I’m pretty shocked at the number of women I’m talking to these days who find it an intrusion to cook every day for their families. I’ve noticed this a lot lately in real life, and then today again in an online group I am in of faithful, committed Catholics, no less. There’s a thread in that group about a wife not wanting to make enough food at dinner so the husband can take the leftovers to work the next day. There is a definite sense of being put upon. Some women have responded to the original post that they “allow” their husbands to take leftovers “if they ask”, or they send canned soup with them for lunch or tell them they are “on their own”.
Now, there is nothing wrong with canned soup, eating out, or fending for oneself, and if that’s what the husband wants to do, that’s his decision and more than okay, but I find it very sad that so many wives seem to put their husbands’ needs way low on the priority to the point that they are annoyed with having to cook for him or take care of him.
When we do our duties ABOVE and BEYOND the normal call, that is when we will find joy in doing them. For example: let’s say a room is cluttered and dusty. The windows need washing, and so on. If we only do a “have to” cursory job, we may be able to check it off the list but we will not find real joy in it.
When we take the time to tend to the small details, however, after vacuuming and dusting and washing the windows, we also arrange the pillows in an attractive way, open the sliding door to let in some fresh air, maybe light a scented candle or put out a vase of fresh flowers from the store or garden, then we are really diving into the art of homemaking and making the home a place where our loved ones can relax and rejuvenate. Some women make their own curtains or crafts like a frame for a family picture. Others enjoy making sure there are home-baked goodies on the kitchen island at the end of the day. The details in each home will be different because no two marriages are exactly alike, but in all homes, whether or not we are full time stay at home mothers or out in the work force full or part time, our first responsibilities are to our families- and it is a joy to make a house a home if we take the time to go ABOVE and BEYOND.
When our children are very small, circumstances necessitate that we tend to their very real needs and put those needs above ours and even our spouse’s. But as the children get older and their true ‘needs’ diminish, there is sometimes a tendency to continue to cater to them anyway (probably out of habit) and put their ‘wants’ or even ‘whims’ above our spouses’. We have to constantly check for that. It’s good to be self-sacrificing for our children, but there is sometimes a fine line between that and coddling. Our spouses need to know they are primary and important. And the way we show that is by going ABOVE and BEYOND in loving them, by knowing their preferences and trying to accommodate them whenever possible. This is also very good modeling for our children and helping them lay the groundwork for good marriages in the future.
I wrote this article a handful of years ago and I share it here for your consideration. I would like to say that I am currently NOT in the habit of making my husband lunch daily, but the reason is because it is his choice! At this point in time he is eating a particular way (low carb, medium protein, high healthy fat), and he wants to decide each day what to bring. I’ll cook up extra chicken or prepare a salad – sometimes he wants it sometimes he doesn’t. But it’s his decision and I think we should be willing to do that as wives.
I think we all need to share that taking care of our families is not an intrusion. It is our vocation! We need to demonstrate that and share with the young wives and mothers that we know in real life, so that we can help build a strong culture in society of love and family. As we know, families are the cells of society, and as the family goes “so goes the nation and so goes the world.” (St. John Paul II)
Is this hard to do? Of course. Nobody doesn’t struggle with it at least at some point in time. However, it is quite possible and I would like to share a little trick to use to help spur you on when you don’t feel like it:
Think of a time when your husband needs, or let’s even say just desires, your assistance with something: making lunch could be one thing, but maybe something different like a ride to the airport, to run an errand for him (drycleaners?), or maybe it is something much simpler like just to sit next to him as he watches some sports event he wants to see on TV. Let’s say you are busy—right in the middle of something. Let’s even say it’s important and you don’t really want to stop at the moment. I sometimes ask myself, would I want someone else to do what he requests for him? Would I want his secretary, or a platonic female friend to drive him, run the errand, make him lunch or sit next to him for company and just to relax? (Ggaaaah no!) So if I don’t do it, who will? I wouldn’t want anyone else to do these things with or for him, so I better be willing to do them.
Joining your husband at his request, or doing some small thing he asks just blesses him. If I don’t want another person’s hands on his shoulders rubbing them when he is tired at the end of the day shouldn’t I be willing to give him that joy and comfort? If I don’t give those sweet things to him, he will go without them. Do I want this for the man I pledged my life to? The one who promised to forsake all other women for me? When I am tired and feel put upon, I run this little exercise through my head and it helps me focus back on why I need to do these things sweetly. Also, a side note is that when we wives do these little gestures for our men, they often respond almost immediately with tenderness toward us. We should never do these things as a manipulation- but there’s that reciprocal benefit too, just built-in. Love begets love. It’s quite simple.
Does this go the opposite way as well? Should husbands love and take care of their wives and try to pamper them? Why, of course. But the focus in this piece is what we as wives can do.
Every family is different in the details, in the division of labor, in the scheduling of each day, in the meals and in the moments, but every husband and every wife needs to take care of the other. Marriages are like a beautiful, unique ballets. Give and take. Dip and reach. Stretch and pull back. Anticipate the moves of the other and respond. Pause. Performing a ballet is exhausting. It takes training, practice, and discipline. So too is living an unselfish and loving marriage and family life. But it is beautiful, and worth it.
Keep going ABOVE AND BEYOND. Society needs our devotion to our families to build even stronger ones in the future!
“Do small things with great love.” (St. [Mother] Teresa of Calcutta)
“A woman by her very nature is maternal — for every woman, whether … married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother — she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.” (Alice Von Hildebrand)
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
“…(W)omen, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement…” (St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater)