It pains me to admit this, but until last month I’d never left my husband home to care for the kids overnight. It’s not because I’m afraid he wouldn’t do a good job and not because he hasn’t offered. It’s because I suffer from a terrible case of mom guilt. I just don’t make an effort to do many things that aren’t centered around my family. And if I can travel or have a weekend away, I would prefer to do that with my husband.
But, there comes a time in every mother’s life where she realizes that if she can’t keep herself afloat then she’s pretty much no good to anyone else. And asking others to keep your kids for a weekend is a big ask, so when a friend invited me to have a weekend away while the husbands stayed home with the kids, I agreed.
The week leading up to this had been a hard one. I got pinkeye in both eyes, which was awesome. My kids had pinkeye all of one day, and I had it for a week. That was the third virus that had ravaged our house in a month. Every day that I dragged myself from my bed with a pounding head and aching muscles, I struggled. I couldn’t keep up with all of the things that begged for my attention when I wasn’t feeling well.
I don’t think I communicated to Michael how badly I felt. He didn’t catch any of these lovely illnesses, and he started to worry that something was really wrong with me.
A few days before my girls’ weekend, he asked me, “Do you think maybe you should go to the doctor?”
And then he said, “I’m worried that you’re not acting like yourself. You’re tired all of the time. Maybe you’re depressed.”
Let me tell you, I did not take this very well. I was mad. I was sick. I was misunderstood.
Well, I went away for two nights and left Michael to man the ship. I slept, I relaxed, I exercised and I wrote. Oh, and I talked my ever-loving head off because that’s what moms do when they actually get to finish a sentence because their kids are no longer interrupting them.
After about 24 hours away, I took a deep breath and had this thought, “Oh, I feel like myself again.” I had energy. I felt whole. I felt like I could think clearly. This time away had fulfilled its purpose, and I appreciated it.
By Sunday afternoon, I was ready to come back and love on my family. I walked in the door in the middle of rest time. Everett was napping and Avery was having an hour of quiet time in her room. Michael was mopping the floor. God bless this man; he knows my love language.
We said hello and gave kisses and hugs, and then he resumed mopping.
“Well, I figured out one thing this weekend,” he said.
“Oh yeah? What?” I asked.
“It’s not you. It’s them,” he said as he pushed the mop with more vigor than before.
I didn’t know what he meant.
“You know how I thought maybe something was wrong, that you needed to go to the doctor?” he said.
“Oh, yeah. I remember that.”
“Well,” he said, his voice rising, “There’s nothing wrong with you. I know that now. It’s them! I know why you’re tired.”
He continued, “Being with them all day long, it’s like boot camp! I love them, but you know they just push you to see how much it will take until you break. It’s like a drill sergeant just pushing you until you can’t take anymore.”
I laughed. “Yep, some days it is like that,” I said.
“The reason it’s so tiring is because there just is no rest for your mind. You have to be hypervigilant- always getting something, taking care of something, preventing some kind of accident. It wears you out,” he said.
It was as though I heard angels from heaven singing, “Hallelujah!” He got it. He really got it.
He has always been empathetic and deeply appreciative of the time I spend at home with our kids. He has never been one to downplay the sacrifice or the difficulties of it, but there was still something that spoke deeply to my soul when he lived in it with me and could feel the struggle for himself.
I feel so grateful to have a partner who, although we have different roles within our family, is willing to see life from my point of view, who has the kind of respect for me that I wish I had for myself.
As it turns out, I had another opportunity last weekend to spend some time away from my family. I went to Charlotte, NC for SheSpeaks, a conference for Christian women who desire to be writers and speakers.
Michael took two days off of work to stay home Thursday through Sunday while I was gone. Avery cried her head off before and during the time I was away. Everett tried to injure himself in a thousand ways, as he does every day.
When I came home, I was interested to hear Michael’s perspective after staying home with them alone for four days.
So I interviewed him.
(That’s normal, right? To interview your husband? I don’t know, but I did.)
Here are some of the questions I asked along with his thoughts on the weekend:
What was it like spending four days with kids?
I will say I have a newfound respect for what you do. I had respect for what you did before. I understood what happened and what it was like, but it was the questions, the talking, the fighting, the disobedience nonstop 12 hours a day while I’m trying to entertain them and do fun stuff with them was just draining.
I never, ever feel like I want to take naps. I could work outside for hours in the hot sun and be happy to just come inside and sit down for a minute. But for three days in a row, I felt like I needed a nap at 2:30 p.m. and I really could have slept.
What surprised you the most?
I guess just that being the only one, being alone and responsible for them all day long, it was much more difficult to experience joy with them. It felt so different than the way it is when we’re all together. The frustration builds little by little throughout the day and makes it hard. I felt myself feeling frustrated throughout the day and was already maxed out and couldn’t have fun and just enjoy them.
How do you think this changes your understanding of what it’s like to do this everyday?
There is no magical solution, but it makes me understand that encouraging you and supporting you is the best thing I can do. Finding things that can help you recharge, letting you know that someone understands and empathizes- those things are important.
I just have a newfound respect for what you do. It wasn’t that it was unbearable or I didn’t want to do it; it’s just hard. It is a great thing but a significant responsibility to raise two kids.
Please know that I share these thoughts with you not to point the finger at my family and say, “Hey, we’ve got it all figured out.”
We absolutely do not have everything figured out. Come spend the day with me; I will prove it to you in a hot second. But we work on things, and we learn and we try to do better and try to love each other better.
I share these things with you so that if you find yourself in a similar place- you’re struggling to find joy in everyday life taking care of little ones or you’re feeling misunderstood by your spouse despite both of your best efforts- that it might spark a conversation in your home like the one that’s been taking place in mine.
And also, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
What have you learned when your spouse is away or when you’ve been away and your spouse is at home? How has it impacted your family? How do you find joy even when it’s really hard?