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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We work hard for our money

Don't lie to me. You've all had this conversation with your spouse before. You know the one, the one that attempts to determine which of you has the harder job. On Sunday morning as we were preparing for church, Bubba and I had this conversation for the umpteenth time. I had bathed myself, Henry, and Annie, had done the breakfast dishes (which included the remains of the tuna fish sandwich Henry requested), prepared the diaper bag for church, and was nursing Annie when Bubba came home from his morning meeting and wondered why we weren't ready to go. A perfect scenario for another round of the "who has it worse off" game. Bubba said something interesting this time - I kid you not - he actually suggested that we sit down and try to quantify which of us actually works more hours each week.

So, in preparation for this meeting, I've been trying to determine how, exactly, to convert our respective tasks into a common unit for comparison. Would changing 5 dirty diapers be the equivalent of writing 1 brief? Does controlling a temper tantrum in public equal the taking of one deposition? What about loading 2 children into car seats, then into the grocery store, then maintaining possession of said children whilst frantically filling cart with foodstuffs, then loading kids back in the car (this time with 47 bags of groceries), then carrying the whole lot up a flight of stairs? What unit of work, my dear Bubba, is that equal to?

Of course, it's not really possible to determine who has the hardest job, because there are so many unquantifiable aspects to each of our roles. And even if we could determine which role is more difficult, what really would be the point? I suppose this conversation arises because we both want to feel validated, we both want our efforts to be recognized, we each want the other to acknowledge that we both do difficult and trying things each day.

I think that constantly bemoaning all the hard things I do as a mother is the wrong way to go about parenthood. When I look back on my childhood, I don't remember my mom complaining about how hard her lot was. I remember her pretending to be a beautician when she curled my hair in the morning, and making rice krispie treats and chocolate chip cookies for my sack lunch, and cheerfully working in the garden.

It reminds me of a quote I love from The Painted Veil: "Remember that it is nothing to do your duty, that it is demanded of you and is no more meritorious than to wash your hands when they are dirty; the only thing that counts is the love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding."

So next Sunday when Henry requests a tuna fish sandwich for breakfast and I struggle to find a skirt that I can fit into, I hope instead of tallying up the hours of work I will just smile and love it.

16 comments:

paulandeliza said...

Kim~
I enjoyed your post. I have that same conversation with myself frequently actually. Just remember that you have the harder job because of all that you do. And he has the harder job despite what he does. Always try to think he has the harder job because he has to leave you and your children every day, and be without you all day. Being apart for just a brief moment, even though its hours is never easy. You have do it all on your own because he has to be away. Paul is still in school and works all the time. But I have to be without him and babysit, and teach piano, and take care of my kids. but I always have to remind myself that its not any easier for him. So I just have to be grateful. Then on the days I can't take anymore. Thats when I know I have the harder job! Take satisfaction in that! love you, write me soon

Ann said...

hahaha! It's so true. Keep up the good work.

Molly said...

Oh boy....you hit the nail on the head with this one! We have had this conversation many times, as well, although we've never sat down and tried to come up with a true answer. We both acknowledge that each spouse has more difficulties in their own ways. Luckily, Sean has said to me, "I could never stay home and handle this the way you do! I can barely manage 2 hours with both kids without you!" Talk about validation...I just have to remember him saying that when I feel overwhelmed. Or I just laugh through the tough parts. Sometimes with tears, too....

The Beckstead's said...

Brady & I had this exact argument last night. I wanted to go to bed around 10 because I was so tired and he said something along the lines of can your day really be all that hard to make you want to go to bed so early, do you know what my day was like? Agh! Good post, I know exactly how you feel!

jdm said...

What an amazing quote. I will need to print that one and re-read it a thousand times.
On a completely random note, we watched Marley and Me this weekend and just laughed so many times as we saw ourselves in the two main characters. Maybe we should have been crying.

Stacy and Mike said...

I love love love this post and love that poem just as much! When I am blogging I think it is my way of acknowledging that I am too tired to do one more thing and maybe there is another blogger who is also too tired and posted something brilliant. And then I read this!

Stacy and Mike said...

ps. Note to Bubba:
You really wanted to compare hardness? tsk tsk tsk

Kimberlee said...

I loved your post and laughed as you did to Bubba's wonderment at not being ready on time (as if you slept in and watched TV all morning) and Molly's comment- There is nothing more validating than watching someone else try to fill your shoes. It's best just to realize that neither of you could or wants to trade places so there is no sense in arguing over who has the worste or hardest job. (it's the wife)

Marci said...

Danny reminded me that we have had this conversation many a time. That my favorite argument is who get's more sleep. Apparently it what I do during that day isn't nearly as important as what goes on in the night :) He did want me to tell you to tell Bubba that motherhood is harder, no matter what his argument is. Motherhood is the hardest job ever, but I know this means it is the most rewarding.

kim and morgan said...

Morgan and I are both laughing out loud RIGHT now because I think I always complain about it "being so hard" and implying i have the harder, less glamorous roll. Thank you for your positive example, yet I also thank you for hitting the truth button too. You have a fantastic attitude. I need to adopt it and pretend like I am a beauitician while doing little girl's hair. :) LOVED this post!!! You are a fantastic writer!

chelsea said...

I too loved this post, but couldn't help but marvel at how brave Bubba is to even bring it up and want to talk about it at a later date, you are so nice about it, heads roll when we even begin to talk about such things. On a kind of related note, my brother in law figured out the depreciation of a wife over at wifeadvice.com. it was rather humorous.

janel said...

My favorite part of this post is that the opening line is "Don't lie to me." Ha! Now you don't lie to me and tell me if you've been planting hidden microphones and cameras in our house????

Kristen said...

Good luck! I was just talking to my mom about this. We came to the conclusion that you can't figure out who's job is harder, they are just different. It's apples and oranges. Like you said, we want our spouse to think that our job is so hard and we need to feel validated, but we will never completely understand how their day was until we get into their head. Dean used to get frustrated when I would talk about how hard things were and how tough it is being a mom because there really is nothing that he could do about it. All I wanted from him is a simple "Yes, this is rough. You are superwoman and are incredible."

Jason and Rachel said...

How can we keep ourselves from comparing when husbands come home and ask, "so what have you been doing all day?" Jason learned not to ask that question pretty quick in our marriage and sometimes we just agree to disagree. Jason always asks--"Does it have to be a contest?" Of couse my reply is "yes, it does."

Brooke said...

You made me laugh at the end of the day when I was the one at work and feeling very much like this HAS been the hardest day of work. Thanks for the laughs, the hopes, and the friendship that continually lifts.

April said...

Oh, Kim, you just amaze me with how well you can express yourself with words--amazing, truly... and what you write about is so so so SO relate-able that I can't help but chuckle at it (and my common "situations").
Both jobs are hard, but I can't help to think that mother's have the harder lot... of course, I am a mother myself (so a bit bias on my part), but we don't get a lunch break, and we do have kicking, screaming, and even poop to deal with, plus we are on call 24/7... no matter if we are sick or just worn-out.
I loved that quote at the end... a good reminder (I need to put it on my fridge!).