Fathers aren't babysitters; husbands aren't doing wives a favor when they clean the tub or make dinner. Still, when my husband does these things, I deeply appreciate it, and tell him so. Not because I feel like it's something I should be doing; I thank my husband for doing housework because it's the kind thing to do.
In our home, we split the housework. I clean the bedroom and kitchen, and he cleans the bathrooms and does the trash/litter/other chores where spiders or cat grossness might be present. And you know what? I am damn glad I never have to change the litter box, or remove creepy crawlies from dark corners, so I thank him for doing that. Just like he thanks me for cooking dinner every night, because that man is hopeless in the kitchen. I get that women are tired of feeling like they need to fawn over their men for doing the most basic of chores, and that the idea of a man watching the children is not revolutionary. I agree with that. Men aren't babysitters; they're fathers, and they live in the house, so they need to clean the house if they want it to be clean. Still, being in a partnership means recognizing that sometimes your strengths are their weaknesses and that your weaknesses are their strengths, and appreciating that can mean a lot.
Parenting is hard, and marriage is no picnic, so why make it more isolating by forgetting that your partner is a person who benefits from recognition? I know that if my husband and I are having a tough or busy period and we forget to acknowledge what we're doing for one another, it hurts. When I don't feel seen and appreciated, it's really hard to drum up a whole lot of warm feelings towards my husband. It makes me feel sad, and sort of lonely, and I know that I don't want my husband to ever feel that way, certainly not when it's preventable.
I am not saying I'm perfect — far from it. There are times I am not very gracious. In fact, just this morning. I called to kvetch to him that he forgot to take the dishes out of the dishwasher, and "didn't I cook two separate dinners last night?" At the same time, I was absolutely ignoring the piles of laundry all over our room that need folding (he washes, and I fold if we don't send it out), and the fact that before work this morning he managed to clean the litter and get both of our kids up, fed, and dressed while I finished my coffee and answered emails for work. There simply wasn't time to accomplish all the things, and instead of recognizing that I did have time to do the dishes, I decided to be irritable. Not my finest moment.
And we live our lives in a series of moments. While I do not make it a practice to thank him for every little thing that he does, nor does he provide a personal cheering section every time I vacuum, we make gratitude a priority. What take the time when we can, as often as we remember, to say a simple "thank you, it looks great," or just a smile and a kiss — it all adds up.
My marriage is not perfectly balanced. He works a lot more hours than I do, and so I end up doing more at home and with the kids. It would be easy to start setting the scales of "who does what" in our marriage, and become frustrated over aspects of our lives that by and large, we have little control over. Instead, I choose to live with a spirit of gratitude for the person I chose to spend my life with. Because it's better for us, and it's definitely better for me.