By: Jennifer Murray

Wow, Seriously? I HAD NO IDEA… {A Husband’s Response to the Mom-Guilt Battle}

Read Jen’s Fighting the Mom-Guilt Battle Post first if you have not already…

Jen recently wrote a post about her battle with mom-guilt.  I thought it was a vulnerable and truthful look at her struggle in this area.  It helped me to better understand what I already knew was a difficult and ongoing trial for her. 

What blew me away, seriously, left my jaw hanging slack, was reading the comments on that post.  I had no clue that this was such a common and intense struggle for all of you ladies!  This is SO incredibly valuable for me as a husband to know that this is just the way most women are wired, it’s not a unique weakness for her. 

I have to tell you though ladies, you are all amazingly good at hiding this from the rest of us and each other.  You all look so put-together when I see you.

I really felt compelled to share something with all of you in light of this new revelation to hopefully help you understand your own husband a little better.  Ready for this?  WE ARE NOT LIKE YOU AT ALL!  Most guys never struggle with guilt as a dad and husband the way you all are describing in your comments and in Jen’s post.  Yes, we have our own struggles and shortcomings, but we definitely don’t struggle the same way with this constant self-critical eye.

So what does that mean to you?  Have you ever had your husband look at you like you are so over-the-top?  Maybe he even just insensitively told you that?  Please don’t expect us to understand or sympathize with you naturally.  We don’t sympathize with your struggles because God has just created us differently than you. 

When you share this with your husband for the first time and he looks at you like your nuts, don’t give up!  He is not trying to offend, but it just seems so crazy to a dude.  We would never think this way and it really strikes us as strange when you do.  It seems so extreme to us. 

Be patient, find ways to share with him that you are not alone in this struggle.  Nearly all women are dealing with this same issue, and you need help from your husband to gain freedom from it!  Acknowledge that its wrong and destructive, but that you want to work as a team to break it with the help of our Almighty God. 

Thanks again ladies, I really believe you have helped Jen by educating her husband.  You have genuinely impacted our marriage for good through your feedback and honesty!

Brad

12 Responses to “Wow, Seriously? I HAD NO IDEA… {A Husband’s Response to the Mom-Guilt Battle}”

  1. Heather
    December 12, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Loved BOTH of your posts. We are constantly trying to figure out what is primary parent verses non-primary because we are a two mom family. I completely identify with Jen. I spend all day with our daughter and constantly feel guilty that I’m not the mom I could be despite more than a dozen years practice as a nanny and being an over-achiever in general.

    So I asked my wife, if she like you, misses this daily guilt party. And she says she occasionally wants to provide more, have more money and less stress but she doesn’t struggle with guilt constantly. This is very interesting as she’s ALWAYS been the worrier in our 13+ years.

    Parenting is such a big job. You guys really do such good work. Thanks for sharing some of your journey!
    Heather recently posted.. 12/10/2011

  2. Debbie
    December 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    You know Brad, we just gotta love our husbands!!! I do hope this post opened some eyes!!! I think throughout the history of time men were seen as providers, hunters and gatherers (physical work), while women kept the home together – (emotional committment) – and (thank goodness) times are a changing…..

    I do have to be honest though and point out that one phrase really struck me the wrong way – “unique weakness”……..I would say the weakness is on both parts, and a middle ground needs to be met, and as you say above, worked on together as a team…..

    Us women always talk about how men are clueless………imagine that!!!!!Sometimes my husband asks me why I am upset at him because he didn’t do anything and I respond that is exactly why I am upset – he didn’t do anything!!!

    I admire you both and thanks for always being so open and vulnerable to your readers!!!!!

    • Brad
      December 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

      Debbie,

      Thanks for the comment. I think one of the biggest things I learned here was not only how to serve my wife better on this issue, but just recognizing that this is only one way in which I don’t think like her.

      I will agree with you on your “unique weakness” comment if you mean that it is not just her problem to tackle. 100% agree that I have to play my part in encouraging her and helping her accomplish the tasks in life that might alleviate that guilt or shame.

      I was only trying to communicate that this struggle is not unique to her, most women apparently struggle in this way. Constant guilt over my own shortcomings is simply not something that I struggle with much, that is unique to her in our relationship. But yes, I am responsible as her husband and spiritual leader to help in any way I can.

      Really appreciate this dialog, it helps me think it through so much! Thanks again!

  3. Ben Houle
    December 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Brad & Jen –

    Great post and reply. Definitely opened my eyes some as a husband and will hopefully help me be more compassionate when my wife struggles. You are ABSOLUTELY correct, Brad – I would never think that way. I have some guilt on occasion when I have to travel or work a little late, but nowhere near the struggles that my wife has being a stay at home mom of three. I don’t see it as her weakness, but more my shortcoming from being able to help her feel like the super-mom, super-wife, & super-person that she is!

