Most likely a fantastic husband will also be a fantastic father. And it’s important to realize it might not happen overnight. As we settled into parenting in our marriage, it gave us a lot of things for which to welcome—shall we say—good conversations.
Joe would admit that initially, I (Cindi) was the one carrying the heavy load of meeting the needs of the household and children. Joe was clearly doing the heavy lifting of meeting the financial needs of the family and providing for us, but would also admit that sometimes it was a great escape.
Joey’s early diagnosis that he would have special needs—cerebral palsy, epilepsy, low muscle tone, lack of verbal skills, mentally slow, and some severe to fatal allergies—plus two daughters, all the usual life needs, doctors and all the rest made for many conversations on how we could each help each other, and the need for Joe to enter into the household workforce even though his work day was over. Joe needed to understand that I didn’t clock out at the end of an eight-hour work day; my day kept going often until bedtime. Thankfully he was a willing, able, and fantastic learner!
Some of our conversations were as simple as this:
Joe: “Why are you frustrated, Cindi?”
Cindi: “Did you see the laundry next to the coffee table that needs folding?”
Joe: “Honestly, no.”
Cindi: “Feel free to fold laundry I put there. As you watch the news, it would be great to have you fold it.”
Joe: “I’d be happy to.”
And he was. He just didn’t have the same vision for household things like I did. Today, some forty years later in our married life, he is great at doing laundry, folding it, and putting it away. He just needed to know I needed the help. It was fantastic to have that help!
Cindi: “It’s going to be hard to get out the door without some help.”
Joe: “What can I do to help?”
I’d give him two things to do and me two things to do. It worked! Sometimes we need to point out to each other what our needs are. We aren’t mind readers. He was a fantastic helper and it’s fine to ask for it.
Cindi: “I’m so tired. It’s been a long day.”
Joe: “Why don’t you go to bed early?”
Some of you are laughing. Some of you are rolling your eyes. Some of you are thinking the same thing I did, which I expressed, “I would, but I still have so much to do.”
Joe: “Give me a list. I work well from a list. I’ll do it.”
What we learned is that he might take a little longer to do some things, and it might not be done exactly as I would do it—truth be told, sometime he did it better!—but it was always better if I gave him a list. Then I didn’t nag or go on and on about how much I had to do and how tired I was. His willingness made it nice to keep an ongoing list of ways he could help. As he completed the request, he’d cross it off and I’d be a happy camper. We then began doing that for each other. It works for us.
You and I have the complexities of a family with special needs, and it can be done alone but it’s not recommended. Even very able single parents are going to need the help of others. Perhaps it’s a paid position or perhaps it’s a friend who steps in to help. The bottom line is this: we need to communicate well in order for there to be a semblance of order! It’s worth the conversation. It’s worth the work. It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the time.
Try it and see if you don’t have a fantastic father and husband, because you’ve taken the time to work through all the challenges together. There will be many opportunities to try!
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at www.cindiferrini.com and social media at: www.facebook.com/cindi.ferrini, www.facebook.com/UnexpectedJourney/, www.facebook.com/MyMarriageMatters/