The Question All Mothers Should Consider
My husband came home from work one day recently to a very grumpy wife. I stay at home with our two little ones, and even though I love doing it, by the end of the day I’m often ready to clock out and call it quits.
This was just one of those normal days filled with diapers and discipline and dinner prep. There was nothing extraordinarily bad about it, but it came during a string of days that all looked exactly the same. I felt like I was going through the motions of motherhood over and over and over, and I was tired.
So when my husband picked up on my bad attitude, he asked, “What do you need me to do?”
He was trying to be helpful, of course, but the question propelled me even further into self-pity. I asked myself what I needed, and all the answers felt overwhelming and unattainable. A weeklong vacation by myself? For our two-year old to potty train herself, please? A professional cleaning service to visit after dinner every night?
Because I was paying so much attention to what my family wanted and needed, I forgot about paying attention to my own desires. By the time I did think about them, it felt like the list was too long to even attempt anything. It felt easier to complain and wallow than to actually identify a specific solution for my needs.
I was acting like a martyr, a mom who was willing to let her soul die in the name of caring for her family. But my family never asked me to suffer in silence, they just didn’t know what I needed. Neither did I.
My favorite question Jesus asks in the gospels is, “What do you want?” We find it in John 1:38, Matthew 20:32, Mark 10:51, and Luke 18:41. I love it because Jesus is implying that it’s important to know the answer. This question prompts us to think about what’s going on beneath the surface. It invites us to consider deeper reasons for our actions.
For example, if you find yourself endlessly scrolling on social media in the evenings, it may be that what your heart really wants is connection.
If you find yourself getting frustrated as you put away all the dishes after dinner, it may be that your heart really desires some help from your spouse or kids around the house so you know you’re not alone.
Knowing what our hearts desire is important.
If we know what we desire, we can communicate it clearly with our spouse. If we aren’t able to name our desire, it can manifest in unhealthy ways.
The wife who can’t name her need for connection may fall into the trap of comparison and isolation because she’s trying to fill a void for connection that she hasn’t named by spending too much time on her phone. But the wife who names her need for connection is able to ask her husband for a night out with friends each week.
The wife who cannot name her need for assistance with her task list becomes bitter that no one is offering to help her. The wife who recognizes her desire for support around the house is able to ask her husband and children to help in tangible ways, and therefore experience a fulfilled desire.
See the difference?
When we know what we desire, we can name it and bring it to God and then clearly communicate and take action in the appropriate ways. But when we don’t know what our hearts want, we may be at risk of grasping for fulfillment in the wrong places, and taking out our frustration on the people around us.
Of course, we don’t always get what we want. Just because we name it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. But knowing what we need allows us to bring it to Jesus in prayer with full confidence that he cares and he sees us.
After having my second baby, my husband asked me to make a list of everything I want. The list was huge, and it varied from big-picture dreams like “experiencing true freedom in Christ” to small, measurable outcomes like “a clean car.”
When I shared it with him, it was so encouraging to me. Not only did this practice give me language for the desires I had that felt stifled, but now he knew what I was longing for, and was able to say, “We can actually make some of these happen!”
Now when my husband asks what I need, I try to pay more attention to how I’m feeling. Even though I may want a tropical cruise getaway alone, I can recognize that what I really need is just a little alone time in the evening. Making those small daily changes to care for your needs will keep you healthy and on track rather than feeling desperate, alone and overwhelmed by unmet desires.
Wife Step: Take the next five minutes to ask yourself what your heart is longing for. Write those things down—even if they feel silly. It’s okay to write, “Time to watch This Is Us without kids interrupting” and “$10 each week to get coffee with a friend.”
Ask your husband to make a list as well. Switch lists and familiarize yourself with what your husband’s heart longs for. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you dream up ways you can partner with God in making some of those things happen for each other.
Bailey Richardson is the wife of a Paul Bunyan look-a-like, the mama of a growing little family, and a woman on the wild adventure of pursuing Jesus. She lives in a small lake town in Minnesota where her family is highly involved in their local church and Young Life, a global non-profit youth ministry. A self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” Bailey loves writing for and connecting with women who want to more deeply experience the grace, freedom, and abundance that comes from following Jesus. You can find her at baileymrichardson.com or on Instagram @baileymrichardson.
I’m not who I was when I got married.
It was less than three years ago when I stood at an altar in front of a cross and said, “I do,” to vows we wrote and vows we borrowed. And in less than three years, I have become a different person.
My heart has changed. I’ve grown closer to God. And I’ve learned to love myself more. I have very different interests and concerns than the girl who stood in a white dress at 24.
My husband isn’t the same person either. His passions have grown. His friendships have changed. The goals he has for himself and his family are vastly different than they were three years ago.
Maybe you’ve changed a lot since your wedding day, and maybe your husband has too. Maybe there have been some beautiful changes and maybe some that aren’t so lovely. And while sometimes the changes are positive ones, other changes can be difficult.
Some changes threaten to steal away the promises we made on our wedding day.
When we base the commitment to our husbands on how we feel he has changed for the worse or for the best, we are putting our hope in a pretty shaky foundation.
But God. Our God never changes.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)
When we put our hope in Him, and we plant our roots down into Him (Colossians 2:7) in our marriages, we stand on the firmest foundation there has ever been.
You’re not who you were when you got married, but God is the same God today as the day you made a vow to Him and your husband.
There are no coincidences and no accidents in God’s Kingdom. He works everything out for our good. Don’t believe me? Read Romans 8:28. He is working your marriage out for good, too.
Don’t let differences distract you from the divine gift God has given you in your spouse.
When marriage gets hard and the fights feel never-ending, we look up. When we wonder who in the world we even married, we look up. When we think maybe we should have married someone different because we ourselves are so different now, we look up.
We’ll never be the same as we were the day we wore a veil and cut a cake, but we can make a decision to hold on to the same feeling of honor and respect we had for our husbands that day. We can take those promises with us no matter how many times we change in this life. We can continue to look up as the world around us and inside us shifts. Because our God never shifts.
When we get married, we aren’t only agreeing to love the man in front of us for who he is that day, but for who he will be every day after that. Because we won’t always be who we are that day, and neither will he.