Q: Working from home during the pandemic was a revelation for me about what my wife does as a stay-at-home mom caring for two little kids. Now that I'm back at the office, how can I continue to help shoulder the load?
Jim: A lot of guys got that wake-up call over the last year-and-a-half, while moms are saying, "It's about time!" Here are a few ways you can help:
First, when you come home after a long and tiring day, remember that your wife's day was equally (or more) exhausting. She needs two things at this point: 1) adult conversation, including true appreciation for what she's been doing; and 2) a pair of hands to pitch in and help with the kids, the dishes and so on.
Second, don't expect to be taken care of like another child. Pick up your own clothes and toys.
Third, don't expect much sexual response if your wife is exhausted and you haven't done much to help. As my friend Dr. Kevin Leman says, "sex begins in the kitchen" -- with meaningful conversation, compliments and acts of kindness.
Fourth, be involved in the process of preparing your children for bed. This provides relief for your wife and also gives you quality time with your little ones.
Fifth, maintain a regular date night -- a restaurant, a walk, a concert or whatever your imagination and budget can manage.
Sixth, if your hours at work are too long, make a real effort to cut back. Don't fall for the wrongheaded idea that your career is more fulfilling than your life at home.
Finally, try to escape for a romantic weekend periodically and give your wife a break from her daily responsibilities. With planning and creativity, this doesn't have to be expensive.
Q: Our family is so busy trying to balance all the demands on everyone's schedule. With the kids' endless activities and school requirements, I sometimes wonder if they should have the added burden of doing chores. What do you think?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Yes, it's important to prioritize and manage schedules so that life isn't harried and out of balance for kids or parents. But performing certain tasks around the house is good for children. It gives them a sense of belonging and identity in the family, allowing them to see and understand what it takes to keep the household operating smoothly.
Household chores also represent some of the most significant opportunities to prepare our kids for adulthood. What they learn now -- things like responsibility, humility and a good work ethic -- are values they'll carry with them into independent life on their own someday.
A good place to start is to have a family meeting and identify your household values. Your children will be more receptive to fulfilling their roles in the home when they understand the "why."
For younger children, simple tasks like picking up toys or making their bed can be an ideal way to build self-confidence. When a toddler successfully completes small jobs they're given, they feel good about themselves, and they'll want to take on even bigger challenges. That's a quality they'll need as they move through their elementary school years.
As children enter adolescence, depending on your relationship with them, you might encounter more resistance. With so many distractions competing for their time and attention, helping around the house may feel less interesting or fulfilling to them. But even mundane tasks can help teens develop the maturity and experience they'll need as adults. Chores give your kids the opportunity to learn service, humility and love for others.
You can find a helpful, detailed list of ideas at FocusOnTheFamily.com/parenting/age-appropriate-chores-for-kids/.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.