The year my younger son was born, my sister Marty came for a visit. She reported to our mom: “Lynn nurses the baby, and Alan does everything else.”
I hate to admit it, but that’s a great summary of my husband’s and my relationship—only now nursing the baby has been replaced by birthing manuscripts in my home office.
If ever there were a poster boy for “acts of service,” the love language Gary Chapman attributed to folks who show love through their actions, my husband would be it! Especially since his retirement, he holds our little home together. Literally. He runs errands, gardens, does all the cooking, and even refuses to let me do the dishes afterward.
No matter how many times my husband has brushed off my suggestions that we try a more equitable distribution of labor—and no matter how many times he’s argued that doing for me is fun because I’m “so appreciative,” I’ve never really believed him. Guilt has been my constant companion.
But on this last visit to extended family, I experienced some of the perks of being a giver and a doer on the home front. In New York where my older son and family live, I shopped and helped my beautiful daughter-in-law cook some meals after her long days at work. I picked my grandson up from school and pitched in with reading stories and playing hours of Uno and pretend games of “Family with Baby” (I was usually the baby).
In Boston, on my visit to my sisters and brother-in-law, I was able to be of some help as well. Since one sister is about to have spinal surgery and walking is no picnic, and my other sister was recovering from the after-effects of a toxic reaction to an ill-prescribed medication, I did a fair amount of jumping up and fetching snacks, drinks, whatever was needed.
By the time I got home from my travels, I was pooped. But you know what? I felt good about myself. For once, I had been the “acts of service” person for the people in my family whom I adore. It wasn’t just a nice thing for them. It was affirming to me as well.
So, I’ve decided to banish the guilt. I can tell that my husband really gets off on being the doer and the giver in our relationship. My job is to tell him each and every day how much I appreciate all that he does and to express my love and gratitude that I get to share my life with him.
Besides, I get to be the “acts of service” person when I visit my extended family, and I enjoy that role, too. In giving and receiving love, it’s all win-win.