Becky Thompson:Sometimes I’m scrubbing out a bottle at the kitchen sink and I’m just like, “I’m running bathwater. The kid’s not in it yet. If you can put him in and get this going, we can get bedtime going faster.” (Laughter) You know, like, just jump in buddy. And so it’s greeting from behind my back rather than this greeting of full embrace, but the truth is, how we welcome each other back into our space sets the tone for the rest of the time together.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s Becky Thompson describing some of the challenges that women face in a pretty common tug of war between being a great mom and being a great and loving wife. And you might know that challenge. Becky joins us today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we’ve heard from many women who struggle with that balance. This might be one of the core things, certainly in a young married couple’s life where the kids are pulling on Mom and, you know, Dad, husband, needs some time with you. This is going to touch your soul. And we have a wonderful guest to talk about it.
The fact is kids are needy. They need a lot of attention. They need a mom and a dad, frankly, who’s engaged with them, taking care of their needs. And it’s wonderful. I tell you, I’ve got two teens now, 17 and 15. It gets better with time. Every stage is a good stage.
Jim: One time a parent said that to me. And I love that, you know, it wasn’t yeah, you know, I loved it when they were 8, but now that they’re 18, not so much. I like that attitude of enjoy every stage because God’s given you children as a blessing, not as a curse. And we’re going to talk about how to manage this tug of war a bit better. And I know you’re going to be equipped with answers today.
John: Yeah. And Becky is a blogger, author and speaker. And she works to help women find hope and healing and God’s love. And she had a little blog that – back in 2014 – went from a thousand followers to over a million and a half.
Jim: That’s impressive.
John: It is. And so she’s having quite an impact. And she’s captured some of her wisdom and perspectives in a book calledLove Unending: Rediscovering Your Marriage In The Midst Of Motherhood. And Becky became a work-at-home mom when her first child was born. And now she and her husband Jared have three young children.
Jim: Becky, welcome to Focus.
Becky: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be with you guys.
Jim: Yeah, it’s fun. Um…that right there – that idea – I could feel women, wives, mothers going yeah, really, time for my husband, right.
So let’s just go right there. I mean, this, to me, is one of the core problems, partly because I’ve experienced it as a husband – I’m sure, John, you did, too – and wives. I mean, and, you know, moms are saying, how do I find the time to balance all this?
So let’s just go right there for a second and describe that feeling for – maybe for all the husbands listening – here’s what your wife is going through.
Becky: Well, you know, it’s different in every home. And I think it’s important to say from the beginning that, you know, what happens at my house might not be the setup in every home. But for me, as a stay-at-home mom of three young children, I’m in it. I’m in it all day long. I’ve got somebody that always needs something. And they’re all different ages. And so they need – they all need something different. And when I finally have a moment to catch my breath and jump right back into it, you know, I’m just looking for my husband to come home. I’m looking for his help. And when he walks through the door, all I can do is cheer and be so grateful that – that help has arrived.
Jim: Did he see it the same way?
Becky: No! (Laughter) You know, my sweet husband, he works so hard. But when we’re…
Jim: He was tired? But he was only working.
Becky: …Just surprise, right? But, you know, when I’m in the middle of my struggle and he’s in the middle of his struggle, we both need a place to fall. We need a place to rest.
And you know, when we want to lean on each other and we want to pull from each other but neither of us have much left to give, you know, what do we do? Where do we go from there? And I think that’s the real issue.
You know, one day back in ‘14 when I was starting my blog, I sat down and I wrote this – this little post. And I wrote – I wrote it late at night. And my husband had come home. And I was so exhausted. And we had just hit the ground running taking care of these kids from the moment he walked in the door, you know, dinner, cleaning up dinner, bath time, bed time, that I looked at him and I realized we hadn’t said hello to each other. I hadn’t said hello…
Jim: (Laughter) Been there, done that.
Becky: …I mean, it was just sort of there. It was like, you take this. I’ll take this. You know, we just did it. But I sat down at the computer and I said, you know, I wish in the beginning that somebody had said when the kids come along, you have to fight and cling together. You know, not fight with each other. Fight with each other.
Jim: Yeah, for each other…
Becky: Right, alongside each other.
