Sometimes it can be tricky operating as both a wife and mother in the best possible way. One of these times is when a husband works lots of hours. Our first responsibility is always to our husbands, of course, yet children need supervision, support and snuggles and being a mama is a full time gig.
For eighteen years, Paul worked crazy full hours from the first of May through mid August. When I say crazy full, I mean 100 hour weeks. The life of a summer camp director, especially of a small one, is incredibly full. Those hours were tough on me as a wife, but they were manageable because I could be with him for much of it. When Hannah Beth arrived, everything changed.
I wish I could say I handled that first summer well. I think I did, as a wife, but as a mother AND a wife, I didn’t. How do I know? At the end of the first summer, with HB seven months old, she did not react to Paul in any kind of big way. I remember clearly when he looked at me and said, “That will never happen again!” He was heartbroken and blamed himself. While we are a team, I realized that day that it really was up to me to think outside the box. Our hours were outside the box, so it was fitting.
The changes I made in how I went about my day and how I had HB (and all the kiddos after her) go about her day can be applied to many situations for wives trying to make the best of both callings when a husband has long hours.
Take your child to meals with Daddy as often as you can.
Naturally, for some situations, this is expensive and impossible, but for many it really is do-able. Packing a lunch and going to the office, a park near by or some other place, is a fun way to get in some time with your husband as well as some daddy time for the baby/child.
Set aside time as a couple.
There are many ways to handle dates and not all of them require money or a babysitter. However you want, whether going out or staying in, make sure you have time just for the two of you.
Accept that there will be less time for you as a couple.
Yeah, I know I just said to set aside time as couple and I mean it. The thing is that it may not be much. We have to die to selves and sometimes that means sacrificing dates/alone times. If your husband hears only griping from you, when his time is short to begin with, that just make things harder.
Take care of tasks he normally does/would do.
I am not the best at honey-do lists, but there are times that a helpmate needs to help in ways she doesn’t normally. Easing our husband’s loads is a blessing to him. Be sure you are not stepping on toes, though. I did that once. Not pretty.
Let him rest.
Paul is a wonderful husband and father, so the time away made his time with us more precious. So much so, that he tried to do more than he should often. As much as I wanted to be with him and so did the kids, I had to make sure we didn’t interrupt during times he could rest. I was also known for saying, “Why don’t you come lie down with Noah?” It’s hard to turn down a nap with a baby/toddler.
Share your heart, but don’t be drippy.
If you believe your husband’s job takes him away from his family too much, is too demanding, or is not a good fit, then by all means, share your heart in love. With grace and respect. Once you tell him, though, leave it in God’s hands. Proverbs describes a quarrelsome wife as pretty bad. I’m not saying be silent, but talk about it when he asks or brings it up AND always in love.
Be involved when you can.
Army wives are wonderful examples of how to be involved with their husbands’ jobs when possible. They attend functions, wear the colors, wave the flag, and more. They set the bar. Seriously. You have to think about what this means for you and your kiddos, but there are probably ways.
Praise your husband in front of your children.
Children will notice an absence and they will miss their daddy. Make sure you sing his praises so they hear your support. You can set the tone of how they handle his absence.
Utilize technology and paper.
We have so many ways of staying connected in today’s world, so take advantage of them for you and your children. Send texts and photos from your kids. Skype/FaceTime, if appropriate. Send drawings your kids make and love notes you write. Leave a Post-It note in his suitcase, or desk, or somewhere else he will be surprised to see it.
If necessary, rearrange your family’s schedule.
I love routines. Children, especially the young, benefit from a somewhat predictable one in their lives. One of my dear friends, Laura, opened my eyes to how making sure routines work for you and not the opposite. Her office’s hours as a pediatrician were unique, so she wouldn’t get home until after 9:00 pm. Instead of the typical routine, Laura and her husband made sure her son had his schedule match hers.
Her son always had mommy time when she got home. Sure he stayed up pretty late, but he slept in and always got a good number of hours. It still brings tears to my eyes as I remember how this family made sure they had family time. Preciousness.
If changing your routine will ensure your children (and even you) get more time with your husband, then do it! Something Laura did was that she didn’t expect others to match her routine. Her son ate lunch around 2:00, but she didn’t expect others to do that or even work around that because it was not the norm. She was gracious always. She also kept her “weird” schedule because it was more important that she have time with her son than him fitting a “typical” routine. And I love her for it.
One of the perks of homeschooling is that we can do school work, take vacations, and schedule breaks when they work best for our family, not when a school district assigns them. With Paul running a summer camp, we have never taken family vacations in the summer. If your husband works lots of hours, why not switch to an educational system that is flexible and can work around your family?
Pray for him.
As someone recently said, “If you won’t pray for your husband, who will?” It is an honor and privilege to go before the throne of God for our husbands. Go!
The second summer Paul was a daddy was totally different and it showed. We were different as a family. Those changes have blessed me, my marriage, and my children.
Does your husband work lots of hours?