Monday, October 27, 2014

5 Ways to Encourage Your Husband on the Special Needs Journey

Photo image courtesy of Volodymyr Baleha via 123rfcom
"Better to live on a corner of the roof
    than share a house with a quarrelsome wife."
Proverbs 21:9, NIV
Better to live in a desert
    than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
Proverbs 21:19, NIV

The wise woman builds her house,
    but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
Proverbs 14:1, NIV 

These may seem like harsh words when we are trying to draw near to God.

Yet, we mothers have a very bad, pervasive habit.  That habit is only magnified when we are raising a child with a chronic illness or special needs.  We complain that we want help.  But when we receive help from our husbands, we criticize and complain.

"You're not doing it right!"

We rip control back, only to undermine the very assistance we crave.  It's no surprise that Dad's offers of help come less and less every time we berate his performance.

Here are some thoughts on how we can become the type of mother who BUILDS her home, her family, rather than one who DESTROYS it:
  1. Come to grips with the fact that your husband is not going to do things exactly like you do.  Your way is not the only way.  It is not necessarily the perfect way.  My husband and my son found a new system to doing an infusion.  I never would have thought of the short-cut the two of them invented.  And when things don't turn out exactly the way I would like them done, I remind myself, God made my husband the father, not the mother.  Good enough is good enough.  It doesn't have to be perfect to still be helpful.
  2. Involve your husband in the care and decision-making.  I know way too many mothers who are nervous about involving their husbands in the care of their children.  This can especially be the case when a child needs involved medical care.  One thing that has always blessed me is adopting the attitude, "I need to know that he can take care of these kids if I get hit by a truck."  With this mindset, I was able to work a rhythm with my husband where every-other-treatment would be handled by him.  This gave him adequate practice with  procedures.  He also comes to medical appointments and IEP meetings any time he is able. While he still struggles completely understanding the daily issues involved with our children's care, he has a better understanding than if he weren't involved in those pieces of the huge process.  This also helps to involve him in meaningful dialogue regarding important decisions for our kids' health and education.
  3. Realize that dads can often bring a certain fun factor that we moms simply don't.  Because men tend to be more gross motor in their activity than women, and tend to worry a bit less, their non-conformity to our ways can be a beautiful blessing to our kids.  They may take some reasonable risks that we mothers are too fearful to take. This broadens our kids' horizons and offers them joyful, exhilarating experiences they wouldn't otherwise have.  My husband is the one who takes the kids cross-country skiing, water-skiing, and sneaks them onto contraband trampolines.  Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and let them have these types of fun experiences with their dad.
    Photo image courtesy of jarenwicklund via
  4. Develop a sense of humor while you develop your boundaries.  There are some non-negotiable things that my husband needs to know about.  There are no compromises when it comes to sterile administration of intravenous medication.  Medical alert tags must be worn by the kids when they're away from us.  But there's a lot of wiggle room beyond those boundaries.  I used to have neighbors say scary things when I would return from business trips, "Oh, you must've been gone.  We saw the kids dancing on the roof of your Suburban."  Or my husband would tell me that he took the kids to the Irish Pub for their music circle.  Hmmm.  Rather than nagging or quarreling, I have learned to jokingly say as I head out of town, "My bare minimum requirement is that my children be alive and unharmed by the time I return."  He and I are both sporting a smile with these parting words, which eases a lot of tension and makes for a more pleasant time apart. 
  5. Remind your children that Daddy is NOT Mommy.  In addition to unreasonable expectations from us wives, our husbands can feel immense pressure from the criticism of our littles.  Kids with chronic illness and special needs can frequently be obsessive and ritualistic about the way things are done.  It can be critical in stretching our children's horizons to assure them that all will be well, even if the person caring for them doesn't do things exactly the way Mom does.  This also opens up the opportunity for new bonding between our kids and Dad, rather than driving them apart with the wedge of irritation, criticism, and unmet expectations. 
These are just a few of the things that have helped build up our family, rather than letting my tendency to nag or quarrel tear us apart.  

God instructs both husbands and wives on how to treat one another in Paul's letter to the Church in Ephesus.  (see Ephesians 5:21-33)   He calls us wives to an attitude of respect and common decency, not micromanaging and criticizing.  I don't know about you, but I think that the more I stretch towards that goal, the happier we ALL are in this household.

PRAY:  Jesus, help me look more like YOU, and less like my cranky, demanding, perfectionist self.

~ Barb Dittrich


  1. LOVE this list! Dads definitely have their own way and sometimes, we just need to move out of the way and let them do their thing.

  2. Great post, Barb! I am sharing it with some good friends (couple) who will find it very helpful, I think. I do have to wonder why you chose John's favorite verse as your theme. :o) You make some really great points! In our case, I was the fun parent in spades! My son tells my DIL all the time, "You should see the stuff Mom let David and me do!" That included sitting on the roof playing an electric guitar for one! They both inherited a platelet function disorder from me so that was living on the edge, I know! It was a function of reasonably safe since he could access the roof from his bedroom window and there were so times I had to say, NO to this child who constantly pushed the outer margins of safe!

    1. Well, Ann, you must've been the COOL MOM on the block. ;-) Love your phrase-ology "reasonably safe".

  3. Replies
    1. You're so welcome, Angela. It's always a learning process, isn't it?

  4. Do you ever read a post and think "I wish I had written that." Then you contemplate quitting writing because you wish that was your post. :-) This was awesome...and speaking as a special-needs dad, you absolutely crushed it Barb! That loud sigh you heard this morning was every special-need dad letting out a collective sigh and saying, "Yesssss!

    1. Thank you, Jeff. Couples need to work as a TEAM. So often, we're each others only allies. And yet, the tension and expectations can make it tough. With God's help and the wisdom of those who have gone before us, it IS possible to improve the way we parent as a couple.