Jim: … But, you know, that the key there, to some, that sounds exhausting again. One more task thing…
Jim: …On the list.Going back to that blog post, you were doing mostly fashion stuff on your blog. And that’s why you were hitting that resounding thousand people watching. I’m sure it was great fashion advice. But that little blog that you did on something deeper, more personal, maybe more tender, you know, has anybody figured this out, that’s when you got, like, a million people respond.
Jim: That’s crazy.
Becky: So I just – I published it at midnight, you know. I was up late working. This is the only free time, you know. Moms listening, you know that when you have the minute that’s free, it doesn’t matter if it steals from your sleep, you’re taking it for yourself. So you got the kids to bed, sat down at my computer, wrote this post.
And I said you know, I just wish someone had told us to cling to each other. I pushed publish on the article, woke up the next morning and my site was crashing. (Laughter) And I just thought, you know, my little blog was just having site maintenance issue. I thought that was going to be a real good post. It’s a shame that they’re doing server maintenance today.
And I logged in. And there were 7,000 people on the website at that exact moment. And people were clicking share. And people were contacting me. You know, this, you’ve written my life out. I wish someone had told me any of this. What’s the answer?
Jim: Well, why such a nerve? I mean, that is the obvious question. What nerve were you touching? And why were women responding in that way?
Becky: You know, I think we forget to see each other in it. We forget to see that he has these deep needs because we’re so busy meeting these needs right in front of us.
And when he comes home, we – we either, you know – or when we come home from work, whatever that dynamic looks like – when we come back together, it’s almost as if we want our husbands not to need us. (Laughter) I have been so needed – I said in this post – that I need him to just be OK. I need him to just not need me to do anything for him because it’s this extra burden.
Jim: Yeah. I can appreciate that. But you know, men sometimes – we’re very compartmentalized in our thought process. So you got to kind of hit us between the eyes on this.
Jim: What does that mean? I mean, if I come home and say hey, honey, give me a kiss…
Becky: Don’t touch me (laughter).
Jim: Yeah. I mean, that’s really the practical aspect of it…
Becky: That had better be all that that means!
Jim: …Don’t tug on me, physically. Don’t, you know, don’t expect anything.
Jim: But what are you saying? I mean, because that can be – the husband’s going, what have I done? We take it personally. Like, what did I do?
Becky: Exactly. And I think there’s this level of guilt that comes over moms when we realize that we cannot pay attention, physically. We cannot pay as much attention to our husbands as we did before the children came into the picture.
We just have these – especially in young motherhood – these small children who you can’t say I’m going to need you to stop crying right now so I can have an important conversation with daddy. It’s almost like we just want our husbands to understand that we wished we could have the relationship that we had before the children came along.
Jim: It’s so true.
Becky: We wished, yeah.
Jim: And I think, in some cases, that’s why dad goes and he watches the news…
Jim: And you know, Jean and I have been there where she’ll have to grab me and say we need to connect. And I’m going, I was ready. I was just watching the news waiting for you to put the kids down.
Becky: Right. Right.
Jim: Or something like that. And you do begin to grow apart. That’s what growing apart is like. I call it the Gordian knot.
Jim: The Gordian knot in ancient history is the knot that can’t be undone. There’s no solution to this knot.
Becky: There you go.
Jim: And it’s mythology. But I love that idea because there’s no way to solve this. It’s about just finding general balance. And I remember stepping in the door, you know, after having a hard day at work and having, if I could say it, I felt like Jean didn’t understand what my day was all about.
She was exhausted because she had been taking care of two kids that are only two years apart, so five and three, you can figure it out. And I’d pop in the door. And she’d go, take them. (Laughter) That was hello.
Jim: Take them. And it’s not – that’s not negative toward Jean at all. But she was desperate to get some time to just recharge. And I’m in the same spot going I just need 10 minutes. Give me 15 minutes to change my clothes. Let me – you know, I’ll go play with them in the basement. I’ll do what I can.
Jim: But you got to begin to set those terms as a couple, don’t you? And hear what I’m saying. Don’t be offended, both from the wife’s perspective, as well as the husband’s.
