A couple of days ago I was unbuckling Charlee when she looked up at me and said, “Daddy’s never coming back.” “What?” I was so confused. Then through tear-filled eyes, she whispered, “He’s always at work.” My heart broke into a million pieces. It was true. He had just worked a 90+ hour week and she was usually asleep by the time he got home. I promised her we would take him lunch the next day at school so she could see him. She nodded her head and said, “Okay. That sounds good.”
Clark and I are in a hard season. We knew it was coming, but this kind of thing is hard to prepare for. You can say, “This is going to be hard” a million times but when life is actually BEING really hard, it’s tricky to know how to make it un-hard.
Being a football coach’s wife has its plusses. You become a part of a network, a family of coaches and their wives, something of a club. You watch your husband spend thousands of hours pouring motivation and encouragement, wisdom and strength into young men that may or may not ever have a positive male presence in their lives again. You experience the high of a win as if you were actually padded up.
But most days are not characterized by these things. Most days are just me. All by myself. Or scratch that. With three little hoodlums that I have to take care of … all by myself. During the day, I am not thinking of the excitement of playoffs or the impact my husband is making on his players, but mostly how my 1-year-old keeps waking up at 5 am coughing and how my three-year-old won’t take a nap and whether or not I should call a therapist for my four-year-old or when I’m going to make dinner because I can’t afford not to cook. Again.
The grand things — the lessons and the friendships and the influence and the being-apart-of-something — they make it so worth it. But the daily grind blurs my vision sometimes.
I know I am not the only woman (or man) with a spouse that has a demanding job. Spouses of military, pastors, firefighters, police officers, lawyers … I see you. I know you understand this internal battle. Your spouse is doing something that matters, that demands so much of him, so much of her, so much of their soul, that sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s anything left for you.
And sometimes your leftover life, everything he has left behind, the slack that you’ve had to sacrificially pick up, the cross you didn’t necessarily choose to bear, demands so much of you, so much of your soul, that you don’t have much left for him either. I get you. I get you so much. You are both drained. You are both exhausted. You can only do so much.
And sometimes you get used to life without that person. You adjust your schedule to fit the needs of the rest of you, not him, because that’s what survival looks like. Life goes on, incomplete, but it goes on.
And sometimes, it’s harder when he’s there. Everyone has gotten into a routine. Expectations have been set based on the ones that are always there, so things get confusing when there are new expectations present.
And you can creep into a really scary place. Wives become head of household. Husbands become outsiders in their own home.
We have so been there. And while we were there, I learned a few things.
Let him lead. Not because men are better than women at leading their families, but because in the depths of a man’s being, he craves respect. He needs it more than anything. So he has been at work all day where people look up to him and follow him and think he’s really good at what he does, and then he comes home and feels incompetent, like he can’t do anything right… where would you rather be? We show him respect and assure him that we trust him by letting him lead our family.
Just because that’s the way you usually do it, doesn’t mean that’s the only way. “But Mom! You always let me!” “But what did Daddy say?” “He said no.” “Then the answer is no.” This is so hard. I tend to think I parent better because I parent the most, and therefore think I should be in charge of all things parenting. But I cannot contradict his yeses and nos (and vice versa). You have to show a united front, lest your children get the idea that what Dad says doesn’t matter.
Go to him. Be a part of his world. Go to practice. Go to the field house. (Obviously, this is specific to coaching… insert appropriate places here). Go to pep rallies. Take him lunch at school (if you don’t work). He can’t leave, but maybe you can. Even if he doesn’t say it, he needs to see his family. He needs to feel supported and cheered for and being present is a good way of showing that.
Communicate. Text him. Email him. Send him pictures and videos of the kids throughout the day. Tell him you’re proud of him and you love him. Give him those compliments you’re too awkward to say in person. The beauty of this day and age is you can still talk to him even if you never see each other.
Make your minutes precious. We are so bad at this. We are so dead at the end of the day that the only thing we want to do is nothing. But this is your ONE CHANCE to connect without having to order commands and instructions on who needs a bath and who needs a meal. Put away the technology. Stop looking at your phones. Make what little time you have together matter.
I have learned that for me, this is a season of sacrifice and service, which is incredibly draining. And it’s so hard because I am naturally a selfish person, and the refining process is a very painful one. It’s like God is taking a huge torch (called football season) and burning away all the crust that has coated my heart (called this-life-is-all-about-me). Which also means my husband better not think this life is all about him, either. It goes both ways. We are both being refined. We are both learning what it looks like to be more like Jesus.
And at the end of the day, I know he is showing Christ to a couple hundred men every single day, and that makes it so worth it.