She stands in the kitchen with her arms up to her elbows in soapy water. She smiles when you come in, but it’s one of those tired smiles, like her lips aren’t convinced the effort is worth it. There’s a sadness in her eyes, too, and you can’t figure it out.
You didn’t do anything, didn’t say anything. As far as you know, the weekend was great. She made pancakes for breakfast; you got that project done that she’s been asking you to do for weeks. Then you all went to the park, and you listened to her chatter endlessly while you watched the kids play.
So what gives? It’s like you can’t make her happy, no matter how much time you spend together. It’s never enough for her.
You shuffle out of the kitchen thinking, “If she wants to talk, she’ll talk.”
But she doesn’t.
Even though I don’t know your wife, and I don’t know you, I think I know why she is sad on Sunday.
She is sad on Sundays because the weekend is already used up, and the next day, you leave again. Tomorrow, you go back to work, and she is left all alone with everyone in the sometimes overwhelming work of motherhood and homemaking. Your wife feels the weight of a week stretching out before her, and she feels very alone.
“Boy, I’d sure much rather stay home all day than go to work,” you might think. Please don’t say it—just listen. Your work is hard; she knows it. She knows it’s not fun to get up in the morning every day and physically go to work. She knows you put in long days, and you do it to provide for her and the kids. She loves you for that.
But at the end of the day, you get to shut your office door and leave the work behind, most days.
Because “home” for you is not the same as “home” for your wife. Home for you is the place you come when your work is done. It is the respite, the rest you’ve earned. You can turn off the car, walk up the front steps, and be done.
Your wife lives at her work. She wakes up every day to work and goes to bed every night to work. There is no break, no marked finish line, no 5 o’clock quitting time. Every space she moves in is one she has to care for; every mouth is one she has to feed. All the things that make your home warm and comfortable and inviting are things she has to dust and sweep, wash and put away.
That’s why she gives you the evil eye when you leave your socks on the floor, because at the end of the day, she feels she is responsible for this space you call home. Of course you pitch in and help. You are not one of those men who comes home and just checks out. But the emotional weight of caring for a home and children is different for you than it is for her.
That’s because it’s her job.
You see, your wife does not just stay at home; she lives at work.
And it is good and lovely and all those things, but it’s also constant, never-ending, and exhausting. There is always something more to be done, and when something isn’t done, she feels as if it reflects on her as a wife, mother, and woman.
When she doesn’t do a “good job” at home, she feels bad about herself.
I know that’s hard to imagine because if you’re like most men, you’re good at putting work in a box and viewing it logically. You know all the housework isn’t hers, and you know it’s not her fault that the laundry didn’t get done. So why does she feel that way?
Maybe this will help: imagine you and your wife own a doughnut shop. That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Doughnuts all day, every day.
But you don’t just own a doughnut shop, you live there. And you don’t just live there by yourself. You live there with all of your customers.
Every day, it’s your job to promote your doughnut shop. You bring samples to people and deliver special orders. People love you. They throw money at you and beg you to come back tomorrow. You’re the hero. You’re the doughnut guy.
Meanwhile, your wife stays at the shop. She makes the doughnuts, serves the customers, wipes down the counters, answers the phone, mixes up more dough…all while the customers are eating everything she’s made, putting sticky fingers all over the freshly-cleaned tables, and complaining that they wanted chocolate and not vanilla.
When you get home from your rounds, your part of the job is done. The customers cheer when you walk in, and you take off your coat and wrestle around a bit until they’re hungry again. You take a peek at your wife, who’s in the kitchen, where it looks for all the world like a flour bomb went off.
You wonder what she’s been doing all day, but you’re smart enough not to ask.
Let me tell you: she’s been doing the same things over and over and over again all day long, and she is beginning to think she will never get to the end of it. Worse, she feels like a failure because she believes that if she was just was a little more organized, or a little less scattered, or a little bit…better at this, she could get to the end of her work. She could be done.
And she could enjoy you and the kids the way you do when you come home from work.
That is why she is sad on Sunday. Because even after a weekend, even with you home, she is not done. She is not angry with you or resentful. She simply wishes for all the world that she could pause time and just be in her home and not at work.
It’s not that she needs you to work harder or help her more, unless you are one of those guys who just checks out. But husband, if you look at your wife on Sunday night and see that kind of sadness in her eyes, there are some things you can do to help.
- Write her a note and leave it on the coffee pot where she’ll see it Monday morning.
- Call to check in on her. Sure, she texts you a million times a day. Tomorrow, beat her to it.
- Pray for her. Let her hear you.
- Write out Scripture passages and leave them on the fridge. Here’s a good one: “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” Proverbs 31:10
- Make it a habit to ask, “What’s one thing I could do to help you tonight?”
- Help her relax even when her work is not done (because between you and me, it never will be). Make the popcorn and start the movie, then pull her out of the kitchen for a break.
- Be appreciative. You earn a paycheck and praises at work, but she doesn’t. Say thanks—it will encourage her heart more than you know.
When your wife is sad on Sunday, pull her close. Let her know she’s not working alone. You are in this together, and she is home.