Becky: Right. Exactly. So we just need to give each other space. And then we need to, like I said, fall into each other almost. So we both – we become like this lean-to. (Laughter) I’m going to need to lean on you. And you’re going to need to lean on me. But really, we both need to lean on the Lord in this season more than ever.
Jim: Oh, I love that.You have a story about your dad and the role he played in helping you better understand all of this. What transpired? And how did your dad help you figure out some of this?
Becky: So here’s what happened. After I wrote that blog post that went viral, I had all of these women – and by all of these, I mean thousands of messages from women saying yes, it would have been wonderful if people had told us from the beginning to cling to each other, to have grace for each other, to lean on each other and lean on the Lord, but what do we do now? Like, two lines pointed slightly away from each other, even over these last two years, we’ve gotten farther and farther apart. Where do we turn to come back together? What is the strategy for that? And I would simply reply yeah, I don’t know. I said it was a problem (laughter), you know?
Jim: (Laughter) I’m not the expert.
John: Okay, you can tell me!
Becky: Can you – if you – if you find out, let me know! But it just sort of became this resounding question in my spirit. There has to be an answer. And so late one night, I sat at my parent’s house. I was very pregnant with our third child. I was eight months pregnant. I think it helps to know that I live very far away from the hospital we would need to deliver our baby, so there was a long period of time that we were staying with my parents while my husband stayed in our small town and worked. Andmy parents have been married for nearly 40 years now. And my dad is this remarkable man who, you know, I just have never really heard him raise his voice to my mom or just speak poorly to her. And there’s always just been this kindness, but I didn’t understand, really, the root of it, other than the love of Christ. But you know, I didn’t understand, really, what his perspective was. There had to be – there had to be something, right?
And so I said Dad, what do I do? What do I tell these women?I don’t even know, you know. Three kids coming. Jared and I just seemed to be moving farther and farther apart. What is the answer? And I will never forget. He looked over his shoulder to make sure my mom wasn’t listening. (Laughter) And I was like, what kind of family secret are you about to share with me? Because I feel like it would have been beneficial 10 years ago, you know, what have you been keeping to yourself, Dad? And he leans in. And he says “Every morning I wake up and I tell myself that it’s the first day I’m married to your mom.”
Becky: And I thought that is profound and amazing. And it took me a minute to sort of process through, really, my childhood. I’m flashing back to all of their conversations and all of these things.And I’m thinking he did. He treated her like she was his brand new bride every morning. But I’m – I’m comparing that to the life that I’m currently living with my husband and I’m thinking, I got a long way back to day one, if you know what I mean…
Becky: …I’ve got a long way back to living this advice of treating it like it’s the first day because I have this list. And I think, if we’re all honest, we have these lists that we’ve been keeping in our heart where last night, I put the kids to bed and you didn’t help. You know what? Tonight it’s you. Or you know, you didn’t handle that situation the way I wish you would have handled that situation, and I’m still a little, you know, I have a little bit of unforgiveness about that.
Jim: Is this – the title for this list is the list of resentment?
Becky: You know, it could be. It really could be.
Jim: I mean, that’s what I hear. And I get that. And you both build that list up…
Jim: …Husband and wife.
Becky: And it becomes a you should and I should. But you should, you know. And it goes back-and-forth.But if each day was the first day that we fell in love and each day was the day you’re walking toward your husband, about to live the rest of your lives together and still dreaming for everything it could be, there would be no day before that you had to forgive because it would start over fresh each day. It would be a clean slate each day. We would just be looking at our husbands. And they would just be looking at their bride.
Jim: Becky, that sounds great, but it also sounds like maybe…
Becky: Impossible? (Laughter)
Jim: …So far away that it’s impossible emotionally.I love your dad’s attitude that he could say every day I wake up believing this is the first day I’ve been married to your mom. That’s beautiful. But a lot of us are going wow…
Becky: Where do we start?
Jim: …How do I get there? Because you know what, a lot of stuff went down over the last 10 years that I don’t wake up with that sterling, shiny emotion now. It’s not like the first day. It’s like day 5,643. And it doesn’t feel like day one.
Becky: You know, I think we have to decide that we’re not going to wait on our spouse to do it first.
Jim: (Laughter) That’s big.
Jim: Yeah, that’s big.
