It’s a happy picture, isn’t it?
Did you pay attention to the facial expressions of those kids in the wagon? Delighted, aren’t they?
You know why? Because they are enjoying a free ride.
Who wouldn’t enjoy a free ride? All you’ve got to do is climb on board and enjoy the scenery. You’re not responsible for where you’re going, how long it takes to get there, or how much it costs.
But what if the wagon had two teenagers and a grown man in it and the woman was still trying to pull it? The faces of the riders would still be smiling and happy. They would look that way because they’re getting to be like children – no responsibilities.
However, the expression on the woman’s face would be open to debate. What you believe her face would look like would reveal much about you and where you are in your life right now.
I have seen lots of women through the years who, in a figurative sense, are pulling their family’s wagon all by themselves. They are working full time, buying the groceries, fixing the meals, paying the bills, arranging for repairmen to take care of maintenance on the vehicles and house, washing and folding everyone’s clothes, checking homework, going alone to parent-teacher conferences, and attending the children’s events by herself. The expression on the faces of these women is a dog-tired, worry-etched look. They are exhausted physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. And they are upset because they can’t get the wagon to go anywhere.
Sometimes the expression on these women’s faces is a squint-eyed, teeth-gritting one. They are so angry I’m afraid the top of their head is going to blow off and lava is going to fill my office. They talk of being fed up with their family’s laziness. But guess what? All the time they are angry, they still have hold of the wagon handle and are pulling with all their might.
It’s a trap that’s easier to fall into than you might think. Maybe you are there yourself. You want the best for your family. You have a vision of what each of them could do, if they applied themselves. The sky’s the limit as far as you are concerned regarding their potential. In the absence of male leadership, you step into the void to try and show your family the way. “Surely,” you reason, “if I can just get them to see the possibilities, they will all jump right in and help me.”
The flaw in your method is that you allowed your family to remain in a child-like state of dependence on you. They have zero motivation to change because you have made their way of life too smooth.
The answer to this situation is painfully simple and simply painful. “Quit pulling the wagon by yourself.” What that will mean is that both you and your family are going to become very uncomfortable. That’s because that’s the nature of change, even positive change.
When you stop pulling the wagon, your family is going to wonder what got into you. They may howl and beg. If they do, that’ll be a good thing. It’s the first step toward change.
Let me give you an example:
By the time your kids are eleven or twelve years old, they are old enough to wash and fold their own clothes. Turn that job over to them. “But they’ll just leave them lying dirty on their floor,” you reply. If they do, go into their room and put all the clothes that are on the floor in a garbage bag and hide the bag. Make them earn back their clothes a piece at a time by doing extra chores around the house.
If you are married to a man who refuses to be responsible and be the leader in the home, you will have to use creative thinking to find ways you can resign some of the duties you’ve taken on over time. The goal should be to make him uncomfortable with his manner of life. An extreme example would be the woman who told me that for twenty-three years she took her husband’s work boots off for him at the end of every day. At the same time, in twenty-three years, her husband never lifted his finger to be helpful to her or give her a kind word. She told me one day, “I’m through taking his boots off for him. If he wants them off, he can take them off himself.”
She followed through on her threat, and guess what? Her husband practically knocked my office door down to come find out what was “wrong” with his wife. I engaged him in a dialogue, eventually helping the two of them have a dialogue, and structural change occurred in their marriage.
When kids complain to me about their family, I always ask them what they are doing to initiate positive changes in their family, and I emphasize the word “their.” The state of a family is the responsibility of each member, no matter how old they are.
Moms and wives, your anger and fatigue are a sign to you that you need to listen to. They are symptoms. No one can make your changes for you. Nothing will change until you do. Good luck!