The feeling of discontentment wells up inside me. It started with a seed of annoyance, instigated by weariness with an edge of disappointment.
“When is Dad coming home?” from the kids changed to “IS Dad coming home?”. The impact of changes, often comes out in the children, and as a mother, I can’t help but take on their disappointment with my own. And the seed grows.
As a senior trainee surgeon, my husband works a lot. It’s been like this for a good many years now. I’m used to it. I’ve adapted. In terms of day-to-day family life, I’ve learned to think independently when it comes to my life with the kids and my husband slots into this life when (as) he can. That’s how it works for us.
So, if I want to go out for dinner with friends at night, I get a babysitter because my husband is never home at the same time every night. I plan weekends when my husband is working, and I do all kinds of outings with the kids. I don’t wait for family time, I’ve learned to create it, even if that means a trip to the hospital to have a lunch picnic with Dad.
I’m okay with it. But sometimes, a seed of discontentment takes hold, and grows into something more defined. Not quite bitterness; more like a bad attitude. This attitude sneaks up on me and I find myself with a shift in perspective.
I ring him at work; he’s operating. Annoying.
I can’t forward plan anything because the rosters only come out a week in advance.
He leaves before I wake and often is home after the kids are in bed, sometimes even after I’m asleep.
I ring his mobile; other people answer his phone. I don’t want to talk to other people!
I do pretty much everything when it comes to family-life.
Our yard is a mess.
When he IS home at night, he needs to study for the big exam later this year. I get jealous of his jolly computer.
I get angry at his work for keeping him there so much.
He’s missed most school performances and concerts.
We’ve moved 11 times in 13 years. The kids need stability.
I’ve done this for years, and years, and years.
And the children’s disappointment fuels my own.
“I miss Dad.”
“IS Dad ever coming home?”
“Dad never drops us off to school. Other Dads are there.”
…it goes on.
I’ve been sitting on this bad attitude for over a month now. Discontentment leads to resentment. I can see it in the words above: the shift in perspective. And I know it filters through the family. My situation isn’t unique and there are a lot of people worse off, struggling with similar issues of family life balance. I know that. But the resentment is there, and it’s taken me a while to do something about it because some of the feelings, needs, I have, are valid.
I mentioned in a conversation with my sister that I wasn’t sleeping well.
“Why is that Kell? Why aren’t you sleeping well?” my big sister asked with motherly-like concern.
I paused for a moment at the question.
The answer came to me as a revelation. “I’m not getting enough cuddles from Matt.”
My words surprised me as I said them.
I continued. “I’m not talking about sex. You know, that down time you have to sit on the sofa and watch TV together? Just to be; to just talk; have a cup of tea together; down time? Comfort.”
I’m not the only one feeling this way. It’s hard for Matt, my husband too. One evening when he came home exhausted, he said with a sigh, “I’m really struggling to connect with you all here.”
Connection. We all want it. I want it. He wants it. The kids want it. Sometimes it feels like modern life is killing connection, slowly strangling, unless we fight for it.
So began my quest to shift my perspective, by sorting out things I can’t change from things I can, and where in the middle to find the moments we all need for connection.
Reality and Perspective
The reality is, my husband’s job is always going to be high pressure. But it’s a good, amazing job and he loves it.
The reality is, my husband and I are a partnership, and I see his achievements as part of my own. I want to support him.
The reality is my husband supports everything I do, whether that be going to India or accepting the compromises in the house because I want to work from home. Although he can’t give me much physical support, he doesn’t pin me down. I need that. I LOVE that.
The reality is, our life will always be a bit random and disjointed. But that’s okay.
All good stuff, really, when I think about it in the right light.
I need more hugs.
He needs time to study.
The kids need their parents to be a united, supportive, loving rock.
I’d like to say that we sat down as a couple, and had a proper conversion about what we do and how to compromise. That’s just the thing: you need a good chunk of down time to GET to the point where you can address these sorts of things. We didn’t quite talk about it, but we did communicate by throwing snippets of conversation into the mix over a couple of weeks. Two willing hearts, honesty and love: they tend to take shape after a while if you listen.
After a difficult week, I felt bad about myself and the interactions with people around me. Plus, I made a mistake that would cost our family financially. I felt sick as I told my husband about it as we stood at the kitchen sink.
He didn’t say, “You’re being too sensitive.”
Neither did he say, “YOU DID WHAT?!”
You know what he did?
He put his arms around me, and he said, “Kelly, I want you to know that you are loved right here, and you can be yourself; feel good about yourself. And don’t worry about the money; we’ll work it out.”
I can tell you, that connection right then in his arms, could last me a month! I know I’m too sensitive. I know I stuffed up. And he didn’t rub it in…or even try and fix it all in that moment. I’m sure the response was a choice on his part, and it meant so much to me.
My husband stumbled in the door at 11 pm, with deep shadows under his eyes. The very moment he steped in the door, I grabbed him and held his large frame with one arm, pulling his head down to my shoulder while resting my other hand on the side of his head. I let the compassion I felt filter through my actions.
“Welcome home. Sit. I saved soup for you.”
That’s all I said.
Later, Matt said, “Ah Kelly, the way you’re caring for me at the moment, is feeding right into my heart. Thank you.”
And so it goes. He gives. I give. And we find the connection, not necessarily in time spent, but in attitude as we look for opportunities to live love in the moments.
And the kids? The kids are fine…but it can take a while for the impact of subtle changes to filter through. We are working on it, individually (which is easier for me because I’m with the children so often), and together. It never stops: the striving.
The resentment is gone from me for now. My perspective is restored. The fight for connection is winning.
Look for the good.
Listen to one another’s needs with a willing, honest heart. Sometimes you don’t need many words.
Capitalise on the sweet moments already there for the taking.