“you don’t get wife points for calling your husband a butt” our babysitter Nita guffawed after my derogitory derriere related remark directed at Dave while frantically racing around the kitchen trying to load the dishwasher with cereal bowls, put away the milk and get out the door to get some work done.
A few weeks before that I had been at Nita’s dorm room to pick up the kids after she and her roommate Rachel had kindly watched them so Dave and I could see a play (the perks of working with college students!). Rachel, Nita and I have ongoing conversations about gender roles in society, the church and marriage- the fun things you talk about in college when you’re trying to figure out- “what does it actually mean to be a woman?” and “what sort of a woman am I/do I want to become?” “what sort of wife will I be?”
On their dorm wall a piece of notebook paper was taped with both of their names on it, and a series of tally marks. “What’s the chart for?” I asked, glancing at Rachel as I loaded Oswald into his carseat. Nita’s face began to turn red and she started laughing as Rachel smiled and said- “that’s our wife training chart. We give each other points for doing things that will make us good wives someday.” Knowing that neither Nita or Rachel, funny, smart, ambitious, hipster students came to college to get their M.R.S. degree, I curiously asked, “so what kinds of things do you get wife points for?” Inwardly I was thinking: there has to be an off the charts wife point tally for having sex with your husband when you don’t feel like it but decided it probably wasn’t a good idea to suggest adding that to the chart for two unmarried college students.
After regaling me and laughing together about their list of doing dishes, changing a diaper for the first time thanks to my 5-month old son, dressing stylish, and cooking/baking I drove home that night recalling doing something similar in college. My roommates and I, trying to imagine what it would be like to be a wife someday dressed up in a bubble-gum pink Lawrence Welk-esque dress and took turns posing for pictures with a pan of meatlof ready to load into the oven. I’m away from home currently and don’t have access to the picture but the one above is pretty close to what we looked like (complete with heels).
Their wife points chart made me think about what I thought it would be like to be a wife when I was in college. And then it made me reflect on what life has actually been like for nearly 10 years. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet; “there is always truth in jest” and though posing with pans of meatloaf and making tally marks for changing diapers is an amusing way to try and envision what life as a spouse looks like, it points to a deeper fear of constrictive gender roles. The questions lurking in the back of my mind all those years ago, and I suspect in Nita and Rachel’s ask “will I be able to be both feminine and powerful?” “Can I be both ambitious and loving?” “will I have a spouse that encourages me to pursue my dreams and gives me the freedom to do so?”
My list of “wife points” would be very different than when I made that proverbial list in college. The list would include things like:
- Picking up pumpkin bagels for your husband just because he likes them. Wife points: 10
- Forgiving your husband when he breaks a lamp while using it to illuminate a wall where installing an outlet instead of using a flashlight. Wife points: 15
- Listening to stories about sports/kung-fu/hunting/electronics/star trek and being glad to hear about it because it’s something your husband loves and you want to care for him. Wife points: 25
- Sampling your husbands home-brewed beer or other creations with believable enthusiasm (aka- I’m happy you have a hobby). Wife points: 40
- Successfully navigating creating a three-month schedule of events, childcare responsibilities, and work travel while remaining kind and peaceful. Wife points: 50
- Choosing to love your husband and bake him cookies for Valentines day even though you are still smarting from the hurtful things he has said the day before and not holding a grudge and actually being happy to see him. Wife points: 75
- Respecting the committments you have both made to be financially prudent and stick with a budget, sucking it up and returning the killer ankle boots that were 70% off and resisting the mental sound track of “I deserve these.. he never lets me buy…he just bought a….I need these…” Wife points: 125
- Having sex with your husband after a day of cleaning poop off of children, making dinner, cleaning the house, having a 2-hour conference call to plan an event, writing a talk that you have to give the next day and choosing to emotionally engage with each other while being intimate. Wife points: off. the. chart.
Being a wife is far harder than I ever imagined it to be. Actively forgiving is more difficult than scouring a pan crusted with burnt-on grease. Choosing to love requires much more than the effort than putting on a pink chiffon dress and looking pretty. Believing you are each others advocates instead of enemies requires the kind of love Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13:4- “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
For many those words have long been forgotten after they’ve been read by your second cousin who your mom required to do something in your wedding ceremony. Yet they become much more potent in the years after the honeymoon is over. Especially on the days where you call your husband a butt because you’re mad at him. So friends- my question to you is what would make your wife points list? How is being a wife more difficult or better than you thought about before you got married?