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Where Credit Is Due

By Leslie Graff

If I won an Oscar (which I won’t I am no actress) I would have to say I got where I did because of the love of a good man. While it sounds so not PC, it’s true.

For me marriage and family life has been liberating, not confining. There is a power in fidelity – in having some one’s constant support. Knowing someone has always got my back.

At 33 with 3 kids, I feel totally comfortable in my own skin, which to me is a testament to my environment. We all acknowledge the process of child development (and credit parents for their role in child rearing), but what of adult development, who gets credit there? Generativity is Erikson’s longest stage of psychosocial development (adulthood), it extends for a good 50 years. As it’s name denotes, it is where you generate and give back, it is where you define yourself in terms of work, family, community, accomplishments. It is where growth and personality development take place, it is where we become who we really are as the world knows us.

As my numerous years of semi-successful gardening can attest, plants don’t thrive without water, good soil, and light. Family life is my greenhouse.  Honestly, since I have been married I have become wiser, more successful, more confident, I even think I look prettier. Maybe it’s  just the process of growing up and becoming more at ease with myself, but I think it would be arrogant to suggest it has just been a natural progression or a result of my own actions.  Whatever I have become or accomplished in the last almost 11 years has not been simply of my own doing, it’s been my husband’s too.

If you know my husband it’s not some overt manipulation, or training, it’s just unconditional backing. He’s on board 100% when I tell him I have signed up to volunteer at the town festival or that I’ve invited our neighbors over for Family Night to decorate cupcakes to sell for Haiti. He’s there to kiss us goodbye as we leave for a trip and welcome me home, even if it means he’s working hard while we are gone to pay the bills.  He’s there to take the kids around NYC solo while I present at a conference.  He’s there to help me at night when I use his engineering skills to get the perspective right on the preliminary drawing for a painting.  He spontaneously cleans the house when I am off at  church meetings and calls when I am with our oldest son at cub scouts to ask what laundry needs folding.

Men often get up and make public acknowledgements of their wives’ influence and support, but wives don’t do it as often about  their husbands. And why not?  Why don’t we talk more about what really makes us successful?

I’d be remiss too if I didn’t give my children credit too. Moms always get revered for raising children.  We get our token carnations on Mother’s Day as well as the general admiration of the world (as everyone knows the deepest dig is to insult someones mama). But do our children get such praise for raising moms? My three boys teach me, love me, inspire me, encourage me. They compliment my dinner (sometimes) they tell me what a good job I do on my paintings, they are always willing participants in projects, they give me endless hugs and kisses. I am a vastly different person for being their mom.

I find it ironic when I see others wanting to hold on to their single life or try to put off parenting until the last possible moment.

Every year I do 14 Days of Valentines for my family– while many argue it  is an excessively over commercialized holiday- there are few holidays whose message resonates with me so deeply. Valentines Day to me is about giving back and acknowledging the people who keep us going. It  is my way of giving credit where credit is due.

What have been the major influences on your adult development? Has marriage been liberating for you?  Empowering? How do you give your spouse credit for their hand in your personal successes in who you have become?  What about your children? How do you celebrate those that mean a lot to you?  Are you with me on the true meaning of valentines day or do you hate it?

About Leslie Graff

(Art Director) In her pre-diapering days, Leslie earned an MS in Marriage and Family Studies from BYU. This entitled her to mold the minds of impressionable college students in rambling six-hour lecture courses and travel the world as child life specialist. She now passes the seasons in a quaint Massachusetts town with her husband, Allen, and three young sons. She spends her days encouraging play, championing global causes, and whipping up a mean R2D2 cake. She savors her nights, stealing away to her studio to paint.

28 thoughts on “Where Credit Is Due”

  1. I love this post! I have found a similar support system in my husband, who happily watches kids while I go to book club or writing classes, who supports me and helps me grow. I agree that I have heard a lot about wives supporting husbands, and it is good to hear that the other way around.

