I am a mom to two preschool-aged boys, Caleb and Garrett. They are wild and crazy and caring for them occupies a lot of my time and energy.
I am also wife to Jason, a wonderful, crazy, goofy man who makes me laugh and loves me deeply.
But sometimes, when I talk about being a mom, people jokingly say something about me really having three kids – my two littles, and Jason. I don’t know if it’s because he has a silly bent that they joke about him being a child, or if it’s because they feel this way about their husbands. But it bothers me.
When somebody calls Jason my “third child” I usually will politely chuckle or smile uncomfortably and look away and say “yeahhhh…” quietly, because I’m not very confrontational by nature, and in the moment I never know exactly how to respond to those accusations. But inside I’m irritated, and sometimes even angry.
Because my husband is not my third child.
If I was great at thinking on my feet in uncomfortable situations and bold enough to correct someone who tries to get a laugh by belittling my husband, this is what I might say:
I have two children. When they have to go to the bathroom, I go with them and help them with the tricky snaps and buttons on their clothes, help them wipe their bottoms, and lift them up to flush the toilet and wash their hands.
When they need to eat, I fix them a meal, cut it into little bites, remind them over and over to sit down at the table, and sometimes feed it to them when they need extra motivation to finish.
When we have to go somewhere as family, I help them find their shoes and put them on. I get their coats out of the closet, hold out the sleeves while they shrug into it, and zip it up for them. I lift them into the car and buckle them into the seat.
When it’s time for bed, I brush their teeth, read to them, and tuck them in.
My husband, on the other hand, manages to do all of those things for himself.
Now, I do take care of Jason in other ways. I make meals and wash clothes. I buy stamps and schedule appointments and give advice when he asks for it. And if I were not around, he might struggle to manage our household the way I do. As far as I know, he doesn’t know how to bake bread or use the sewing machine or have any clue where I keep the snack schedule for Caleb’s school.
He might very well be hopeless at accomplishing many of the things I do as a wife and mom if they fell to him. And this is because I contribute to our household by offering the work that falls within my skill set and available time.
Jason, as the other half of the marriage that underlies our family, does the same thing.
Just as he cannot do everything I do for him and our kids, there are tons of things he does for our family that are beyond me, or at least outside of my everyday contributions to our household.
I could probably manage paying our bills if I had to, but I don’t know all of the account numbers or when they are due like Jason does. I’m not sure I could ever learn how to change the oil in a car or have the upper body strength necessary to change a flat tire. I don’t know how to work our lawn mower or run a computer clean-up program. (Defrag something-or-other? I am clearly so far out of my element on this I don’t even know what I’m talking about here.)
These are the the things he gives to our family, without expecting me to help.
Of course I take care of my husband. And of course my husband takes care of me. That is what marriage is. And neither of us cares for each other in the same way we care for our children.
So stop calling my husband my third child, please.