Wednesday, September 30, 2009

He works hard for the money...

Every morning my husband showers and shaves, puts on a good looking suit, has a bowl of granola and takes the train into the city. Twelve hours later, he walks back in the door. His collar is open, his tie is loose, but his pomaded hair has not moved a bit.

Until this weekend, that was about all I knew about what my husband did all day.

Just like I can work 12 hour "mom" days without complaining, I can do it 5 days a week on my own -- no help with bedtime routine, laundry, nightmares. When my husband has to work on the weekends, though, it gets ugly.

I was so grumpy and complaining on Saturday that I really am ashamed of myself. We were entertaining on Sunday and Monday (birthday week continues) and I count on weekend errand time to get stuff done and have a bit of a mental break. I also count on this time to reconnect with him, and to enjoy watching him spend time with the children. His working all weekend was not in my plans. By Sunday morning I was so fried that I made one of the worst parenting decisions I have ever made (imagine the opposite of my triumph last week).

Then, I went to Mass. I fumed for a while, and then begged for help. Well, we get what we need, not always what we want. I slapped a smile on my face while he missed most of the family birthday party because he was working. At 10 pm, when I collapsed into bed, he was sitting at the computer. Sometime around 4 am he came to bed himself.

He offered to move to another room, but I think we both needed the company more than I needed sleep, so he worked at the desk in the bedroom. While I slept on and off, I heard typing faster than I knew was possible. Sometimes I looked up and his head was in his hands as he thought, hard. He created spreadsheets and did all sorts of funky math. He called his boss and talked him through the math. I was half asleep and did not understand anything that was going on, but at one point I heard the boss say "Yes! Good!" Later, another boss called and apologized for interrupting him because he was so busy. Later, all of the spreadsheets which he had been up all night creating got cut from the document. His blackberry buzzed with "high priority" messages.

He did not yell, he did not cry, he did not throw his pencil across the room. He did not fall asleep or complain.

At the end of it all, he slept for 3 hours and then got up, showered and shaved to do it all again.

So, now I know. It is not like this everyday, but now, when he doesn't return my phone call for six hours, I'll understand. When he comes home at the end of a long day and collapses, I won't think "you've been sitting at a desk all day while I have been here working."

He is at a place in his career where this will be worse before it gets better. We had a reprieve because of the economic downturn, and while that was a relief for our family it meant that some others lost their jobs. It is hard to convince oneself to be thankful for all these extra hours, but truly, if he doesn't work we will not eat.

I am so grateful for this glimpse at what my husband does all day. I pray that it helps me understand and support him better. I pray that I can learn to stop complaining and keeping score.

Yesterday, when he mentioned that all of his dress socks have holes in them, I rearranged my day and took six kids to the men's department of Lord and Taylors to buy socks. I thought about how blessed I am to be married to a man who is so selfless, and so dependable, that he wore out his work socks. He gets up and does what he has to do every single day of the week, and sometimes on the weekends.

Buying new socks was a practical help, which is the kind of gift that means the most to him, and a sign to me, and to the children, that we appreciate his hard work and we will help where we can because we are all in this together. I hope I get to launder these new socks for five years and I hope he works until they are worn through at the heels. I hope that while it is all happening we can remember to be kind, patient and mostly grateful.


Catholic Helpmate said...

I know just what you mean. My honey is a mechanic and while I knew it was hard work both physically and mentally, I didn't realized JUST how demanding it is until he wore out a pair of good quality work boots in about six months. And by wore out, I mean the soles on them were worn absolutely slick on the bottom and about to wear completely through in spots.

I stopped and thought about just how much of a beating his feet must take in a day, standing on concrete for 12 hours straight, miles of walking back and forth because it's a huge garage, not to mention the accidental kicks and knocks on lifts and racks and whatnot.

And through it all, the only time he truly complains is when he has a slow day! He's in his best moods at the end of the days where the shop is hoppin' and he's running around like a headless chicken and comes home covered in grease and sweat and dog-tired. I love him to death for it, too! And when we went and bought him a new pair of boots and a pack of thick socks, it was like Christmas had come early at our house. :)

So kudos to your honey for joyfully being a provider, and kudos to you for joyfully keeping the homefires burning!!

MargaretJDMom said...

Great post and so true. I have experienced similar moments of grace and lack thereof when it comes to my husband's schedule. There's nothing quite like being alone with the kids on a weekend when your husband is working.

I find that when we're both fried from him working so much that he really appreciates it when I say Thank You for all he does to support our family. True love is death to self, but it is easy for us women to think of our work more self-sacrificing in some way than our husband's, when in reality they are both needed to make a family work. Somobody's gotta pay the bills!

Kat said...

Great post, Mary Alice. When our husbands work overtime, we work overtime as mothers as well, and it's so easy to get tired and overwhelmed. The same is true when us moms are working "overtime" - when a new baby is born or when we have lots of volunteer commitments, for example. I'm sure that our husbands feel a similar burn-out during these times! What a good reminder for us to give each other the "benefit of the doubt" and to be grateful for the hard work and sweat that we each put in for the good of our families.

Kristen Laurence said...

Beautiful, Mary Alice.

Army Wife said...

I was just in the ER by myself with one of my children and very tempted to feel sorry for myself that my husband is oversees. When I start to feel this I try to remind myself that I am not alone because we are one and my husband is offering all his work and discomforts for his family at home. It helps me remember that even in separation we can be growing closer. I truly believe Military spouses get special graces to deal with deployments, but we are can definitely be in danger of resenting our husbands job. Thank you for posting because we all need reminders to be grateful and let our spouses know that we are grateful.

Heather said...

Mary Alice,
I wish I could take some of his work load for him, for your sake and mine! Every day lately I'm an hour or two short of the billable hours I'm supposed to be logging, because there just isn't enough work for me to do. It makes me increasingly nervous.

It must be so hard parenting 6 kids with him working so much! I also think of my dear neighbor friends, where the attorney-husband lost his job with the changing of Administration and still can't find a new job--he does temp work now during the week in a city 2 hours away and only comes home to see his wife and 2 small children on weekends. Let's all pray for the right amount of work. Not too much for some, and too little for others!

JMB said...

Great post. Those weekends were so hard when my children were little and my husband was away on business. It does get easier as they get older. Don't worry! You have a wonderful attitude. Everybody suffers in their own way. I know it sounds harsh, but the older I get, the more I realize that nobody has it easy.

Mary Alice said...

Thanks to you all for your comments. I was reading something about veterans returning home and how hard it can be for them to find a job, but those with good attitudes think two things

1. Let me use this free time to the best of my advantage

2. At least there is nothing blowing up around me

I think this is good advice whether we are super busy or find ourselves with too much time on our hands. I channel surfed for over an hour last night and find myself unprepared to face this morning. What a waste of precious free time, it wasn't even relaxing!

Bethany said...

Thank you Mary Alice for putting life in perspective. I often get upset and complain when my husband has to work on a Saturday, or has to travel to a conference out of town.

Now, not only do I feel ashamed of my complaining and my "temper tantrums", I wish we could come visit to help you out. My husband's schedule's is nothing compared to your husband's and I guess sometimes it takes reading about another family's trials and tribulations before I realize just how blessed I really am.