The date is imminent. Mother’s Day Sunday is just around the corner. If you are like me, your mind races and stomach turns to try and plan a great day. Where should we eat the ideal lunch? Do we sit outside or in? Celebrate with just our family or others?
Can I find the perfect gift? How will I motivate the children to write legible greeting card praises, the kind that go something like, “You are the bestest mom in the world!”
To help answer questions like this, I have a list on my phone called “Reb Favorite Things.” It has everything from caramel sea-salt Barcelona Bars by Vosges and cupcakes from Sprinkles, to rust colored tulips and pink peonies for a change of pace.
Yet over the past few years—even with digital list in hand and my best attempt to gift each one—it hasn’t been enough. Don’t get me wrong, Rebekah appreciated the gestures and enjoyed the short-term pleasures and momentary escape they brought, but what I learned was this wasn’t her real list.
What she really wanted last Mother’s Day was a new kind of year. I’m pretty sure she couldn’t put words to it. I couldn’t either. But something was missing. A pervasive “lostness” overwhelmed her soul. Fears crept in that she somehow wasn’t meeting up to cultural, religious or marriage expectations. Raising children and being my wife was supposed to be enough, right? Well, it wasn’t. And that was painful to say out loud.
The truth is, it was never meant to be enough.
I’ve learned a lot in the last year about what women really want (at least one woman named Rebekah). And it’s not just another obligatory bouquet of pink flowers and greeting card wishes. Sure, she’ll take the lunch, put the card in her “keeper” drawer and likely exchange the gift (no hard feelings, I’m used to it). But what she longs for is something that can’t be given in a day.
She wants a new kind of year. A new kind of perspective that celebrates all of who she is. Not just as a mother, but as a gifted and necessary member of the body of Christ.
And men, that can’t just be a perspective shift for her—it has to come from you too.
So what if you made three commitments this Mother’s Day that just might make the difference?
Commit to give your wife time for replenishment
Being a mom is overwhelming. It takes incredible amounts of time and energy to be all things to all people. Traditional roles have required moms to manage the household care for the kids and play the perfect hostess. New expectations now also ask women to win employee of the month and get that promotion—and maybe have you thought about grad school? It’s quite a standard to bear.
All this pressure to perform leaves little in the tank for personal reflection or time to recharge emotionally and physically. That might explain why 26 percent of women are taking some type of anti-depressant, while millions of others silently wonder what went wrong. Most women have very little time for themselves. That won’t change, unless you make a commitment to do your part in providing it.
Decide that every week you are going to give your wife an intentional break. Come home on time, take the kids to the park or stay in for the night. Don’t ask her to make a dinner plan. You do it! She may want to take a book to her favorite coffee shop or go for a run. Whatever replenishes her physically, emotionally, relationally or spiritually should be a top priority in your weekly calendar. This should be as important as any workout regimen you prioritize for yourself. Figure out where you have some margin in your life and use it to ensure your wife does as well.
Commit to give your wife support in rediscovering her identity
The hum of life can overwhelm our earliest memories. Between email and deadlines and diminishing bank accounts, it’s hard to remember what you really wanted to be when you grew up and why. Youthful dreams of changing the world seem far away amidst real-world pressures. That holds true for your wife as much as you. What were her earliest dreams? What did she study in college? These answers will give clues for how God desires to use her in the world.
Over the past year, I realized I played a part in what God wanted to show my bride. It was time to practice what I preached. What in this world was Rebekah meant to restore? What gifts and calling and purpose lay beneath the surface, just itching to get out—needing a latch lifted, a confidence unleashed? How did God want me, as Rebekah’s husband, to be part of this process in her life?
Through a few dinner dates and sleepless nights, we processed this. “Rebekah, what makes your heart break? What brings tears to your eyes when no one’s around?” Her answers began to unpack her greatest fear of mental illness, something she’d watched her father battle since her adolescence.
I’d press in further, “What gives you life, making you anticipate the day like no other? How has God uniquely gifted you to contribute to the world?” It became clear that her talent for writing, and heart to help women name their struggles was a way God wanted her to restore a piece of the world.
Help your wife process her story. Give her permission to dream again about how God wants to use her. Not only with your family, but with the community of friends and relationships he’s placed you both in.
Commit to sharing the household and parenting responsibilities
I used to run from household tasks. Today, you’re hard-pressed to find me not loading (or unloading) the dishwasher, sweeping up crumbs or folding laundry. Rebekah always handled our finances, but in the past year, we discovered the burden of carrying it herself was too great. Now every two weeks, we sit down together and she doles out my assignments: pay this bill call this company back, run this errand. It only takes a few minutes of engaging this stuff together and we’ve knocked out a significant chunk.
As for sharing parenting responsibilities, never, use the word “babysit” when you care for your children. That’s a cardinal sin and a true glimpse into the view you have of your own role as a father.
Both mothers and fathers are meant to engage our children. From reading books, to playing hide and seek, to teaching our children how to ride bikes and having heart-shaping conversations—this is the heart of parenting! There are few special roles designated only for mom or dad. I’m not advocating for a unisex, genderless view of parenting, but I am saying we must not think of our investment of time and energy any differently.
This past year, Rebekah wrestled with questions of identity, calling and purpose. She wrote about her journey in her book Freefall to Fly. The message is resonating around the country … but it’s not just a message for women. Rebekah’s journey is my journey too. I’ve had to wrestle with my own expectations and desires—and how those expand or diminish her flourishing. Mother’s Day celebrates a moment to embrace these commitments for another year.
Of course, it’s also a great chance to utilize my digital gift list and pick up some peonies and salted chocolates.