It's been said that marriage is 50/50. The reality is that a great marriage is 100/100, both giving their all at all times. It's about mutual submission - serving each other.
There's no denying that adding children in to the mix can complicate things, yet it's so worth it. It's a blessing and privilege far and above any other.
Then add into all of that being a stay at home mom (SAHM) and things can get a bit murky if you let it. The more I think about things, the more I realize that there seem to be a few "givens" that SAHMs need from their husbands and, when done properly, it can drastically benefit everyone in the family. And truth be told, I'm willing to bet the majority of these apply to marriages in general, not just those with SAHMs.
1. Be the Leader of the Family. It's the husband's God-given responsibility to be the leader of his family. Take this seriously. Lead with compassion and understanding, dedication and commitment, and with a love like Christ's. This can be as easy as leading discussions about what the kids learned at church on Sundays. Pray with them. Never let there be a gap between what you say and what you live. Show them what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ. Read them a nighttime Bible story or devotional. And men, let me just say, this not only sets a standard and helps form a Biblical foundation for your children, but it's also one of the most attractive things a man can do. Want to turn your wife on? Read the Bible to your children.
2. Play with the kids, together and individually. Fatherhood is more than bringing home a paycheck - it's being involved, it's putting your family above your wants, it's spending individual time with everyone, it's playing Legos instead of Candy Crush, dancing in the kitchen instead of reading the newspaper, it's rocking the baby instead of watching the game, and teaching your son about hunting, fishing and camping instead of hanging with the guys. It's playing catch and shooting hoops, running along side a bike 100 times until they learn to do it on their own. And you know what, when you're entertaining the kids, it gives your wife a much needed break (but we'll get to that one later). :)
3. Support your wife. She may not look it or overtly say it, but she more than likely is feeling worn down and weary. And while this next statement may seem obvious, it's one worth remembering. She made you a dad. She sacrificed her body to carry and birth your children. She's sacrificed a career outside the home, a career in which she might feel accomplished and useful and of more importance than being the go-to diaper changer and all important singer of the Itsy Bitsy Spider, snot wiper and middle of the night vomit cleaner (all of which are vitally important yet somehow fail to bring about a sense of accomplishment, perhaps this is just me...). Realize that while you may be the one working and bringing home a paycheck that you're not the only one who makes sacrifices. That while we've chosen to stay home, we've given up not only a career but the income that comes with that. We sacrifice together because we believe and agree that it was in the best interests of our children to stay home with them. Supporting your wife may mean you taking initiative. Sometimes after spending all day telling the kids what to do (or not do) we don't want to have to tell you what needs to be done. Sometimes we just want you to see and then do.
4. Encourage her. This doesn't mean telling her what she could do better (I assure you, she already has a running mental list, if not a written one). It means appreciating what she already does. It means encouraging her and reminding her that in a world that urges women out the door and into the workforce, that it's okay that she's chosen not to participate. It means letting her know that you're happy to fulfill your role as leader and provider and not ever making her feel as if her and the kids are an imposition on you. It means if she wants to lose a few pounds that you don't make her feel like she needs to, but rather decide to join in with her because there's no better encouragement than to have your husband beside you in every aspect, even if it's jogging laps around a track. It means letting her know she's doing a good job and on days that she feels like a failure of epic proportions that you remind her that there's no other job more important than hers. It means you speak words of kindness and breathe fresh life into her weary soul and charge her to start afresh in doing the job that no one else can fulfill but her. Be the one that with every breath speaks words of life into her.
5. Be the reinforcement. After being the one who corrects, redirects, and disciplines all day long, your wife needs a break. When you come home, you should take up this role. Not only should this responsibility not fall solely on her, it's also necessary for your children to know that obedience is required by both parents. If one of them is being disrespectful, it's your job to step in and let them know it is unacceptable to speak to their mother like that. It shows your love for her while also showing what is and isn't appropriate behavior.
6. Give her a break. This has been mentioned previously, but it deserves a spot of its own. I think it's worthwhile to say that being a mom really never renders a break. Even once they start sleeping through the night, we're on call 24/7 and many nights are called to action by kids who wet the bed, threw up all the way to the bathroom, someone having a nightmare, or by the one who always seems to have a leg that just happens to start hurting at 2am. And one of the hardest parts about our job? It never ends. There's always laundry, dishes, toilets to be cleaned and tubs to be scrubbed. Groceries to be bought, kids to run to school and soccer practice, and 376 Legos that need picked up. You have time off. She should too.
7. Be considerate. She's going to have bad days. You do too. Be understanding. Have compassion. Try to realize that while being a SAHM is a great privilege that we absolutely LOVE, it's also hard. So very hard. Consideration goes a long way. And in return? She just might snuggle up to you, letting you more and more into her world. And what man doesn't want to know that he's who his wife turns to? What man doesn't want his wife snuggled up next to him, falling asleep in his arms? Be the one she runs to. Being considerate is the path there.
8. Don't take her and what she does for granted, especially when it seems like everything she does is taken for granted. There's a reason you have clean clothes and clean dishes. A reason the house is clean (or clean'ish) and the kids' homework and reading has been done. A reason the baby has been changed and fed and a reason you've slept all night while she's been up tending to one of the kids. There's a reason you have clean sheets and that the toilets have been cleaned. There's a reason the kids have made it to school on time, to OT and speech, to volleyball and soccer, and to sleepovers. There's a reason that she's the unofficial mom to all your kids' friends. There's a reason your kids know how to listen and obey, why they have bandaids and kisses for their boo boos, and why she knows everything that's going on with each of them. That reason is your wife. She needs to know that what she does is valued and that it doesn't go unnoticed. Be the reason she wants to keep doing all these things.
9. Compliment her. After bearing the scars of carrying your children, she wants to know that you still only have eyes for her. She wants to know that you still find her attractive and beautiful. Catch her off guard, swing her around, kiss her on the neck, and tell her you love her. Tell her you like her new haircut. Tell her she smells good. Tell her.... whatever. Just be genuine and then watch her smile and melt in your arms.
10. Help her. We know you're tired. We know you carry the burdens of being the leader and provider. And you know what? We love you for it. We want you to come home and rest and relax. Yet we also need help. Working outside the home doesn't mean you never should help inside the home. Our job never ends, remember? Those dishes piled up? The laundry running over the basket? Someone has to do them and sometimes we just desperately want it to not be us. And that little funny clip going around Facebook about there being no greater turn on than a man doing dishes? It's mostly true (reading the Bible to your kids still trumps doing the dishes). Want to instantly change your wife's mood? Help her. She'll thank you for it later. ;)