Me: "Oh honey, don't worry, it'll all work out. We won't end up living under a bridge. And, if we do end up living under a bridge, it is meant to be...we'll learn some great life lessons from having to do it. Have faith!"
Tom: "It must be nice to be Kim Muench. You don't have to worry about financially providing for our family...have faith [insert eye roll]."
I usually go on to think to myself, "I wish I could provide more financially, and I wish he would have more faith. If we each had just a little more of the other's qualities, things would be perfect."
Which is a joke of course, even if that were the case things wouldn't be "perfect".
The only perfect marriage and family life exists on Facebook, right?
(Now, THAT was a joke...)
Seriously though, for the (almost) twenty-two years of our marriage, Tom and I have shared an ongoing theme: You go ahead and enjoy looking at the bright side, while I live in the real world . Maybe it's the same in all marriages: one person in the relationship is more optimistic, the other more realistic. Could it be that God pairs us up this way so we can balance one another out?
If your relationship is like ours, maybe you can relate that for the optimist, at times, this dynamic can be frustrating. And for the realist it may be annoying as hell.
Tom feels I can afford to be happy because I don't have to worry about providing the roof/food/clothing/extracurricular fees (and on and on and on) for all of us. Providing has been his [very] major contribution for more than two decades. Which I realize I never appreciate enough...it is a mammoth job requiring a great deal of dedication and discipline on his part to carry the load.
Sometimes, because he carries that particular weight, I, as a (mainly) stay-at-home mom, feel as if I don't "do enough". It isn't so much Tom has ever said anything directly to me about not contributing financially, it is more my perception of lacking any real quality contribution because the paycheck I bring home is a teeny, tiny fraction of anything he's brought through the door.
But marriage isn't about who brings in more money, right? We both contribute, in a variety of ways, to the success of our family.
So why do I often feel like I am worth less?
I would describe the main role I have played in our marriage and family life as a job I'll call "keeping it all together". Emotionally, spiritually, organizationally, as well as motivationally. I am in charge of assisting each of our family members in these areas. And keeping myself afloat as well.
Anyone else who practices these responsibilities understands sometimes you'd like to be the person who carries the finances (just kidding honey, I am not asking to switch it up, nor would that even be a possibility).
Being in charge of "keeping it all together" means I work at maintaining quality relationships with everyone in our immediate family. Reaching out regularly to talk with the older ones who no longer live at home, making special time with my spouse and with the kids still under the roof...taking good care of myself so I have the energy to tackle the job.
Spiritually my job is to encourage and support everyone where their faith is at (because everyone in our family is on a different level) and asking each person in the family to respect where the other is "at" religiously in return as well. I also am the one to make sure we (fairly consistently) raise our remaining young kids in the faith we chose when they were babies. Taking the time to reflect and to grow in my own faith has helped me with this portion of the job.
As the mom in our home, it is my responsibility to organize our calendar, which is no small feat...each of our three at home have one or two activities, which everyone knows quickly amounts to lots of time and shuffling. Doing this, while making meal and family time a priority, is a weekly challenge.
Motivation. Everybody has low periods. Maybe it is the result of a lost client, a bad test score, maybe a drivers exam was failed, maybe friends aren't getting along, so many things can come into play. On the other hand, there are the wonderful highs: the unexpected tax return, the winning of a $1,500 scholarship, the successfully passed tae kwon do belt, the squealing of girls giddy at the birthday party. Trying to harmonize the highs and lows is another aspect to my job.
The BIGGEST part of my job though is realizing I cannot do it perfectly, only give it 100%. Things fall through the cracks at times, I make mistakes, I struggle with my own emotions/spirituality/organization and motivation. And, when I fall short, I forgive myself. I ask others to forgive me when it is necessary.
I know I am not the only spouse and mother in the world who feels they aren't contributing "enough." And, while I don't receive a paycheck for this [sometimes] challenging daily work, my rewards are reflected in the hearts and actions of my spouse and our children, and in knowing my ability to listen, to guide, and to love them without condition contributes to their well-being as they journey down the path of life.
If I can do all that, while looking through rose colored lenses, you know God has a hand in my life. And, I'd take a pillow under a bridge with a bright attitude any day of the week, wouldn't you?