cleaned with baby dolls and a race car set. I can remember sitting next to my middle daughter, trying to help her with a summer workbook so she’d be ready for kindergarten. It took 100% of my concentration, nearly three hours, and tears from both of us, to get through one lesson. I got nothing done, I was so frustrated, and I felt like a total failure. (Soon after, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, but I didn’t know that yet, so I just felt like a failure.)
I didn’t get a break because the kids never stopped wanting and needing and fighting and asking for snacks. There were days that I just couldn’t do it anymore, and I put myself in our bedroom so I could breathe. I didn’t need someone to come in and tell me how ridiculous I was being. I didn’t need a pep talk or a put down. I just needed a some time, so when I come home from work, and Mel is about to crack, I watch those kids so she can take the time she needs.
Once Mel came out, she vented some more and I listened. Dinner was almost done. I’d let our youngest out of her room and had her picking up her coloring books. Our other two had set the table. In the time she was in her room, I’d broken up two fights and burned some of the beans, but things were moving along.
Close to an hour after I’d gotten home, we were all at the table, Mel feeling like a sane, slightly rested, and heard version of herself.
Listen to me, my wife is the best thing ever. Hands down. She is the mother of my children. She is the one person I can confide in. She is the love of my life, and frankly, giving her the time she needs to stay not only sane, but more importantly, happy, isn’t that much to ask.
All it took was listening, pitching in around the house, and providing a short break so she didn’t completely lose it.
How hard is that?
Not that hard.
And totally worth it.