To The Moms Whose Husbands Work Long Hours

Ever since we've been married my husband has worked long hours. I don't know why I've ever expected it to change, but I suppose there has always been this hope in me that it would. To give perspective (and I suppose some credibility as to why I'm writing this post), my husband typically works 12 hour days, and though he is supposed to have every other Friday off, he works them about half the time and at times, he is unexpectedly called in on the weekends or in the middle of the night. He also goes through long seasons once or twice a year, working 12-15 hour days (or nights) for anywhere from 30-90 days straight (yes, even weekends), although this past year they introduced "Fatigue Days," where it became a requirement that they give the employees every 14th day off. (I'll be honest, I've always wondered how this could be legal.)

I know there are a lot of professions that require husbands to work long hours and I am not the only mother preparing and eating dinner with the kids by myself. But it can feel like a very lonely road sometimes and it can be tough to know how to talk about it or what to do, because for most of us, we know deep down, it's not going to change anytime soon, so what good does talking about it do?

That said, I'm not writing this to say that I have anything revelatory to add, nor do I always have a good perspective or follow the advice I'm about to share, but in five years of being married to a man that works long hours and two of which I've been a mom to small children, I have come a long way in my attitude and learned a few tricks to ease the frustration.

So to the mom who's husband works long hours, this is my letter to you.

Believe The Best In Him: It's easy to convince yourself that he'd rather be at work than home with you and the kids. Because, as you might like to tell yourself, "If he wanted to be home, he'd be there!" But if you've ever worked in the past, you know first-hand how difficult it can be to leave when you want or need to, and how great the pressure is to give, give, give to work, the greatest taker in the universe. Know and believe him when he says he'd rather be at home with you and the kids. Recognize the pressure he's under to not only preform well at his job, but to provide for the family. He has a lot of responsibility he's under, give him grace as he figures it out the juggle and believe the best in him no matter his actions.

Don't Play The Comparison Game: You hear about friends who have husbands that are home "just after five," or who can visit their husband with the kids at work for lunch, or who's husbands even come home for lunch and at times, you sorta want to strangle them for EVER complaining about not seeing their husbands, or having a long day, or needing a break, etc. - particularly when you've been single parenting for two weeks straight, but comparison is NEVER WORTH IT. And truth be told, you can always find someone who has it harder than you, so you do not have it the worst, as much as you think and want to believe you do. In those moments, try thinking about being a single parent for your entire life, or military wives, or how some mothers don't even have food to put on the table to eat alone with their kids. Perspective, perspective, perspective.

Change Up The Evening Routine - With his new role here in Chicago, my husband typically gets home a little before seven each night, and with a toddler that gets hungry around 5:30 p.m. (Who am I kidding, he's always hungry.), I found myself consistently making dinner alone while trying to juggle the kids during the witching hour. (I can think of few more awful things than that.) Then we would eat alone, I would clean up alone, start the bedtime routine alone and get bitter alone. Most days, my husband didn't see the kids, or maybe saw them for 30 minutes. ---> But who says it has to be this way? If your husband gets home later than normal, adjust your day. It's so important that he sees the kids and gets to spend time with them, and honestly? Preparing/eating/cleaning up dinner alone is probably one of the worst things ever about single parenting. For us, that meant a major change in our evenings. Now, the toddler and I eat a hefty "snack" at 5 p.m., and then I don't start dinner until my husband is home. Our seven month old goes down around 7 p.m., so it can be hit or miss if my husband sees her, but our toddler goes to bed between 8 and 9 p.m., giving my husband plenty of time to bond with him. Then we can *most nights* eat together as a family, and I don't feel stressed each evening. I'm not saying this is the answer to all your frustrations, but has been helpful to me to rethink our evenings - they don't have to look like the rest of the world's where the kids go down right at 7 p.m.! (And bonus, my kids wake between 8 and 9 a.m.!) Your family is unique so look for ways to adjust your routines to help relieve some stress.

Don't Wait. Go. Just go. Get out of the house. Go to that party, leave for vacation, attend the weddings, get to that barbecue, just DON'T WAIT. He can meet you there when he is actually off. 

Protect Him With Your Children: We all know our children key off our own attitudes and it can be so hard to mask the disappointment or frustration when we find out, yet again, our husband has to work later than usual or miss an activity. Continue to make daddy special to your children, even when they don't see him that often. Let them know how excited daddy will be about something they've made or done, call him and tell him stories from the day if you can, and make special videos/photos/art, just for daddy. The disappointment for your children will be inevitable, but you can teach them how to deal with it through modeling a positive attitude for them and reminding them daily how much daddy loves them and wishes he could be with them.

Protect Him With Others: Having a husband that works a lot means sometimes, they miss a lot of important events. Birthdays, holidays, family events and outings, often it seems like no date is safe, even if just two hours earlier they were supposed to be able to go on that double date with you and now you're a third wheel. Not many people will understand how much your husband works or even more so, why he has to work. Which can be tough when you don't really understand either. Just like your children will reflect your attitude, your friends and family will to. So protect your husband with your words and actions, letting others know how much he wish he could be there, sign the card for him, send the note for him, etc. Basically, make him "look good." That means I take care of the things my husband doesn't have time to remember or do, speak highly of him when he's not there and always cast him in a positive light - even when I'm hurting because he can't be with me somewhere.

Be Honest About How You Feel: I can't tell you the number of times my husband has walked through the door and in the next breath after we greet each other I say to him in a neutral voice, "I'm upset with you, and I don't want to talk about it now, but I do want to talk about it soon," and  I choose to have a good attitude until we have a chance to talk. What I really want to do is give him the silent treatment, willing him to apologize for being late again, to recognize the struggle, the frustration, the hard day I've had and, well, basically grovel at my feet, asking for forgiveness. Usually it's because I feel neglected and need attention, affirmation or recognition. But my time with him is so short each day and I've learned through years of doing it wrong - it's not worth going through the rigamarole of me wanting him to figure me out - I basically ruin any precious time with him I do have. So if I tell him right away, I feel a weight lifted knowing he knows, and he knows we need to talk later after the kids are in bed. I'll be honest, this is SO much easier said than done, and the one thing that I still really struggle with.

Seek Out Truth In The Gospel: There are so many things I could say that fit under this category, but the basics are this - remember where your hope and identity are found. Not in a friend, your children, a blog post, the way you "survive" each day, or a husband that is present, but in Christ. Run to the cross each morning and every minute after to find your foundation. Even though it is hard to believe at times, you know the truth, so repeat it to yourself, over and over again and find friends and family who are not afraid to repeat it to you as well. Pray. Pray all the time that you would have a well of patience and endurance that doesn't run out. Pray for grace when you fail, and grace when your husband fails. Pray that things change and he works less, and pray that you'll be supportive and content for as long as he works the long hours. The truth of the matter is this - you can do all of the above that I've listed, but God is the only one that can truly change your perspective and attitude, by changing your heart in his timing and grace.
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So all of that said, here are a few final thoughts. What you do? It's UNBELIEVABLY HARD. No denying it, it's so difficult to have a husband that works long hours. But you are not alone and you can do this, and you can do this well. You won't be perfect and sometimes the hard days will come out of nowhere, and suddenly he won't make it home for something and as try as you might you just want to hit something or scream or cry into a pillow because you just want to be done and have help and you want him home so badly you physically ache.

But you are so much stronger than you know, and I know you will pick yourself up and continue to mother well. Because you know that's what's best for your family and you believe and trust deep down that your husband loves you and he's trying his best - just like you are, day in and day out. As much as it sometimes doesn't feel like it, you both are a team, you are in this together, and you can make it work.

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