    I love your Valentines Day idea, but I can barely pull off one day, much less fourteen. 🙂 But I think it's wonderful to celebrate the good things husbands do to support us.

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  2. What a beautiful post!

    I was single til 49. I feel I have evolved greatly as a person since we're married. There are more facets to my personality. I feel secure and comfortable in my own skin. I try things I have never tried before. The list is endless. And it is because of what my husband and I have together.

    Valentine's Day – Love it – 14 days would be a challenge – a fun one.

    5 years ago my Dad was dying. He was playing tennis at Halloween, couldn't get out of bed by Thanksgiving – gone 3 days after Valentine's Day.
    My sisiter and I actually prayed he would not die on Valentines'Day – it was an extremely special day to my parents. They had been together since they were 16, now in their 60's. They had only known each other, all those years.
    My dad was not an easy patient – with no patience. He had never been sick before and now he was dying. He owned a business, had a wife and 2 daughters – he was used to giving orders and people obeying. That wasn't working now.
    He was in ICU, it was Valentine's Day. He asked the nurse if she could leave early and get a Valentine for his wife. He had never missed.
    She cried. And she also said that he had been such a bear the last few days, this request probably saved his life with the nurses. She obliged.
    My dad was only well enough to exchange Valentine's with my Mom – my sister and I put ours in his coffin. The 1st Valentine's Day after he died, my mom gave all us the Valentine's he had signed.
    Valentine's Day is hard as hell – but I wouldn't miss it for my family and my Lovin' Husband.

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  3. I love my husband for many of the same reasons and lately I have looked back over the last 8 years we've been together and realized how much his support has helped me grow. Our marriage has some struggles and he is not active in the Church right now, but more than anything I know he loves me and supports me no matter what. He's been gone for a week for work and I've felt 'incomplete' all week without him here.

    I also love Valentine's day; partly because I love treats, flowers, and the color pink and partly because it is a great excuse to talk about love. I've done 14 days of Valentine things in the past, but this year I'm taking a pass because I'm having a baby next week. This year I'm letting my husband pick up the Valentine's slack since he's been gone and now I'm going to be recovering from the baby–that's one thing I love about him: I feel like we've gotten into a pretty good 'rhythm' of supporting and being supported

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  4. It is my anniversary today so this is a sweet post to read. I feel very blessed to have a sweet husband. As a child of divorce I am experiencing many of the blessings of intact family life for the first time.

    I did have a relationship with my dad and my mom did remarry eventually but that marriage was tumultuous at first. Often I feel I am discovering the wheel for the first time and it is a good thing. The first several years of marriage this sense of wonder was especially strong.

    So far in my adult life other than being a wife the most personal fulfillment I've found is in being a mother. I am so grateful for all six of our little and big children that share our life. My husband has been happy at all of their arrivals, though here is probably not where he thought he would be when he was approaching independence and adulthood nearly twenty years ago. None the less he so happy to be here. Not being a man of faith or raised in the Mormon culture to have so happily obliged my desire for motherhood by design (and sometimes by accident) is something that is one of his greatest gifts to me.

    We are still trying to figure out this grown up world that we inhabit, glad that we get to do it together.

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  5. As a wife who does not have the ever supportive husband you so lovingly described, I read this post with a twinge of sadness. Our marriage of 8 years has seen growth, but we have so much left to work on that I can honestly say that my marriage has been my biggest challenge consistently over the 8 years. However, I am glad to hear that all marriages are not as hard as mine, that I do have something to look to as an example. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. I'm glad your life is going so well, but this post and your previous one seem frankly insensitive.

    Many of Segullah's reader are single– not by choice– and most women are married to men who are not as supportive as yours. BUT we can still find happiness in our circumstances. I would hate for someone to read this and resent their imperfect marriage and struggling children simply because it's they are not ideal.

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  7. I don't find your post insensitive, just validating the reasons why marriage and family life are important. If all we ever talk about is how hard it is, why would anyone want to do it? Sure we can all find happiness in our current situtation, and what's wrong with her expressing happiness about hers?

