Growing up, Sundays meant country and western music on the radio and a sink filled with soapy water and dusting cloths. My sister and I were expected to clean our rooms while my parents did the rest of the housework—together.
I've never seen my dad cook a meal, but I've never seen my mom push a vacuum either. They each had their domestic strengths, but the workload was divided. Even though he worked long hours outside the home, my dad never hesitated or balked at being part of the work that happened at home. That attitude applied to parenting as well. He worked shifts, which made him available for school drop offs and bedtimes, and he did all of it with love and enthusiasm.
Maybe he was ahead of his time, but I know he had it right.
My life is rich because I have a partner that supports my choices: my career path, my decision to stay home with our children, my escape from the house for time with friends. I never doubt he wants me to succeed and feel genuine happiness.
The support is mutual, of course. It doesn't matter which one of us pulls out of the driveway each morning, our contributions to this family are shared.
Although I am often given credit for training my husband, you will never catch me accepting it. Everything he brings to our family was learned long before we came along.
Did we have a perfect transition to our new role as parents? Absolutely not! I remember the feelings of resentment when he returned to work (a.k.a the world outside my nursing chair) after our first daughter was born. Despite his efforts to help with or ignore the growing chaos while I focused on feeding and caring for our baby, I was convinced he didn't understand how hard it was for me.
I will say we took our time finding a new rhythm. Eventually the fog lifted enough to see how much he wanted to be there for me. He didn't know how to help without eroding my confidence as a new mother. When I learned how to ask for support, he always gave it generously.
You see dishes on the counter? Do them or don't. You don't have any clean socks? Hope the smell isn't too distracting at work. Long day with the kids? Sneak out of the house for a while. Hard day at work? Go downstairs and play your guitar really, really loud.
Just be happy.
Our home is messy. We finally changed the Christmas-themed front door mat this morning. Actually, I did, because my husband was picking our daughter up from a sleepover before taking our son to a movie. He bought the groceries for dinner, and I prepared it while our other daughter had a friend over to play. He tidied the playroom for that play date while I was at swimming lessons.
Sometimes we get overwhelmed by our individual stresses. And the messy rooms or unfolded laundry become a point of frustration. It's okay, because we know those things don't really matter. They're a safe place to leave some of the real messiness of life. The exchange of words about them are healthy for our children to hear.
Tonight, before I headed to my desk and he went to bed to prepare for a long week at work, we swiped a tumble of toys off the couch and sat down to talk about the concert we were able to see together last night—because my parents came over and shared the bedtime duties.
Given and received—it makes our family grow.