Child: Daddy's home!
Wife (thinking, "So what?" but covering up her resentment with an ever so lifeless): Yeah, okay.
How is it that the "hail the conquering (and hard working) hero!" reception turned into, "We got a big problem, that you need to take care of?" (a.k.a. "Nothing you do is as important as this!")
Can this be the same couple that were rapturously in love just a few years back?
I recently sat down with Elizabeth Danziger, author of Get To The Point. She casually offered an explanation that I wish I knew and appreciated three children ago.
Liz, eminently qualified as a mother of four, said: "Children on a daily basis stretch and use up their mom's patience to its limit and beyond. And with each subsequent child that patience gets stretched thinner and thinner, until there is nothing left to enable them to be patient with their husband. So when he comes home and tentatively walks into the house, not knowing what he will be confronted with, that pushes his wife to be impatient. When he comes home the least bit preoccupied with something from work, that does the same. If he says something, he's wrong; if he says nothing, he's wrong."
Viewing your wife as completely drained of patience (which you can experience when you are asked to watch your kids on a Sunday without the aid of a nanny or an activity you can just throw them into) can give you an understanding of what it's like for her. And if you let it sink in, it may cause you to feel less upset and resentful of her.
Furthermore if you understand that your wife's bond to the children is very deep emotionally, you might realize that she is very committed to protecting your children from hurt. So when she is losing patience with them and it is crossing over into frustration and then anger, she needs to manage than anger lest she be the one who will hurt them. And one of the quickest ways to manage it is to focus on something you've done wrong and displace it onto you.
In fact show me a wife and mother who always makes her husband feel he's wrong and I'll show you a woman who is constantly using up all of her energy - and patience - to not react angrily towards her children and needing to constantly deflect it onto her husband and away from them.
And the solution?
First if you as the husband can truly understand the joint phenomenon of your wife's patience being used up and also her needing to deflect her anger at your kids at you, you may be able to let go some of your hurt and anger with her.
Second, if you say to your wife, "Our kids beat the hell out of you today and it's all that you can do to keep from going off on them. Isn't that true?" she may blurt out, "I'm a terrible mother" as she vents her own disappointment in herself. If that happens, you have an opportunity to be tender and tell her that she's not a bad mother and that they are exhausting and that she's a good mother. That may not only give her relief, you might get lucky tonight.
Third, it doesn't just have to be the sole responsibility of the husband to deal with this situation. If you're a mom who feels this way, you can reach out to your husband when he comes home or better yet on the phone before he comes home and say, "I hate to ask you this after you've had a long day at work, but I am at my wits end with the kids and I need a break. So when you get home could you please take over for an hour or two ?" You'd be surprised how many husbands would jump at the chance to help out.
Why would they do that? Because your reaching out to them for help, feels a lot better than telling them what they've done wrong.