Sadie had two little boys a year apart. They were rambunctious, with enough energy to power a dozen houses if it was harnessed. They ran and played and kept their young mother very busy.
Sadie was a good mother. She kept the boys clean and well fed. She worked hard every day to be sure their beds were made and their clothes washed. She was careful to have the house straightened up when her husband came home after his long day at work.
Her husband, Jonah, was a great father. He loved to play with the boys, and he worked hard so that they would have a good living. He was kind to others, always willing to help out, and he adored his wife.
But by the time Jonah came home every evening, Sadie was ready for a break. The boys had run her ragged and she needed some rest. But Jonah couldn’t figure out why. After all, he told her, it couldn’t be that hard to be at home with just two little boys! And the house was always clean, so she must not have had much to do that day, right?
Sadie was a little frustrated. She worked hard all day, but Jonah just didn’t realize how much work it took to keep their littles happy and well fed and busy. He had no idea how many messes and disasters she had to deal with on a daily basis.
Then one day, Jonah’s mother offered to pay for a seminar that Sadie wanted to attend in another state. Jonah balked. “You mean I would be home alone with the boys for three days?”
But Sadie was adamant that she was going. It was already paid for, she needed a break, and she really wanted to go. So she wrote out a detailed schedule for her husband to follow, including bath time, bedtimes, routines, what they liked to eat, who got which blanket, and every little detail she could think of.
Then off she went with her mother-in-law, who was one of her best friends. Sadie enjoyed herself immensely, learned a lot, and came home refreshed, ready to tackle childrearing once again. She was proud of her husband for taking care of the boys so she could do something fun.
However, when she walked in the house, the boys were running around in diapers and a dirty shirt, no pants or shoes on. The living room was littered with toys, books, and pretty much everything else.
She waded through the living room and into the kitchen. The dishes were piled high in the sink and on the counter. Food was left out and the table hadn’t been cleared or wiped off for the whole three days she had been gone. Their bedroom, too, was a disaster, and she could see hours of work ahead putting everything back in order. Sadie was rather upset—it was only three days!
Just then, Jonah came down the hall. He looked as unkempt as the house. He hadn’t shaved or showered for three days, his clothes were dirty and rumpled, and he had a dazed look on his face.
But before Sadie could berate him for the condition of the house and apparent neglect of their boys, Jonah said, “I am so sorry. I had no idea how hard it would be to take care of them. I am sorry the house is messy. It took all I had to keep them alive and happy. I am so glad you are home. I will help you clean it all up.” Then he wrapped her up in a big hug.
Sadie melted. Her strong, capable husband had met his match in two toddlers that could outrun him, especially when they were going in different directions. He found out that going to work was easier than wrangling two little tornadoes that could eat all day long and still be hungry, while simultaneously emptying every shelf in the house and spreading Cheerios far and wide. He learned that a closed door is just an invitation to explore and see if they could conquer it.
Jonah had learned what it took to be a mother. Together they cleaned the house, bathed the boys and settled them in bed, and washed the dishes. After that, Jonah was a willing helper with a newfound respect for his sweet wife, who worked harder than he had given her credit for. From then on, when Jonah came home from work, he never again asked, “What have you done all day?” Instead, he asked, “What can I do to help?” And he did whatever she asked.
As Sadie was telling me this story, which I have shared with her permission, I did have one question: Did her mother-in-law know that Jonah needed to learn how much work it takes to be a mother? I wonder if she wanted him to understand that some things can only be learned right in the trenches.
If that’s the case, she was successful. Jonah and Sadie make a great team.They present a united front to their children when it comes to discipline, and Jonah will not have anyone slight his wife in any way. She is his hero, and he is hers.
So if you ever feel unappreciated, consider putting your spouse in charge for a few days. It’s likely that attitudes will change very quickly. The work you do as a mother is enormous. Your worth is inestimable; your value, infinite.
Donna Howard is a mother of ten children—yes, ten—a grandmother of six, and has served as a foster parent. She has a bachelor’s degree in clarinet performance and composition. She teaches elementary music methods to education majors and owns her own band instrument repair business.