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  8. anonymous- I have great respect and appreciation for those who stuggle with their relationships. Making it work sometimes can very tough…More power and blessings to you!

    merey human- I am sorry if you find this insensitive- we write from our own experiences and my current situation is married with young children, other writers write from their particular stations (we have bloggers who are in many situations- single, divorced, struggling, etc) I realize every post can not be everything to everyone in their given situation. The intention of this post was to acknowledge what isn't often acknowledged,the people behind us, supporting us. I hear way to many women gripe or complain about their husbands and children and rarely give them praise or think about the positive impact they have on their lives. I appreciate comments like Foxy Js where she is honest about differences they have had but also support she feels. No marriage is perfect, my husband and I both have our flaws and challenges- but I firmly believe that in looking for the good in our relationships we make them stronger and stopping to think about those who share our lives helps us treat them with greater kindness and repsect (be they spouse, children, friends, neighbors, co-workers,etc)
    my previous post on impending doom coupled with this may give you the false impression that my life is all roses- i posted it to contrast the smooth place life is in now as compared with past times which have included:unemployment, 8 miscarriages, a parent with cancer, a diagnosis of a life threatening condition in one of my children, and i am sure the many other rough patches i will encounter up ahead.

    I think one thing that we can share is we try to find happiness in our situations as well as noting all of our blessings in their seasons in whatever form them come in.

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  9. As to whether it was "insensitive," I thought it was fine up until this point:

    I find it ironic when I see others wanting to hold on to their single life or try to put off parenting until the last possible moment.

    I think there is great value in sharing our various experiences, but questioning the motivations of others like this does come across as a bit judgmental and insensitive.

    FWIW, my husband is not unquestioningly supportive. He is supportive in many ways, but there is a lot of discussion/debate along the way about what is being worth supported.

    The beginning was lovely, but having a great husband does not give you the right to say things about others. You may indeed find it ironic, but making statements about others detracts from the overall essay. They may have very strong reasons for making the choices they do, just as you have wonderful reasons for giving credit to your family.

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  10. naismith- I should clarify that statement. I was thinking particularly of some bachelor friends who fear getting married, and openly state their goal is to get married as late as possible, because they are afraid it will be stiffling. So I have shared with them my experience that- it many ways it may be the opposite of their suppositions. (I live in a predominantly non-LDS area- so my reference point is non-LDS on this point) the same is said for the prevailing belief on child rearing — it is postponed because people fear that it will stunt their personal growth. So I do see the irony in this as from my experience I didn't expect marriage to be as liberating and parenting to be as personally developing? My post was to highlight was I see as the dichotomy between my experience as compared with the prevailing cultural messages/myths?

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  11. I feel the same way about my marriage. My marriage has had challenges, however, I get to accomplish all the important stuff in the family while my husband is on the sidelines in many ways (off at work). In many ways, I feel like he is the man behind the woman.
    Since I've been married I have gained confidence. His support makes a difference.
    The kinds of things I have accomplished may not get me a paycheck but they are real accomplishments and people do notice them.
    For instance, I hosted a 6 year old's birthday party and it was a success. I got all the credit. I did do all the planning and most of the doing, but the fact that my husband helped and supported my efforts makes it so much better both emotionally for me, and the result was much better.
    I guess I could criticize my husband just to make some people feel better. The guy isn't perfect, after all. But he does a few things right. He loves me and he thinks I am smart and capable and he thinks I have great ideas.

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  12. I'm kind of "meh" about Valentine's Day, but I do agree with you, Leslie, about the importance of showing appreciation. Even when your life isn't roses, clean floors or hugs and kisses, just the act of taking a minute to look at the the good in it and feeling appreciative can make it better. I believe we actually see more of the good that is there when we look for and acknowledge it.

    My life is far from perfect–as are my relationships. And I sometimes feel misjudged or taken for granted by people close to me. But I can still say I'm a much better person for the people in my life. And I am grateful for that. My husband isn't a verbal "I love you" type of guy. But just this past week I came home from work and saw that he had put up new hardware and padlocks on my chicken cage to keep the local high school kids from stealing one of my chickens to toss on the floor at the rivalry basketball game.

