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.