Between the newlywed and empty-nester phases of marriage are a few furious, breathtaking years. Raising children really is a delightful phase of life!
But when you’re in the middle of that phase, it feels wearisome. You know you’re a parent when your definition of a great evening is one in which you’re in bed by 9:30 PM. Parents are perpetually tired people.
May I suggest, however, that your wife is possibly a little more tired than you? Whether she’s a stay-at-home mom or not, she carries a massive load with 24–7 responsibilities. So, let’s brainstorm together: how can you help your weary wife?
A Command for Husbands
In a letter written to weary Christians, the Apostle Peter has a word for husbands: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
The word translated “live with” is a practical word and literally means “house with.” Peter’s command concerns a husband’s everyday life with his wife.
“Your relationship with your wife must impact your daily life, down to the most commonplace interactions.”
According to the verse these interactions should line up with a husband’s “understanding” or “knowledge.” Knowledge of what? The verse is probably referring to either the husband’s knowledge of God or his knowledge of his wife—possibly both. In other words your relationship with God and your relationship with your wife must impact your daily life, down to the most commonplace interactions. Peter calls you to seek to meet the daily needs of your wife.
When a husband does this, he honors and exalts his wife according to her Creator’s design. Peter goes on to say that obedience to this command is actually going to impact the effectiveness of a husband’s prayer life! Are you seeking to grow in your relationship with God? One huge step in this process is learning to “live with your wife in an understanding way.”
I’m not always sure how best to shoulder the load with my wife. So I enlisted the input of some family and friends and, with their help, compiled a list of thirty-one ideas below.
Before you just plug and play someone else’s ideas, make sure you know your wife. What delights her? What discourages her? What does she enjoy? If you have trouble feeling motivated to serve your wife, take some time to meditate on God’s love and service toward you.
Also, don’t be overwhelmed by the length of the list. It might help to take one or two ideas per week and implement those into your life. If those ideas truly help, consider making them a part of your regular routine.
- Pray for her. Okay, this is a nonnegotiable. Take some time on a daily basis, maybe on your morning commute, to pray for your wife. Keep praying for her throughout her day. (Consider setting an alarm for this.) Only God can give her the strength she needs.
- Pray with her. Ask her what’s on her plate and what burdens she is carrying, and pray through those things with her. Before you both drift off to sleep at the end of a long day, pray with her one more time. Even ten seconds of prayer every night is a good start.
- Ask how you can help. What we may think is helpful sometimes isn’t. Ask her what you can do to help shoulder her load.
- Be aware. Before you pull out your guitar or turn on the football game, take a look around and make sure you’re not missing something. If someone is screaming, chances are, you’re needed.
- Bring coffee to her first thing. That is, if she is a coffee drinker. Sometimes, the “night shift” is extra rough, and a good cup of coffee in her favorite mug can help jump start her day.
- Consider taking the night shift. I know one dad who worked away from home during the day. So, throughout the night, he took on the task of getting up and feeding the bottle to the baby.
- Help her to have the time she needs to spend with God. Your wife’s relationship with God is the foundation for the rest of her life. Keep the kids occupied so she can have some uninterrupted time with God.
- Give her an opportunity to sleep in once a week. Even a couple extra hours of sleep can pay big dividends toward your wife’s daily routine.
- Take the kids on a walk after dinner. Thirty minutes of quiet at the end of a long, noisy day is huge.
- Be careful with your own expectations. If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, don’t forget that she possibly has the hardest job on the planet. (Don’t think so? Watch the kids for a weekend while your wife is out of town, and you may reconsider.) Don’t discourage your wife by placing unrealistic expectations on her on your way out the door.
- Give her space. Don’t expect her to pivot from serving the kids all day to serving you the moment you arrive home.
- Play with the kids. It will bless your weary wife immensely if you can send the kids squealing to their room and just play with them for an extended period of time. (Try to keep them from getting hurt, though. That has the opposite effect.)
- Learn how to take certain “kid duties.” If there are kid duties you don’t typically do (such as giving the baby his bottle or prepping the kids’ school bags), ask if you can take some of those on.
- Teach your kids to serve. Challenge your children to ask their mom “How can I help?” at least once in a given day, and then follow up with them to see how it went.
- Help her around the house. Tackle a cleaning or home repair project. (Just make sure it’s actually helpful. I have found that waxing my car doesn’t have the same impact as unloading the dishwasher.)
- Help her find ways she can still use her gifts outside the home. Some stay-at-home moms can start to feel trapped with their 24–7 obligations. They would love the opportunity to practice piano for church, make some headway on a project, or take another young mom out for coffee and Bible study. Help her make time for her hobbies, ministries, and goals.
- Give her time away without the kids. Watch the kids so she can run errands, study at a coffee shop, or just walk around Target for a while. A free day means a lot, especially if your wife has her own business. Put her up in an AirBnB on a Friday night—she leaves after work Friday and returns Saturday night.
- Offer to pick up dinner on the way home, especially if it’s been a rough day due to the kids’ behavior, sickness, or a tough work project. If she typically cooks dinner, consider having a weekly “Dad’s Meal” night. (Please only try this if you can actually cook.)
- Be home when you say you’ll be home. Consider adding fifteen minutes to your ETA to ensure you keep your word to your wife.
- Try to arrive home with the mindset to “jump right in.” Help her finish dinner prep, set the table, scoop up crying children. If you’re arriving home with a lot on your mind, keep your hand on the door handle for a few seconds, cast those cares on the Lord, and then head on in to serve. Make it a habit to turn off the radio for the last couple minutes of your commute home in order to pray for strength.
- Be the first to handle discipline. If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, she’s probably been dealing with crummy attitudes all day. When you arrive home, make sure you have the information you need to act wisely, and then take over.
- Encourage other ladies in your church to take her out to dinner or coffee (and offer to pay).
- Fill her car up with gas and take it through the car wash. Those tasks can be hard to do with a car full of kids or a screaming baby.
- Plan a regularly scheduled date night. Hire a sitter and head to a restaurant (or pack a picnic supper). It doesn’t have to be expensive. When it comes to date nights, regularity is a key.
- Try to get away with your wife for a weekend at least once a year. Or more. The point is, aim to get away.
- Plan a regular “calendar party.” Every few weeks, after the kids are in bed, grab some snacks and work through your monthly calendar together. (This is peak adulthood.) Being on the same page about your schedule goes a long way toward helping to shoulder your wife’s load.
- Be realistic about time. There may have been a time when you could get out the door with five minutes of advance notice. You have a family now. Plan well. Start early. Move slowly.
- Don’t invite company without consulting her first.
- Give her a shoulder massage while you watch a movie together.
- Listen to her. Men tend to be “fixers” and not great listeners. Don’t answer a matter before you hear it out completely (Proverbs 18:13). As men, we often listen better when we’re not just staring at our conversation partner. Go on a walk with your wife. If you need to bring the kids, head to a local park and walk 20–30 feet away from the playground while the kids play. Make it your aim to listen well.
- Affirm to her that what she does every day matters. No matter how mundane or repetitive, your wife’s daily work has eternal worth. You may be the only person who sees and knows the daily struggles she faces. Prioritize regular praise for your wife. When possible, praise her in front of your children.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her.” (Proverbs 31:28)