    Simple things like that can go a long way if you let them.

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  13. I liked this post. Much truth about the power of a positive relationship resonate with me. To some of the readers: Lighten up. Get over yourself and looking at your half filled glass. We will all have moments of bliss and moments when things feel very untangled. Enjoy that someone is "feeling the love".

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  14. i l♥ved this! while my DH may not have the same talent that yours does in the support department, and while our relationship could fairly be described as "the best of times and the worst of times" (not necessarily in that order) and be right in both cases, it's true that recognizing and expressing gratitude for our "cheering section" in life is a good thing. and i aim to do better at it.

    love V-day. Never heard of the 14-days version of it…and since i'm out of town the first 5 days of Feb it's not possible this year, but that sounds like a fun thing to do. cause i love my little cheering section, and i am a far better person for having them in my life.

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  15. Growing up with a dad who rarely supported my mom was difficult. And then I married an amazing man who supports me in everything (unless I'm being truly crazy). I feel lucky to have found him. Lately I've found myself being too critical, seeing things that I think he's doing like my dad that drives me nuts. Thanks for this post to help me switch up my thinking back to the positive. Good heavens do i love that man of mine! And the son I have is hard, busy and curious, but cute, happy and a spectacular teacher. I'm not a big Valentine's Day person, but I am glad that it's a good reminder of having love for each other, even in the middle of winter.

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  16. I thought this was a beautiful post. My husband has been the number one source of helping me grow. And not because we have a relationship that is all roses. We have grown so much during the hard times and challenges. Then I would say that my children have helped me grow and change. I literally learn new things everyday from them. And, as odd as it is to say this, having a serious chronic illness, while not a support system, has truly pushed me to grow and develop. I would love to say my parents, but I've spent most of my married life far away from them. They've always supported me with love and their belief in me. But I have grown to appreciate many friends who have been wonderful to me over the years in various places.

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  17. I enjoyed this post, and I can relate to it. I also have a very happy marriage and I speak highly of my husband. He deserves it. Like you, I have also had tragedy and trauma in my life…who hasn't…but it has taught me, especially in my later years that we better acknowledge and celebrate the good in our lives because we never know what is around the corner.

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  18. I thought I got the last good one, but I guess not! Your husband sounds awesome. My friends often 'hate' me because my hub is a partner in parenting and everything else. He is very supportive. He has his flaws, but they are manageable. I on the other hand came to the marriage 22 years ago very ill prepared to manage a relationship. Talk about growing up together. I've had to overcome emotional damage and rewire nearly impossible "built-in" tendencies. My spirit has known that I was destined to overcome, and I was able to find a man who turned out to be patient enough to grow with me. I can't often toot his horn without explaining why he is so awesome to the core. It's really a personal thing, but the fact that my sister and I are still married to our men shows how loyal and long-suffering they are. We found some good guys. I was a Child Dev major, and I never really thought about the stage we're in right now. It's true though. I LOVE how you put a voice to what the stage of Generativity is all about. I've known all along that one day I will look back, and my goal has been to do my very best so that I can be proud of my accomplishments. I'm so blessed to have a partner like my hub who has challenged me to grow far beyond what I might have if I had married someone else. Thanks so much for your sweet post. 😀

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  19. We have had many struggles over the years, actually this is a huge understatement, but we are still together. We are happier than ever, but life is not perfect, there are still issues. I did not end up with the marriage that I thought I would have when I was much younger and still single. However, I did choose to marry my husband for eternity so we work through things. We both try harder now. We are both changing. I am grateful for his good points, and realise that I probably do not give him enough credit for what he does.

    I have never heard of the 14 valentine day idea, must be an american thing. I am going to give it a go this year though. Showing more love and appreciation is always a good thing, sometimes we just need to be reminded along the way, so a big thank you for the reminder. I am planning to give it a go with my children too.