Becky: Because you know, as wives, we just want our husb- you know, I can’t speak for every wife. But for myself, I want my husband to want to rescue me still from my life. I want him to still sweep in after his long day and say “My bride, how can I help you?” when the reality is he’s also exhausted and you know, that moment might not come. It might never come.
And it might just be this simple moment that my husband can lean back into and we can, you know, get going again. But the truth is, Scripture says that because God first loved us – because He first loved us – we have the ability to love. And so I’m not actually responding to this love I don’t feel for my husband. I can respond to my Heavenly Father’s love toward my husband.
Jim: That’s well said.
John: Yeah. Our guest on Focus on the Family today is Becky Thompson. And she wrote the bookLove Unending. We’ve got that and a CD or download of our conversation at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 800-A-FAMILY.
Jim: Becky, what I’m hearing, too, is that you’re in year 10, 11, 12 of your marriage. Your dad and mom are in year 35, 36 and now 40 years. You learn these things over time. And I wonder how many wives – how many young wives do come from a good home where they saw their dad loving their mom, but maybe didn’t see him in years 5, 7, 8, 9…
Jim: …Because they weren’t here yet or they were so little they wouldn’t remember.You learn to do this over time. And I wonder about that, that idea of the expectation. Did you and Jared ever talk and say – did you say to him, have you looked at my mom and dad’s relationship? Jared, that’s what I want. And him going uh, yeah, OK. But not being able to deliver. He’s a young man. He’s – he’s learning these things.
Becky: You know…
Jim: And maybe you not being able to deliver. (Laughter)
Becky: …In reality, I never said this is what my parents did. I just said you know, I wished you would.
Becky: Isn’t that dangerous?
Jim: I love the vulnerability. It’s a desire of your heart. But I’m sure he panicked.
Becky: Well, and he would say the same thing to me. Well, you know, that I would if you would, (Laughter) you know. And these are all fill in the blanks. And they’re different for every home. But they’re so true. You know.
Um…I’ve had the beautiful example of my parents, but my husband’s parents have been married nearly an equal amount of time. And so we have both of our families giving us very different examples because while they’ve both been married a very long time, the dynamics are different in both homes. There are definitely aspects of love, but they’re lived out differently. And so he is living through the filter of his parents’ marriage. And I am living through the filter of mine. And you know, I think the women out there, we are all living through the filter of our parents’ relationships. Good, bad or – or in between.
Jim: Yeah. Well, it’s so true. And I want to get to an aspect of your book,Love Unending, where you identify 21 challenges to help women recapture the love and intimacy they, at one time, hopefully, experienced with their husbands. And we can’t cover the entire list. But let’s just look at No. 1, which is greet lovingly. You have a story about that, which I thought was funny, that we’re all gonna connect with. And that was you – you’re kind of getting dressed up, I think, wanting to make an impression on Jared. What happened?
Becky: So you know, in the beginning, when we would watch for, you know, maybe our – even just boyfriend or fiance to come pick us up for this date, we would get fancy. We’d do our hair. (Laughter) You know, we would have everything in place. And then we would sit and wait, you know, just waiting for them to show up. Or if anyone else is like me, you know, their poor boyfriend is waiting for them.
Jim: (Laughter) That didn’t happen.
John: That happens all the time!
Becky: That happens all the time.
Jim: You and Jean sisters?
Becky: Probably!So but we get ourselves ready, and then we watch with expectation. They’re going to be here any minute. We’re going to have the best time. I can’t wait to see them again.
And we want to connect with their hearts. And then we become parents – or just, really, just wives that have had time go on – and we’re looking for their help. We want their help and not their heart.
And I was thinking one day, you know, as I was looking at the difference between day one and day whatever it is now, how when I looked out the window for my husband to come, I would look, holding a baby on my hip, going I can do this five more minutes. (Laughter) I can do this ten more minutes, you know. I can do this. He’s coming. He’s coming. He’s going to – he’s going to able to help me.
And I think the way we expect and look for our husbands has changed. And they feel that. They know that we’re not looking to just fall into their arms and love them and spend time together. It’s oh, hey, it’s you. (Laughter) Right?
Jim: Maybe if you have that much time to even greet each other.
