Last night my husband arrived home from a 12-hour shift to my daughter waiting at the outside gate for him with a very smelly surprise in her not-yet-potty-trained underwear. Not to mention she had dirt covering her face and most of her body, and was only wearing a single rain boot and a t-shirt one size too big because that’s just the day we were having. Do not even get me started on what the state of my house was at that point. I sat on the back deck watching their reunion unfold, feeling equal parts ashamed and emotionally drained (with a dash of smitten, because my daughter is just that cute – and so is my husband).
It had been a long day. My usually mellow 6-month old was holding my attention hostage by not letting me put her down without a fit of screams and tears. And my usually hilarious and offbeat and ornery 2-year-old was being all of those, with an extra dose of ornery. Instead of accepting the particular cards we were given, I fought against it all day. Not in the good way, the optimistic “Not Today, Satan” way. The irritable, forced, short-tempered “Can I get a do-over PLEASE” way. Instead of letting the day be less productive and just soaking up some snuggles with my youngest, I tried to get stuff done. And I paid the price. And then the self-loathing and guilt and shame and justifying and then back to self-loathing and around and around the carousel goes. Momming is hard, but it’s not the hardest thing.
My husband had just gotten home from his shift. He is an Emergency Medicine Resident at UC. On any given day he is literally saving lives and with people on the actual worst day of their lives. Makes poopy diapers and moody toddlers look a bit trivial, yes? Some of you sweet, compassionate ones may respond, “But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard to be a mom; we have hard days too!” or encourage me to not compare. Both of these are right, and yet, we mustn’t kid ourselves. Where there is room for grace, there is also room for truth.
His job is harder than mine. And that’s okay to admit. I know not every husband is dealing with life and death at their job, but whatever the work they’re doing certainly has the potential to be more difficult than what we’re doing keeping the fires burning at home. So where does that leave us, when we’ve had the kind of day that makes us feel defeated and incompetent, like we’re just not good enough at the job we’ve been given, the job we chose? When in feeling that, we see our husbands coming home from an even harder day?
There needs to be a place where shame is not welcome, but humility and perspective is, with open arms. When we enter into marriage, we are entering into an ongoing, everyday agreement to give our spouse the benefit of the doubt. He will never understand what it means to feel like “just a stay at home mom” who’s immersed in kid life all day, every day for the foreseeable future. And I will never be able to fully understand the demands and implications of his job. So every day we choose to accept the other one as both the expert in their field and also as a flawed human being. We give grace by the truckload. We live in the acceptance of understanding that we don’t understand the other’s life, all the while soaking in the gratitude that we get to be on this messy, beautiful adventure of life together.