It’s 10:30 p.m. and I’m exhausted.
The kids have been in bed for an hour, and my husband is asleep on the couch next to me. I shut down the laptop, turn off the TV, and pick up the cordless house phone to put in the charger. I am aware that if I don’t remember to do this tonight we won’t have use of our home phone the next day because someone has used the other handset, forgotten to put it back, and now it’s lost with a dead battery, somewhere in my house.
I pass by the dog’s food dish and see the child responsible for feeding her did not refill the water bowl, so I stop to fill it. I start to climb the steps to the upstairs, picking up a lost sock, a forgotten toy, and dirty dish towel along the way.
With each step I climb, I feel the resentment growing inside of me.
Once upstairs, I head to the kitchen to pick up the now cold dinner still sitting in the crockpot. As I open the fridge to find room for the container of leftovers, I see three other containers of uneaten leftovers taking up needed space because no one else will think to throw them out.
As I cross back through the living room, I pick up dirty tissues, forgotten school papers, and half-empty cups. I trip over a pair of tennis shoes left in the middle of the floor and turn off all the lights that were left ablaze after children went to bed.
And the bitterness sets in. The resentment is fully ablaze.
Once in my bedroom, I find all the items on my sink that one or more children used without asking, without putting away. I sigh, get undressed, wash my face, fill my humidifier, and think the only thing I want to do in that moment is climb into bed with my book so I can escape into another world, into someone else’s life.
Because in this moment of exhaustion and raw emotion, my very real thought is, “I don’t want this anymore.”
Moments later, my husband joins me in our room, moving his sleepy body from the couch to the bed. He looks at me, hears my curt “Goodnight,” and asks if I’m mad at him.
“No,” I reply.
“Is there something wrong?” he asks. I pause, waiting to see if common sense and decency win out over fatigue and resentment.
Finally, I say, “I’m just not in a good place at the moment. I’d rather not talk about it.”
He pauses, trying to decide if more should be said, if he should probe. Probably waiting to see if common sense and decency win out over his own fatigue and frustration. Finally, he goes to sleep.
I’m left with my own thoughts and feelings, unable to concentrate on my book. And it is then that I realize it is not my family or my marriage or my head that is not in a good place, it’s my heart.
Because the truth is—the big-picture, unselfish truth—is that this man lying next to me had cooked that dinner I picked up off the counter. He had gone grocery shopping to buy the ingredients the day before, and helped me in the drop-off, shuttle, pick-up routine of daily life with kids. He had worked all day in a job that is physically exhausting and often emotionally draining.
The truth is, he is a true partner in this parenting gig, and shares much of the household load with me. And he never, ever expects me to do any of it alone.
The truth is those kids, asleep in their beds, they’re pretty good kids. They all have chores they do (mostly) without complaining each day and week. They have been taught that we are a family and everyone pitches in. They are responsible for their own laundry, picking up after themselves, doing homework, and taking care of pets.
The truth is they are usually gracious and thankful.
The truth is when I’m away from my family, I miss them.
They are what I think of most. I can’t wait to hear about their days—how did she do on that test? How did he do at the game? How did the meeting with the boss go? They are my heart walking around on four pairs of legs and I love them so much more than that word can express.
But beneath these truths, resentment bubbles to the surface and I let it sit there as I become consumed by frustration and overwhelmed by responsibility. Frustrated that they have to be asked and reminded. Overwhelmed by how much they all look to me to take the lead. I am the director, the scheduler, the planner, the seer, the doer, the organizer, and the manager.
Why don’t they remember to turn off the lights, and pick up their shoes, and run the dishwasher, and sweep up the spilled cat food without being asked?
Why do I have to remind them to shower, and wash clothes, and feed pets, and return that phone call, and make that appointment, and walk the dog?
Why can’t they see the missing sock, the dirty tissue, the empty water bowl, the moldy leftovers, and want to take care of it without my prompting?
And as these thoughts swirl through my head I know, without a doubt, it’s a heart problem.
More accurately, it’s my heart problem.
Because love is patient (even when reminding a 12-year-old for the 547th time to feed the cat before school).
Because love is kind (even when discovering there are no clean dishes because my husband forgot to run the dishwasher the night before).
Because love does not envy (even when I see the young, childless married couple with their perfectly clean, Joanna and Chip Gaines-inspired home, and all their free time).
Because love does not boast or exhibit pride (even when I am the one who has washed the last 12 loads of laundry without a single thank you).
Because love is not self-seeking.
And this is really what it comes down to. Am I a mother and wife because of what I expect to get out of it? Or am I a mother and a wife because of what I want to contribute to it? If it’s the latter, if I truly want to invest in these little lives, in this marriage, then I need to remember that comes with service. It comes with a willingness to give of myself and my talents to these people I love so much.
If my heart is full of love, real love (patience, kindness, without envy or pride, free from self-seeking), then there cannot be room for resentment and bitterness.