Becky: Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes I’m scrubbing out a bottle at the kitchen sink and I’m just like, I’m running bathwater. The kid’s not in it yet. If you can put him in and get this going, we can get bedtime going faster. (Laughter) You know, like, just jump in buddy. And so it’s greeting from behind my back rather than this greeting of full embrace, but the truth is, how we welcome each other back into our space sets the tone for the rest of the time together.
Jim: Boy, it really does. But that’s a hard thing to do, Becky. It’s hard when you’ve been tugged at all day, all the things that you described, all of a sudden say OK, we got to greet each other well. Did you do it consistently? Was it a mental thing where you had to really plan OK, he’s coming through the door, I’ve got baby food all over me…
Jim: …And my hair is sticky? I mean, really…
Becky: We don’t want to talk about what else is on me, you know!
Jim: …Yeah. Hi, honey. Big embrace.
Becky: Right. So the first time I did this, I met him outside of our house. The kids were playing. And I walked out the front door as he got out of his pickup and walked up the driveway. And I was like, I’m just so happy to see you. I’ve been thinking about you. I missed you.And he was like, what happened?
Jim: Yeah, what burned down? (laughter)
Becky: Did you, you know, buy something that you shouldn’t? Did you crash something? Is something broken? And is everything OK? And I think in that moment I realized how far we were removed from day one.
Jim: Wow. And I love that all rooted in love first. That’s a love first concept…
Jim: …You know, greet each other with loving kindness.
Becky: But here’s the thing, he responded on day two. It didn’t even take but one day when I came back out that he said you know, it was just this I’m – I’m happy to see you, too. And it was a conditioning of his heart that was…
Jim: Let me ask you this, too. I love this, actually. You say moms havefor hearing things that are way beyond the human ear. Describe that.
Becky: So before I had children, I was a very heavy sleeper. But it seems like the moment I became pregnant, almost, my body was just…
Becky: …My body was alert. It was bringing out this sense of hearing. I remember hearing my dog chewing a bottle cap (Laughter) under the bed and thinking what is that, I’ve got to find it. And I found him and helped him and, you know, saved my little dog’s life. But when the baby came along, I could just hear everything. I could hear the baby rustling in his bed. I could hear, you know, that sort of breathing change. And it really is a superpower. We can hear the sound of the television turn on on mute in the other room!
Jim: Yeah, no sound is a sound as well, like, uh-oh. Something’s happening.
Becky: Right. Something’s happening. Our kid’s opening that bag of chips in the pantry or spilling that bag of chips in the hallway.
But sound becomes so magnified in motherhood. We are always listening for potential danger. But the fault of this is that everything becomes so noisy that we almost need mental space. And so we learn to tune out unnecessary sounds. We learn to tune out the sounds that aren’t vital to maintaining life in our home, right? We learn to tune out these other sounds.
But the sad truth is sometimes my husband’s voice is categorized under tune out-able sounds.
Jim: I was going to say, yeah. And that goes both ways…
Becky: I’m sure it does.
Jim: But what would be an example of what you would tune out or others that you’ve talked with? What do wives tune out because we don’t – we normally talk about dads and husbands tuning out.
Becky: We just don’t want to admit that we do it, too. (Laughter) We just want to – we just want to say that you guys do it, and you know, are you listening to me, when the truth is we’re chopping those carrots and we have no idea what you just told us about today. We are just hoping you don’t ask us about it later.
Jim: You guys must cover well because I’ve never seen it.
Becky: We’re very good at it. We learned to highlight the words back to you so you think — but in sincerity, my husband would come home and he’d tell me about his day. And you know, there was a time where he was an oilfield pipeline welder. And that is where you dig large ditches and you lay natural gas pipelines that connect wells to other pipeline – I think, like I said, he used to explain this to me…
Jim: No, that sounds like a lot of work.
John: This is your understanding of it, yeah.
Becky: …This is my understanding of it. But he’s the welder that connects the pipes. And he would explain what he was doing or what went wrong and I would think, I’m never going to have to know this. (Laughter) Like, I’m going to need you to stop telling me all these details and expect me to repeat them. Can you just tell me, generally, if it was a good day or a bad day? But here’s the thing, we want our husbands to share about their lives, but when they share about what’s important, we don’t have space to put it, right? We don’t make space to contain what’s going on with them. But tell me, tell me, tell me how you feel. I wish you were more vulnerable with your words.