    Jen – what can we husbands do to help our wives to see what we see?

    Thanks again!

    • Brad
      December 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

      Hey Ben! Good to hear from you.

      I am just so blown away and humbled the longer I am married by how little I understand my own wife. This has spurred several conversations today in our home on this topic.

      As guys, we so often view the male/female differences as a curse, because we just can’t easily “get” our wives and their sometimes surprising reactions. I am realizing more everyday that the huge difference in how my wife is made are meant to complement me as a man. (and vice versa) We need to embrace those differences for what they are, a blessing.

      However, I’ll push back a bit on one point if I understand you and Debbie on it correctly. My heart is for my wife and her joy, peace, and sanctification. In light of that, I do think that living in nearly constant guilt is a weakness she has. (I think she agrees) Its a common weakness for most women, but a weakness none the less. I want to God break her of this destructive cycle, because I love her.

      That being said, I do think I bear much responsibility in that process, and I want to own that 100%. If she still struggles with this in a few years, it will be partially my fault, and partially hers. There is a great likelihood that she will, and that’s because we will both be majorly flawed until we reach eternity.

      Love thinking through this stuff. Appreciate the dialog, feel free to disagree, I don’t take it personally. 🙂

  4. Susan McCurdy
    December 12, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    What a neat letter and truth to share with all of us, Brad! My husband always reminds me that every other woman feels the same way. I guess years of pastoral counseling reveals the same problems with all hearts.
    Susan McCurdy recently posted.. Gratitude Journey …..all the way to 1000!

  5. Debbie
    December 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Brad – I see how you were communicating your “unique weakness” comment. For me, the weakness is not the guilt itself but how one chooses to use the guilt…does the guilt propel them into action to make better the situation they are fretting about? or, does the guilt paralyze them into inaction and being stuck in the same place? I truly believe that the majority of parents, I would love to think all parents, are doing the very best they can, and that no parent wakes up and makes a conscious decision to spend less time with their kids, or ruin their life in some way…I am finally realizing that as long as my intentions are pure and loving that is what I am called to…..wow – deep stuff for a Monday!!!!

  6. Heatherly
    December 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    I think my hubby and I are in a unique situation- maybe because of our personalities, but consistently HE is the one who feels “parent guilt” and I am the one who is able to see the big picture and trust that the best I can do has to be enough…
    Heatherly recently posted.. My Hope {a visit to Jesus & My Orange Juice}

  7. Grady Pruitt
    December 13, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Wow… Both posts are great. I see some of my wife in the other post and some of myself in this one. Though I’m home most of the day with our toddler (I work evenings), I know I don’t do as much “housework” as I probably should. I do so when I remember to. The problem is that I’m often involved in my own tasks I want to get done that I forget to do the other things.

    Then my wife comes home and spends the first 5 to 10 minutes picking up. I’ll think the place is fine, but she’ll find little things here and there. Things that don’t bother me, but do bother her. I have started trying to get the kids to pick up their own messes, particularly just before she comes home, but seems we always miss something.

    One thing I’ll say is that just because we don’t do something our wives expect us to doesn’t mean we don’t care. Sometimes, we have our own list of things in mind that we want to get done and maybe we just haven’t noticed what it is our wives want done. And if we’re not directly asked, that thing our wives want us to do might not wind up on our own list. Guys can be a little oblivious to subtle hints. Telling us direction seems to work better.

    Or rather ask us… Sometimes, we get told to do something without consideration of things we might have planned to get done, and if we feel we’re expected to drop whatever we’re doing to get your task done, the thing we think is important doesn’t get done and we get resentful.

    Now, for us guys, we need to work on helping our wives a bit more and noticing when they need a little time for themselves. We need to take charge of making dinner or the kids for a while to give our wives a break. That might help them with their feelings of guilt.

    Thanks for sharing this fantastic (pair of) post(s)!
    Grady Pruitt recently posted.. The 100 Questions Follow-up Exercises – New Year Resolution Goal Setting – Mastering Me Monday

  8. Criss
    December 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Brad,
    I have to agree with Debbie and Ben that the word “weakness” IS the WRONG word. I would encourage you to edit the post to remove it.

    Feeling guilt is not a “weakness.” It’s not something that’s “broken” about your wife, or any person, that needs to be “fixed.” What you mean to say is that mom-guilt was not a “unique issue” for her.

    I didn’t read her post, but as a mom who feels guilt (and a recovering Catholic — sheesh, you want to talk about GUILT?? It’s not something that popped up after I popped out the baby), I can probably guess what she shared in her post. This is not a “weakness.” True, she should not beat herself up for the things she does or doesn’t do; she, and all other people who feel this guilt, need to learn to deal with it — talk to that voice, sometimes tell it to shut up, sometimes listen to it. Sometimes that voice is right, sometimes it’s completely off-base.

