Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Too happy?

Last night I was a good mom.

When Roscoe was on the verge of a meltdown because he realized he had missed an important school assignment, I gave him open, principles-based advice until he has was able to get his act together, buckle down, and finish the assignment. For Family Home Evening, I gave a riveting retelling of the story of Lehonti from the Book of Mormon. (Did you notice this somewhat obscure story was mentioned twice in General Conference?) The kids were intrigued by Amalikiah’s downright dastardliness. I served dinner. Roscoe helped me clean up from dinner. Levi threatened to throw a fit over a taking a shower, but I convinced him that it could be a short shower and that I would set the timer for him. Logan read the little kids stories while I picked Roscoe up from karate.

When a child had a need, or a comment, or gave me an opportunity for a tiny teaching moment, I was there. I wasn’t stressed out, so I could be patient.

What makes all this a bit noteworthy is that Mark wasn’t home. These days he’s really never home. He shows up around 10:30 every night to shower and sleep. He leads a quick scripture study in the morning and then is out the door again. Jesse often misses him entirely
I’ve long felt that a key to a happy marriage and family is to refuse to allow yourself to be overwhelmed and unhappy just because your husband isn’t home. I’ve done this many a time myself, but it’s a surefire recipe for unhappiness, since husband is bound to not be home sometimes, and you can’t make your own happiness and productivity dependent on anyone else—not even your spouse. So for years we’ve created our little Daddy’s-not-coming-home routines: breakfast for dinner, dinner served from the bar, and other shortcuts. But now the nights when Daddy is gone far outnumber the ones when he’s here, and those stopgap measures aren’t enough. I mean, we can’t get pizza every night.

I’m tired and it shows. I seem to go from perfectly content to about ready to duct tape everyone to the floor in about two seconds and with little provocation. But overall, our family is learning to operate gracefully without Mark. Getting dinner cleared takes a bit longer. The kids work together and support me a bit more. I commit to intensive parenting all the way til 8:30. The number and frequency of complaints about Dad’s absence have gone way done. So I wonder, Are we too happy without Daddy?


Addendum: My sister Nancy reminded me that I need to clarify something. I'm a firm believer in co-parenting. Mark and I have always felt that one of our strengths as a couple is that we're quite different from each other, and that it would be a real disservice to our children if they were essentially raised by only one of us. We've made a lot of sacrifices--usually in terms of money and spare time--over the years to make sure both Mark and I are involved parents. And to be frank, it's been a struggle involving a lot of intense "discussion" (she said euphemistically). It's important to me to feel that my husband is a full partner in the important work of raising a family, that he supports me when he's home just as I support him when he's gone.

But no matter what, the inevitable time will come when a deadline looms, two jobs overlap, there's a conference out of town, someone gets a heavy-duty church calling, or whatever. My point is that Mom can't give herself permission to lose it when that time comes. But neither should those temporary imbalances be allowed to become the norm.


  1. I think the key point is definitely "the norm".

    You're right that we women need to learn to live without our husbands sometimes. But it is equally important to the marital relationship to NEED each other. And the family relationships too - the kids need a Dad. So if, for a season, you guys are used to Mark not being there, that's OK. I think the fact that you still have a family scripture study each morning shows that you're handling it the right way. Mark is leading his family (with scripture study)and then supporting his family (by furthering his career and education). He may be doing the minimum at home - but it's only for a season.

    I think Richard and I need to decide what "the minimum" is for him during this new "season" that we've floated into without really noticing. Once we get that worked out I can be happy about being happy without him - for a little while.

  2. I agree. Sometimes I carry too much of our family's burden, and we've had to make some changes so I support Mark and the kids and HE SUPPORTS ME. I agree that we should need each other.

    Also, we've had seasons where Mark is gone a lot and I've really resented it. Right now I'm totally on board with what he's doing, so it's a lot easier to be supportive of him being gone all the time.

    The other day he said, "What's our schedule for this week?" Like what events did he need to help with/participate in. And I said, "Just go to work." Which is not what I would normally say!

  3. It helps when you know you are woking towards such a goal and that you know there's an end. It's not just him trying to get out of helping at home. He is actually setting such a good example for your kids. You guys are teaching them that somtimes it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get what you want in life. And sometimes it takes the whole family working hard to get there. The reward in December will be well worth it. Then it will be PARTY TIME!!!

  4. I appreciate this post. A few months ago I was thinking I'd feel like I would lose it if my husband had to go back to traveling. But when I accept it instead of fighting it, I'm a lot happier. And it really is OK. Not that I'm happy he's gone, but we'll survive.

    I think you're super mom to do all that with five little ones! I just have one and I get tired!