My husband is loving and a good father, but I’m always a little disappointed when Mother’s Day or my birthday rolls around because he doesn’t do much to mark the day. I feel silly complaining about trivial events because he is such a good provider otherwise. Is it wrong that my feelings get hurt?
Tom: Of course not! All of us need plenty of affirmation and encouragement, and we especially need to hear that we are loved. Mother’s Day and birthdays are natural occasions for this to happen. Let’s face it: In the whirlwind of modern family life, most of us forget to express our gratitude for each other, and we could use a reminder — or two or three! Maybe Mother’s Day has been ridiculously commercialized; but it’s a good idea nonetheless. We bet your disappointment is not so much about the day itself as it is about not feeling cherished and appreciated.
Caroline: Ladies, here’s the rub: If we want our dear husbands to make a big deal out of our birthdays or whatever, we have to tell them so! Many good men need it spelled out. I resisted this idea early on in our marriage because I thought Tom should just intuitively know what to do out of love for me. After all, he was my best friend; he knew me better than anyone else. But it’s really not fair to expect our spouses to be mind readers. We can’t be disappointed when they don’t buy us jewelry, for example, if we never mentioned it in the first place. Twenty years later, I’ve learned to bring up Mother’s Day to Tom and the kids about a month early — and multiple times. Then I start pointing out ads in the newspaper and displays in the stores: “You see that? Wouldn’t that be a great Mother’s Day present? Just one more week to go. Hope everyone’s been working hard on my cards.” I say it in a joking manner, of course, but it does give them some ideas. And there aren’t any hurt feelings about forgetting our anniversary or my birthday because I simply don’t let him forget.
Tom: Gentlemen, it’s true that your wife is not your mother, but she is the mother of your children, and that alone should motivate us. Remember, how we treat our wives sets the tone for how our children treat their mother. If we want them to honor and respect her, then we need to lead the way. Be sure the kids are doing something special for her along with you. Remind your older kids, and take younger kids shopping yourself. It’s about so much more than a date on a calendar. The kids need to see that you really love your wife and are excited to do things for her. They need to see firsthand that marriage is a great sacrament that brings deep joy. Blessed John Paul II called this “remote marriage preparation.”
And don’t forget, men, that Father’s Day is just around the corner, so “Do unto others …”
Tom and Caroline McDonald are family-life coordinators
for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.