One evening recently, I found myself at home with the kids alone while my husband was bowling in a league. It had been just me and the kids all day…and now we were going to be home all evening together too.
I couldn’t help but feel grumpy and bitter. I became a little short with my toddler whose only crime was being a three-year old, and my baby’s crying became louder and more high pitched which aggravated me. On top of it, I was home alone to do the entire nighttime routine by myself, AND I was stuck singing “Five Little Ducks” and changing the poopy diapers I had changed all day long.
Oh, and I also had to chase down the cat to give him his nightly meds. He still has IBS (eye roll).
But meanwhile, my husband was out living his best life with his buddies! I pictured him clinking frosted mugs with his friends, enjoying his cold adult soda, leisurely throwing strikes and fist bumping his teammates. I also imagined his friends chanting his name as he impressively did the worm, because well, in my daydreams I’m dramatic.
While I knew it was important for him to have social time, I continued to stir in my bitterness. How is it fair that he travels for work, has a social life, and has hobbies? I knew I had to let my bitterness and resentment go, but how could I? HOW could I just sit back and accept that I had to spend all of my time with these littles while my husband got to be gone all the time?
Then I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me one day: “Walk in his shoes.” So I started thinking about my husband’s day.
He spends most of his time in meetings he’d rather not be in. He works on his to-do list diligently. He sometimes stops to inhale food, but otherwise he’s on the computer and phone all day. Then when that’s over, he removes his work hat and puts on his “dad hat”, which is a hard job to do!
Discipline, intentional playing, pouring into his family…oh, and he also cooks dinner and cleans just as often as I do! When he is traveling for work, he sleeps in a different hotel room each night, waking often because he is stressed out and uncomfortable. He also misses us. He gets no work done on travel days because he is in the airport, then on the plane, and often drives a couple hours on top of it.
He does all of this with no complaints; and he does this so I can stay home with our beautiful children.
When I put myself in his shoes and prayed about it, I realized that yes, he really does need time for hobbies and a social life because it refreshes him. (And I get refreshment throughout the week too – um gym childcare? Can I get an Amen?!)
I also reflected on the actual reason for my negative feelings. At first I thought it was because I felt stuck doing all the work. But when I started digging deeper and praying about it, I found I wasn’t mad about doing so much work, I just felt lonely: I was missing companionship.
This led me to another epiphany: I was expecting my husband to be my sole source of joy and pleasure. So if he was gone, I was missing joy and pleasure too.
I came across the bible verse Psalm 16:11 which says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” I wrote this down and taped it by my mirror, reading it anytime I was in the bathroom.
Because while yes, my husband is a huge blessing to me, it isn’t his job to bring me joy and pleasure forever all. the. time. The only one who can do that is Jesus!
So I began talking to the Lord more when I was left alone. And things changed. My heart softened. My husband and I argue less now (notice I didn’t say never). The times when he’s away aren’t just days that I merely survive — some of them are my best days!
God didn’t only remove the bitterness from my heart, but he replaced it with joy and pleasure. I started finding more joy in playing with the kids, more motivation to teach them and help foster growth, and more excitement about playdates, seeing friends and other family members. I have been amazed at how God has truly changed my heart.
Of course there are days that I do just survive, but I consider that a win too. But my husband being away doesn’t mean I can’t find joy and pleasure still. All I need is God. In HIS presence I have joy and pleasure always, so now in my daydream of my husband celebrating strikes, I can chant along with his buddies too.
Sarah Gonzalez is a stay-at-home mom who loves Jesus and caring for her two young children. She loves date nights and walks with her husband, and using creativity and humor through artistic outlets like writing and photography. She is also a self-diagnosed quitter-in-recovery, and you can read about this journey at her blog: www.wheniquitquitting.com.