When I was engaged to be married, the number one piece of advice I received from other wives was to be my husband’s spouse, not his mother. Since I was in my thirties when I got married, and had been a single mom for two years already, I was used to doing everything on my own. From washing the dishes to taking care of my child, I did it all. Being in charge, being a mom, came naturally to me.
As a newlywed, it was tempting to fall into the habit of being a mom to my spouse. It certainly would have been easier. My husband was a longtime bachelor and did things a lot differently than I did. He ate the same rotation of frozen meals every night for dinner; I liked eating home-cooked meals. He liked to wash clothes every two weeks; I washed as soon as I had a load ready. We were opposites in the way that we did just about everything, and you couldn’t tell me that my way wasn’t better.
I was so tempted to “mom” the situation. That’s what wives do, right? We take care of our families. But there’s a thin line between taking care and taking over. When you take care, you and your spouse are partners. When you take over, you’re shouldering the load of managing the family and your spouse just sits back and does what they’re told to do.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a grown man who can’t take care of himself. If I have to wash all the clothes, cook all the meals, and do everything for our children, I might as well take care of my own sexual needs too. The thought of living with a man baby is a huge turn-off, and I can’t imagine being attracted to my husband if I had to act as a parent toward him.
I got married to gain an equal partner, not another child.
Parenting your spouse sometimes starts before folks get married. Putting together the details of our wedding was a big opportunity for my husband and I to learn to be partners. I wasn’t running around stressed out over flowers, invitations, and catering because I wasn’t doing it all alone. My husband was right there with me doing his part.
After we got married, we carried that same lesson into the marriage. Now, I will say that my husband is an only child, so at times he had the tendency to sit back and wait for things to happen. Once, when our daughter was sick and throwing up, he asked if there was anything he could do. I was about to put her in the bath, and there was vomit on the floor, but I told him no. He went and sat down. Instead of huffing and puffing or schooling him like I would if he were my kid, I reflected back on a tip from one of my married friends. She said that I might need to tell my husband exactly what I need sometimes.
I called him back in the room and told him I actually could use some help, and asked him to clean up the vomit. Which he did without complaint because HE IS NOT A CHILD.
You know what else my husband can do? He can manage his own calendar, make meals for the family, and take care of our children on his own. He knows how to buy socks and underwear, pick out clothes for work, and clean up after himself. That’s not to say that I won’t help him with doing any of these things if he asks, but he is a grown man, a husband, and a father. He can handle this shit on his own too.
It’s not my job to micro-manage my spouse.
Of course, marriage is about helping each other be the best versions of ourselves we can be. I give him advice from time to time, and he does the same for me. But that does not mean we tell each other what to do and how to do it. Personal autonomy still matters in a marriage.
Bottom line: I can either be my husband’s wife or his mother, not both. And trust me, being a wife is a lot more fun.