I wake up at 6 a.m. with a toddler sleeping on my neck. Not my chest, not tucked into my arm, but actually ON my jugular. My 18-month-old is this sort of sleeper (if you can call it sleeping) and if I dare move her, she turns into that sand creature thing from Aladdin that bellows “WHO DISTURBS MY SLUMBER?!” Unfortunately, logical thinking isn’t my strong suit before the sun comes up, so I groan and push her off my thyroid.
Her wrath ensues, complete with fiery, flashing eyes and a swirl of righteous fury.
As luck would have it, my husband is working this day—a Saturday—and he tosses me a half-amused grimace that says, “Sorry . . . but dang I’m glad I’m leaving right now,” as he heads out the door at seven.
Super. I’m going it alone with the overtired creature from Planet Exhausted, who’s quickly joined by her older siblings looking for breakfast and water and that thing they were SURE was on the kitchen counter last week so where is it, Mom?
I sigh, and fumble around the kitchen for caffeine while the baby howls on my hip.
I’m tired. I am ALWAYS tired.
And I’m willing to bet some variation on this theme has played out in your own home—maybe it’s mid-act this very moment.
Husbands, you can help. So listen up—this next part is for you.
If your marriage is like most, your wife handles the lion’s share of the “day-to-day” stuff, right? She probably keeps track of when it’s Junior’s turn to bring snack to practice . . . drives carloads of kids to and from school . . . quiets the baby and runs to Target several times per week (you’ll never understand it, just quit trying). She probably buys the birthday gifts for the kids and the cards for your mother (you’re welcome), and does a thousand other unseen things in a day that keep your home humming. You know that “mental load of motherhood” phrase you hear tossed around? That’s this. Her wheelhouse.
Before you protest, I know you do plenty in the partnership, too. You’re the solid, dependable constant she and the kids need every single day. You kill spiders and fix running toilets . . . build treehouses and coach the t-ball team (sometimes still in your work clothes) . . . play catch with the boy and let little girls make you pretty with blue eyeshadow. You’re a provider of so much more than a paycheck. You’re the moon to their stars (probably hung it, in fact), and you protect the hearts in your home fiercely and faithfully.
In your marriage, you and your wife both do a lot. Let’s get that out in the open.
But your wife? She is really freaking tired. Like, constantly, ridiculously, outrageously tired. Here’s how you can help:
1. Let her nap
When my husband got home the afternoon of the aforementioned baby-sleeping-on-neck day, he took one look at me and said, “What do you need?”
“A nap,” I replied instantly. “I really just need a nap.”
And she does. She’s had kids climbing on her all day. She’s fixed 14 rounds of snacks and made lunch everyone complained about. She’s broken up fights, picked up toys, wiped faces and bottoms, and heard her name a couple hundred times in the span of a few hours. She’s tired, I promise. There’s nothing more luxurious than handing over the reins to a willing partner, closing the bedroom door on the noise, and climbing into a still-unmade bed at 5 p.m., even if it’s just for 20 minutes (two hours is better).
2. Bring her caffeine
Some days, my husband will call as he’s leaving work and ask if I want anything, which is code for, “Do you want me to drive through McDonald’s and get you a dollar Coke?” Sometimes I’ll say no, but 100 percent of the time, what I really mean is YES. Guys, she needs the Coke, or the Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato, or the gas station Big Gulp. She might decline if you ask her first, but if you bring it home? She’s gonna drink it and enjoy it, even if it’s under fake protest.
3. Plan a date night—and arrange the sitter
Remember when you were young and falling in love and you’d do things like take her out to a sit-down restaurant or go see a show together or take long, aimless drives to nowhere talking about hopes and dreams and your plans for the future? She still wants to do those things sometimes . . . even though it practically takes an act of Congress to make it happen today. What’s more, she wants you to make it happen. Part of the reason she’s so tired is because she’s struggling to keep the part of her that’s not labeled “Mom” above water; taking her out and romancing her a bit helps her find it, and handling all the details like calling the sitter? She might hear angels singing.
4. Text her
Days spent with kids, while wonderful and worthwhile, can suck the grown-up right out of a person. She probably finds herself saying things like “Mommy’s gotta go potty quick” and “How do we ask?” and “You’re being too loud” whenever she speaks. Contact with other adults is limited, and it can start to make her feel a little disconnected with reality. So, while you’re at work conversing and interacting with other adults, finding a minute to send her a text or—better yet—give her a quick call can remind her she’s a grown-up capable of discussing things other than bathroom habits.
5. Touch her
Whoa there, cowboy—this doesn’t mean necessarily mean that. But giving your wife a long hug or a proper kiss when you see she’s weary can breathe some life back into her body. She wants to feel attractive and desired, even in her exhausted, possibly unshowered state. Rub her back without her asking. Put your arm around her in the church pew. Hold her hand while you’re walking through the parking lot of the grocery store. Even though she’s tired, she craves the connection only the two of you share. Plus, there’s nothing more intimate than a partner who can tease the woman out of the mother. And who knows, it might just lead to that . . .
As long as she’s not too tired.
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