Jim: And the shoe’s on both feet on this one, man. Husbands can develop the expertise quite well as well.
John: Uh-huh.Yeah. And it seems that over time, what happens is we kind of build in a disincentive, if you will – right? Because I can tell she’s not listening or she can tell he’s not listening. And maybe the chatter becomes less and less. How do we – how do we fight through that?
Becky: You know, I have to – on my end, I have to make space whenever my husband’s trying to speak to me. I have to tune in intentionally. And this is what I would have done if we were dating. You know, in the beginning of our marriage, I would have said you know, I would have – I would have…
Jim: Tell me about welding that crack. Now you’re like, what? (Laughter)
Becky: Exactly! Exactly.
Jim: I love it. That’s such a great example.
Becky: Tell me about it. How did that work? Tell me more about it. Oh, that’s so interesting.And now I just don’t have space to put it. So when my husband is sharing, I have to make the choice to tune in. With small children, that’s not always possible, you know. They’re demanding. And you have to train them and teach them when mommy and daddy are talking, you know, put your hand on us. We’ll acknowledge that we hear you. And then we’ll go into – when we have a minute, we’ll respond. But we have to not just let the kids run the conversation in our home. And we can’t wait until they’re asleep. We have to connect during the day.
And you know, the truth is, sometimes my husband’s job doesn’t allow him to connect in the middle of the day, but just reaching out to him and sending a text message and saying I’m thinking of you, I’m hoping your day’s going OK, and he can respond when he can, is actually the beginning of the conversation that’s going to take place later in the day. I’m going to make space in my day for you to speak in whatever way you want and receive it the best that I can.
Jim: Well, I love it. And man, we’ve got so much more I want to cover. And we’ve run out of day one so Becky, let’s come back next time and keep talking about this very important topic of how to stay connected, even in the midst of raising children.And I know wives and husbands are being helped through what you’ve done.
Great book,Love Unending: Rediscovering Your Marriage In The Midst Of Motherhood. I love it. This is a great book. And we want to get it into your hands. So …Just make a gift to Focus on the Family, and we’ll send it as our way of saying thank you. If you can’t afford it, we’ll get it into your hands, too. Others, I hope, will cover the cost of us doing that.
It’s just one of these resources that moms need in their arsenal so when they do get a little bit of time, they can look at those 21 challenges and the other things that we’ll talk about next time to really improve their relationship.
You know, right at the end here, Becky, what excites me about the content of what you’re talking about, a while back in the Wall Street Journal, there was an article about the graying of divorce and where moms end up is when they become empty nesters, they look at their husbands and say, “I don’t know you anymore and I don’t like you.”
Jim: And they’re filing at a very high rate for divorce. And that’s not just the world, that’s Christian couples, too. And this is a way to avoid that trap and to honor the Lord. And that’s why I like it. It’s going way upstream to say you don’t have to go down that horrible path. And that’s why I love what you’re doing.
John: And we do hope you’ll make plans to listen to part two of our conversation with Becky Thompson. Please donate at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 800-232-6459. That’s 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And be sure to ask about a CD or download of our conversation and that’s going to include what we share next time as well.
If anything you’ve heard today has brought up concern about your own marriage, let me encourage you to contact Focus on the Family for help. We have so many resources for husbands and wives. That includes our Counseling team and audio, video, books, articles– we’d be happy to connect you with one of our Christian counselors as well.
And I should note, we have a free Marriage Assessment at our website. It’s designed to help couples kind of make those fine-tune adjustments that’ll make a stronger marriage. It’s a very easy way for you and your spouse to evaluate twelve essential traits that you need for a good marriage. Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? You can learn more at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Next time we’ll have more from Becky as she helps young moms who want to reconnect with their husbands.
Becky Thompson: …But the truth is that is where intimacy of all kind begins – not just with the touching, but the acknowledgement of our spouse in our space and allowing them to be in our space – mentally, emotionally, physically – without resenting them for being in our space.
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