    My “mom-guilt” is, in a way, what makes me a better mom, because it forces me to look at my parenting. Sometimes I’m doing it right, sometimes I’m doing the best I can with what I have (and I tell the voice that, and I tell myself it’s okay, I’m okay), sometimes I’m not being the person I can and want to be for my baby. Parent-guilt helps me realize that.

    There’s a whole lot of parent-guilt that’s completely unrealistic and unnecessary, certainly, and I need to learn to tell that voice to shut up.

    But sometimes, like when I’m getting mad at the baby for not napping right now because I want to play on the computer for a bit, or when I turn on the TV to watch a show instead of sit on the floor and read him a book, that voice is right. We haven’t read a book all day, and I don’t want to have the TV on when he’s awake because he starts watching it and I don’t like that; all our stuff is TiVOed so I can watch it later anyway. That mom-guilt reminds me of the choices I have made, the things I have decided I want for my child, and how I’m slacking off on them.

    Learning how to deal with the parent-guilt, how to talk back to it when it’s being unreasonable, is a crucial skill. You know what helps develop that skill? When my husband tells me I’m a good mom. When the people around me validate my parenting choices by respecting them, even if they are weird or hippie or non-traditional. When I talk to other moms who also vent about what a hard job this is, and how we’re doing the best we can and that’s a lot.

    When you use the word “weakness” to describe how your wife, and many, many, many other moms, feel, well… it’s pretty darn insulting. It turned me off from wanting to read the rest of your post. But I did read it, and as I read it, I kept thinking… this “dad-overconfidence” you describe? That sounds like a pretty big “weakness” to me. If you’re not questioning yourself AT ALL, then there’s a problem there — questioning your actions TOO MUCH, letting guilt take over, is a problem. Not questioning at all is also a problem. Because there’s always something you could be doing differently, and probably better.

    As you said, you and your wife complement each other. Learn from each other. This isn’t something that’s “wrong” with HER, that you get to “fix” by waving your magic wand… this is something BOTH of you need to work on. She needs to learn to ignore that guilt when it’s not in line with her choices and goals, and you need to learn to be more open to questioning (“guilt”).

    Also, as Grady pointed out, giving the stay-at-home spouse “me time” away from the children and away from the housework does WONDERS for stress relief and self-esteem, two big things you need lots of in order to properly assess and deal with parent-guilt.
    Criss recently posted.. My Just-another-person-using-social-media-for-fun Guide to Google+

    • Christie
      December 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      I only “know” Brad and Jen because when a friend was pregnant with quads, I searched for blogs about quads to see what I could learn to help and encourage her through her journey. I’ve enjoyed reading all the posts, from pregnancy to now.
      My response is written with that in mind–all I know of this couple is what is written, however, there is a consistant steady message of truth throughout 5 years of posts.
      In reading Jen’s post, she clearly writes how she views this mom guilt as a weakness and something to overcome. Brad admits that he knows nothing of mom guilt, and wants to help his wife overcome something that she wants to improve on. Jen wrote that Brad tells her she’s a good mom often, but Jen has a hard time accepting it.
      Since you admit you didn’t read Jen’s post, you missed out on her humbleness and confession of something she struggles with.
      Brad also admits in his replies to comments that he is not blameless, either, and takes “100% responsibility.”
      In the future, prior to posting your judgements, please take the time to read what is offered.

      • Criss
        December 27, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

        I am not the only person who took issue with the use of the word “weakness.” I also made no judgement about Brad or Jen as people.

        I pointed out (as had two others before me) that the use of the word “weakness” is insulting, and I shared how it turned me off to his message and made me want to retaliate, so to speak, by finding fault in Brad’s “no-guilt” parenting, as a reaction to his calling my “mo-guilt” parenting a weakness.

        I have no issue with Jen referring to her own feelings as a (perceived) “weakness.” She is talking about herself, and about her own emotions and how she sees them. When Brad, a third party who does not experience these feelings (pretty much the point of this post) calls her feelings, and a great number of other people’s feelings, a weakness, he is passing judgement on all those other parents. Jen has a right to call her own experience and feelings a “weakness” if that is how she sees it, but Brad does not have a right to use that language, unless he is talking about his own feelings (which is the opposite of what he does in this post).

        This is a good post, but the problematic language is likely to turn people off. Those people are not likely to finish reading the post, let alone the comments. All I was suggesting was that Brad edit the post to change the word “weakness,” to keep from alienating many readers (and keep them from having the defensive mindset I had while reading, and therefore having the reaction I did to his post).
        Criss recently posted.. My Just-another-person-using-social-media-for-fun Guide to Google+

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