Kristie's Side: I can't do everything
When I married Patrick, I was rearing two boys from my previous marriage and working full-time.
Patrick had spent the majority of his life battling a rare type of cancer that had rendered him unable to hold down a typical 9 to 5 job. Meanwhile, my divorce pushed me to climb the corporate ladder, often forgoing the role of Mom for that of Provider. When Patrick and I married, I assumed my role wouldn't change. My job would provide a steady income and medical insurance. Patrick would enjoy hanging out with the boys, and with his flexible schedule at his part-time home business, he'd have time to do most of the household chores. What I thought was the perfect set-up, however, wasn't.
I'd often come home from work and discover I still had to do many of the chores! While I was frustrated, I had to remind myself that because of his illness, Patrick had little energy.
I ran out of patience, however, one afternoon when I called home 45 minutes after my son's school let out. My groggy husband answered the phone, and when I asked to speak to Taylor, Patrick told me Taylor wasn't home. "Where is he?" I asked.
"I don't know," Patrick said. He said he'd gone home to lie down for a moment since he wasn't feeling well after his radiation treatment. He'd fallen asleep and forgotten to pick up Taylor from school.
While I knew Patrick couldn't help it—he was battling cancer after all—there was still part of me that snapped. I know it was insensitive, and maybe I was just too used to having cancer be a constant part of our lives, but I didn't want that to be the excuse all the time.
I was upset by his lapse in judgment. After all, in my eyes Patrick had few responsibilities.
Patrick told me he'd find Taylor. He drove immediately to the school, where Taylor was still waiting, then called to let me know Taylor was safe. Once we'd calmed down, he admitted he was tired of being treated like "Mr. Mom."
Was he serious? He had it great—when he worked it was part-time at home, then he got to play with the boys while I sacrificed at a full-time, stress-filled job. I'd have gladly traded places with him. All I asked was that he help pick up around the house and take care of the boys. Was that so difficult?
Patrick's Side: I'm not just a to-do list
When Kristie and I first met, I was attracted to her ability to juggle a million tasks while simultaneously organizing everyone's life, including mine. After a few months of marriage, however, we fell into a routine of her expectations, and I began to feel unneeded and unappreciated. Part of the problem was that I owned a sculpting business that I operated out of our home. That allowed me the flexibility to be at doctor appointments and cancer treatments while contributing to the family income. Kristie perceived this flexibility as free time. It wasn't until that afternoon that I verbalized what I'd been feeling for months. While Kristie was at work every day, I was left doing the laundry and baby-sitting, while trying to recover and run a home business. The only time we talked during the day was when she'd call to give me another errand or chore. She never thanked me for what I did do around the house. I felt taken for granted.
What They Did:
As Kristie drove home, she mentally replayed their argument. "I realized," says Kristie, "that rather than asking Patrick if he'd mind shuttling the kids around or doing the laundry, I gave him orders and assumed he'd not only do everything I asked but would be happy about it. That was wrong of me." When she arrived home she apologized to Patrick for how she'd treated him and explained that she was feeling jealous of his role—or rather, the role she'd assigned him.
Patrick said that he too was jealous of the role she played in their marriage. The fact that she was the "breadwinner" had stripped Patrick of the pride he wanted from providing for his family. "My sense of worth comes through my work," says Patrick, "not through caring for children and a household—as worthy as those things are." He'd assumed the role because he felt he had no other option. Both Kristie and Patrick realized they needed to make changes. They contacted a Christian counselor to help them refocus their expectations.
Patrick found a flexible full-time job, which allowed him to work outside of their house. And he continues his sculpting business on weekends. This "outside" job helped diminish his role as "stay at home mom." They agreed to share the responsibility of taking and picking up the boys, and they divided the household chores. "Our frustrations could have been avoided had we just expressed verbally our expectations of each other," Kristie says. "I'm glad we finally did."
Every day they discuss their schedules and divide duties as appropriate. On treatment days, Kristie calls Patrick to make sure he's able to handle his responsibilities.
If not, they make changes at that point—either Kristie picks up the kids or she finds someone else to do it. They've also involved the kids in helping out around the house. Everyone has chores, which takes the pressure off Kristie and Patrick.
They've also committed to beginning each day by praying with and for each other.
"When we pray together," Patrick says, "it helps us remember not to take each other for granted and to verbalize our appreciation for each other."
"I learned how important it is just to say 'thank you' for what Patrick does around the house," says Kristie.
"We both learned that good doesn't always equal easy," says Patrick, "and that marriage is team work."
Kristie and Patrick Thompson have been married 2 years and live in Texas.
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