As I dropped off my kids at open bounce and waited patiently for our guests to arrive, I stood in the lobby of Bounce U and fiddled with my phone–a great way to eavesdrop when you’re bored.
As a party came to a smashing end, a gaggle of little boys flooded the lobby with wiggly bodies and big sound. A slightly exasperated mom tried to run faint interference before giving up as the boys tore back and forth across the floor. They snatched balls (for sale in wire bins) and balloons (taped to the wall with scotch tape–some pretty weak decor if you asked me) and continued the party that had just left the bounce houses. The mom of the birthday boy stood there turning red, probably a little embarrassed because these kids were tearing up the lobby and she did not have any help. I wondered where the other parents are; as a kindness, there is an unspoken rule among moms that we don’t leave another mom hanging with bunches of kids. 3 or 4 maybe. But 10? That’s just wrong.
But then, the rest of her party came around the corner. All dads.
As the men casually continued their conversation (her husband among them), the staff stood with 2 armloads full of bags and kids ricocheting off walls. I watched with raised eyebrow as the mom hustled about six small boys into the restroom, dads still chilling and the other 4 or 5 kids centimeters away from smacking me with balls, balloons, and bodies.
As mom rode a wave of babies out of the restroom, dad casually turned to her and said, “Hon, don’t you think we should move the car to the door so they can put the stuff in?” (Emphasis mine)
She clenched her jaw, then responded in the most passive aggressive way possible, “Yeah, we should.” (Emphasis hers)
As she started walking toward the door (beating back flurries of little hands and feet), he paused in his conversation with the bros again and asked her, “You got that, babe?”
“Yeah. Sure. I got it.”
I know that this man thought he was being helpful. I also know that he gave himself a mental high-five for having given such a thoughtful suggestion. If he were not in public, he probably would have high-fived himself for being such a good husband. But from her perspective, he had not been helpful at all.
I could go into a whole other post or series right here, but I won’t. I will simply say that as a fellow mom and wife, I felt her pain. Had she directly asked him to do any of the things she was doing, she was being a bitch and a hen-pecker. By not asking at all, she clearly had it under control right? Or even worse later (when they fought), he would accuse her of being superwoman.
Men just don’t know how much gas lighting they do. We are damned if we ask for help, and damned if we don’t. No tone neutrally sweet enough and no request too mild and easy alleviates the privilege in which a man who doesn’t want to be helpful sits. He will only do what he will do when he wants to do it if he does not understand the nature of really loving his wife.
Every woman has her own love language, but every woman has a deep desire for provision. Provision doesn’t always come in the form of money, either. Sometimes, it looks like giving helping hands with the things that burden us: washing dishes, folding clothes, making dinner, chasing down kids. I know many women who make the daily grind of family life look easy; I also know a couple of women who love to martyr themselves when it comes to running a household–hell, I used to be one. But most of us (in taking on married life and motherhood) carry more weight than we can handle because it’s so easy for men to think that we like being burden down like that. And we ourselves (no matter how evolved we are) still unconsciously think “I have to”.
And that thought–that I have to–is where the change needs to take place. If we are going to be in a partnership, then that idea needs to be challenged and addressed. It needs to evolve into “we need to” and “which one of us will”.