So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

What I thought was my 5:30 a.m. alarm was an accidental call that sent my husband’s phone into the selected instrumental ringtone. After checking my phone and seeing 5 a.m., I gladly took my additional 30 minutes of rest.

When my true waketime came, it was hard to open my eyes. I did so anyway and slogged out to the kitchen. The dishwasher wasn’t run, despite his affirmative nod at my request the night before. I turned to my second-favorite mug as a replacement and inhaled the coffee that was awaiting my arrival in its silver carafe.

I changed into my running clothes, at first forgetting to take off my pajama shirt, leaving myself in an awkward pink and maroon combination that beckoned sweat and sleep simultaneously. I addressed the necessary changes from the waist up, donned my new shoes, and went down the basement steps.

The treadmill hummed alive while I opened a podcast, selecting a sermon to substitute the time I tried to dedicate to devotionals. The sound was jarring as my volume was still set to be heard over the mechanical whirs of the treadmill and concurrent footfalls.

My body was sore from the previous day’s movement toward a healthier self, but it loosened with the steps of the first mile. Still, I was tired. Still, I kept going. When the treadmill read 1.7 miles and counting, the baby monitor kicked on. My son was awake.

No, it’s too early. Go back to sleep, I mentally pleaded.

My mute plea was met with sobs. He was laying it on thick today and every wail threatened to wake the rest of the house, if they hadn’t already. I made it two miles before surrendering.

The wails grew louder as I changed his diaper and pajamas, both wet with pee. Still, his cries escalated. I held and shushed to no avail.

I felt the irritation of an unfinished workout hanging over me, accentuated by my need to shower and the incessant crying dominating my headspace. I heard my husband’s alarm and thought I could hand off our son for the seven minutes it would take me to shower, but I soon realized he hit snooze.

Despite my son’s protests, I put him in his crib and rushed across the hall. When I got out of the shower, I returned to him and took him into the master bedroom where the light indicated my husband had started his day.

I approached him with our red-eyed son. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” I said.

“Your music woke him up,” he said. “It woke me up, too.”

His tone was not angry or accusing; defeated, maybe–tired, definitely–but not accusing.

“Oh, so it’s my fault that he woke up screaming and has been inconsolable ever since? All because my music was too loud for half a second?” I barked. “And I didn’t even listen to music; it was a podcast,” I added. (Because it mattered?)

The conversation ended there, and while I fumed unnecessarily, I have learned enough in seven years of marriage to hold my tongue. Mostly because I could see what he saw, too.

He stays up too late, because he finds his alone time on the early end of an otherwise sleeping household. He leaves the stress of a long day to come home and turn on “Daddy mode,” immediately in-demand as he enters. At dinner he coaxes bites of food into our toddler’s mouth, and promises ice cream if she complies. He’s reprimanded by my look across the table, but succeeds in a bite of whatever vegetable we’re having.

After dinner there are dishes to be done and house needs to address. He sees the lingering projects of a nearly, but not-quite-complete renovation. He critiques the jobs he did so well, because he can see the flaws that go unnoticed by anyone else. 

After helping with the finalities of bed time, he’ll get a shower and help me tidy the house to “good enough.” When (if) we finally sit down together, he will start to relax. He’ll use this time to watch football, catch up on world news, or research our next house project. When he finally turns out the last light of the house, he has long since forgotten about the dirty dishwasher.

He’ll be awoken at 3 a.m. by our daughter who had too much to drink before bed. He’ll wake up to the same accidental 5 a.m. phone call, and at 5:30 a.m. he’ll hear his wife’s alarm. At 6:10 a.m. he’ll hear the treadmill and the accidentally too loud podcast.

At 6:25 a.m. his son’s cries will wake him again, this time an interruption that lasts nearly 20 minutes, after which, there will no longer be a stretch of sleep. At this point the day has begun, and he can only resist so long before giving in to the restart of the next weekday.

As he puts in his contacts in, his wife comes in with their red-eyed boy.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” she says.

And so begins our joint day. Each with our own annoyances, each with our own plans and desires.

I held my tongue this morning. After my initial snide remark, I let it go; a new development in character for me. I held my tongue because I know my husband loves me. I held my tongue because I am learning to value peace over being right. I held my tongue because I know no matter how “right” I felt, he was right too.

We have learned to acknowledge each other’s struggles, without pretending ours don’t exist. Sometimes nothing is resolved, and we know it will happen again, but we honor each other by giving value to the view that is not our own.

Today my husband honored me by not lecturing me on how it doesn’t work for me to use the treadmill in the morning. And today I honored him by not insisting I deserve to. Because the truth is, we are both right, and this is just a beautifully busy season.

Marriage takes work. Thankfully, there’s an app that can help! Lasting—the nation’s #1 relationship counseling app—provides accessible sessions designed to help you build a healthy marriage. Download and take Lasting’s free Relationship Health Assessment.

Christen Bell

Christen is a wife and mother of two who lives in central Pennsylvania. She is passionate about her corner of the world, which includes family, running, reading, and writing.

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