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  20. Beautiful words. It is wonderful to know that there are men like your husband out there. The 14 days to show love to your family sounds like a great one.

    I grew up witnessing again and again the pain that two people in a marriage can inflict upon each other. My father was physically and emotionally abusive in the marriage, and my mother was cold and cruel as well. Coming from such a legacy, I was hopeful that maybe my home could be different one day. Thankfully, I have been married now for more than a decade to a kind and gentle man. I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and fear, but living with a man who generally treats me well has helped heal many of my battle scars (and, clearly much of the self-healing has occurred on my own as I've gone through therapy and done much self-reflection). My husband is more than my best friend (somehow the term "best friend" doesn't seem adequate for all that we have shared). We generally are very happy together, mostly through using humor to get through the bad times and forgiving each other quickly. Has it been perfect? Absolutely not. He and I both go through periods of depression (any marriage that has been through periods of mental illness knows how draining this can be). But, I feel like we are very much "a team"…very little blaming and criticizing going on.

    Thanks for the reminder to appreciate and show our love to our families.

    My only problem with Valentine's Day is all the delicious chocolate available in the stores…for instance, those Reese's peanut butter hearts I keep passing. I struggle with my weight, so the temptations sometimes feel overwhelming!

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  21. I needed this today. I'm feeling a little woe-is-me as I come home from a meeting and the dishes (from yesterday) are unwashed and I'm tired and don't feel well. I needed this reminder not to project my own frustrations onto my good, good, husband. How is it possible that one bad day can erase from my memory so many wonderful days with him?

    Thanks for the thoughts. I'm more ready to face tomorrow…and all its dishes.

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  22. How do I credit those that have helped me? I tell them, when I realise it (sadly sometimes it takes a while), and I let people know when they compliment me on a success just who else helped. Tiny little things, but so important. After all, if words weren't so special, the dedication in books wouldn't be right at the front 🙂

    Thanks for the reminder to say thanks!

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  23. Leslie great post! (I guess we found out why women don't cheer on their spouses more often, they get boo'd for it. The request for sensitivity works both ways.)

    Just yesterday my husband ignored the timer for dinner while I was at a meeting. It was ruined, after soaking beans overnight, chopping veg, and the works. I got mad. He got mad that I got mad. Then we made dinner together. It's real, it's messy, it's not always fun, there is no perfect in this life, so find a way to enjoy it anyway.

    He is like my right arm, it's been there so long I don't have a clue what life would be without it- despite the fact that I have carpal tunnel and it causes me pain and doesn't always work the way I'd like. Thanks and loves are completely inadequate, but I try to give them often anyway.

    Valentines can be such a trite holiday, I like the way your post encourages us to make it real.

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  24. jendoop–This made me laugh out loud!:

    "He is like my right arm, it’s been there so long I don’t have a clue what life would be without it- despite the fact that I have carpal tunnel and it causes me pain and doesn’t always work the way I’d like."

    Awesome. I do adore my husband. And am grateful for him. But he doesn't always work the way I'd like either.

    He has been pretty supportive of my running addiction, newly discovered in the last year. And I do appreciate his long hours so I can be home with the kids. And I tell him often, and email him about it too, especially on nights when he works extra late.

    I send lunch notes with my kids everyday, and often make it a point to thank them for something they did well to serve in our home or take responsibility for themselves. It's just a quick little note, but I know it is meaningful to them.

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  25. Thank you for sharing your experiences with how your spouse/family plays a role in your life.

    dalene- you point out something good- that we find we appreciate the individual flavor of our relationships-there is no cookie cutter right way and actions like locks on coops!:> can speak louder than words

    melissa- I love generativity- it think it is so under-explored! It's actually something I'd like to write more on.

    jendoop– the carpal tunnel was hilarious…

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  26. I'm always glad to read about someone else having one of those bright patches in life. It reminds me that I've had them, too…and will have them again.

    Rough patches and bright patches. It's all part of the tapestry, right? Thanks for sharing some sunshine.

    =)

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