I have a bad attitude

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.

Living Love

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.

Accept reality.

Find perspective.

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.

Live love.

flowers from husband

He’s been buying me flowers too

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  • Reply
    eliz a buf
    March 25, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    i’m a married single mom, too. it sucks some days, but it’s all we’ve ever done. several years ago, i overheard my son tell his teacher that ‘dad doesn’t live at our house, he just visits.’ the truth was that dad left before they got up and got home after they went to bed, for so long that the children even stopped asking for him. he’s home much more now, and that was a whole other adjustment. my focus now is making him feel welcome as soon as he’s home; i realized too late that i was making him feel superfluous when he was home and that only lessened his desire to bother getting home earlier more often.

    you’ve done a beautiful thing to begin putting it back together. xoxo

    • Reply
      March 25, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      another “married single mum” here too – say that (probably too often) to my husband that I feel like a single parent doing it all and filling the weekend and attending functions just me and the kids sans husband. Its hard! And yes that lack of connection/cuddles it can be v lonely at times, I talk about ‘skin hunger’ with my husband and the need to just share the day and have shared experiences. feel like living two separate lives sometimes. Love this post thankyou and hope it gets easier for you it sounds like you are on the right path

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. My husband travels a lot for work and our youngest has ASD and her anxiety rises when he is away. When he is home, other things take priority and between the girls and study i feel that we are missing that connection too. I need to make an attitude shift starting NOW! Thanks for the prompt.

    • Reply
      March 25, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      my youngest also has ASD deb and it adds another dimension to Dads long and strange work hours

  • Reply
    carly-jay Valentine
    March 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you for being so real and honest. I needed to read this today, i struggle.. Your husbands job is far beyond my husbands career but nether the less my husband is just as committed,which finds him not home.. ALot. and as i work out of the home also where often like ships in the night and i have a hard time connecting/ having down time. Its hard. really hard. x

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    I SO know what you’re talking about and how you feel. The army ‘owns’ my husband and while there are good times when he’s here regularly there are far more times when we don’t know when he’s coming home. Then there are the times he is away for weeks and months. When he’s back at his unit he, too, only gets his schedule a week in advance and I cannot plan anything without the fear that it will be ruined by his work committments, which often crop up at the last moment and take precedence over everything.
    It sounds like you and your husband are working it out nicely …. thanks for the encouragement.

  • Reply
    Mel L
    March 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    That’s a wonderful post. It’s a tough gig
    you’ve got there. I can’t relate to it,
    but I can feel how much love you’re
    putting in to your family at the moment.
    Keep strong.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks for this Kelly, this struck a chord with me today. Only yesterday Miss 3 had Daddy starring in her make-believe play, fantasising that he was home and not at the farm. Again. Still. Long hours 7 days a week, and I juggle everything else to hold it together here. The connection is worth fighting for because one day (lalalalala, one day ….) it WILL be different.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    What a beautifully written post.
    So much that we all could take away from this, whether our partner works long hours or away from home or not.
    Finding the good, compromise and perspective…all so important.
    Pat yourself on the back. Sounds like you are doing an awesome job!!

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Hey Kelly, you are totally amazing for sharing this! I love your honesty. I’m in a similar situation, I’m an event widow, sometimes I don’t even remember what my husband looks like :o) Just remember that the craziness is just a season. He won’t have to worry about exams once he is finished. While he will still be crazily busy, at least when he comes home he won’t be worried about assignments or exams looming. That will make a huge difference to your family life. I highly recommend finding other wives of surgeons and chatting to them about their coping strategies. Banding together with others in a similar situation is often hugely helpful. I’m currently studying nursing and want to be a theatre nurse, so it’s highly likely that I will be answering surgeons phones when they are scrubbed, you sharing what you have will help me to be compassionate when it’s the spouse on the other end of the phone who doesn’t want anyone other than their partner. One day I hope to get to meet you, be warned that when I do, you are going to be hugged, as your honesty in your blog has helped me though things I have been struggling with. You rock!!

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    I loved this Kel.

    When we were in India I could feel how strong your family unit was. You and Matt both have so much fire and passion for what you do and it’s hard to balance that with each other, let alone a big family.

    It’s not always easy being the partner of someone spectacular but it’s always worth it… for both you and Matt.


  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks for posting this – like others who have commented, your situation mirrors my own… my hubby is a long haul truck driver. He’s home 1.5 days a week and often less than that in a busy period (Christmas, Easter etc). We’ve just had a baby girl and after 8 months on leave I’ve just returned to work.

    Whilst I love my independence and the fact that I could be on committees, socialise and live a life without accountability, since having our daughter I’m at home a lot more and missing that connection. We always talk at the end of the night before one of us goes to bed – I could count on one hand the nights we’ve missed in teh 9 years we’ve been together. We recently had a massive chat about the change being parents has made to our lives and we realised that it’s the small things like you’ve mentioned that keep the connection there. We had always focussed on the positive but most recently we’ve been really focussing on the small things this past month as I transition from being at home, to creating a routine that works for us.

    You’ve inspired some new ideas for keeping connected – I’m going to share this post with my hubby too!!

    thanks xx

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for this, for being so honest and sharing. I could relate to so much of what you said.

    It is a hard life being “sometimes solo” as my friend calls it, but great to know that we are not alone, and to have others share their struggles too. Thanks again

  • Reply
    Katie Rainbird
    March 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Kelly,

    It sure seems like you’ve resonated with many of us today! It’s a tricky attitude to find yourself stuck in, because you know that partly you are blessed to have a husband who works so hard, providing for the family in such a way whilst also following their career goals.

    And you know you “should” be grateful and supportive, but dammit ~ there was once a time when YOU were the most important thing in their lives, those early years of courting, dreaming, planning and really getting to know each other.
    I yearn for those times myself.

    I think you’ve opened your mind to some healthy perspectives and it seems like you’re loved to the moon and back!


  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    It is a testament to your strength and character that you can see what damage a ‘bad attitude’ can do in your relationships, and then take steps to reevaluate things. That is just as big a challenge as living through the day-to-day as a basically-sole-parent!

    Your honesty and sincerity have touched me too! I hope things pick up for you soon!

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Wow Kelly. You have me crying at: “seed of discontentment”. Such a credit to you & Matt that you acknowledge the disconnect and keep trying to communicate and be open and honest with one another. I think that is the true test of a strong marriage. When in a rut it is too easy to walk away and let issues build until the wall is up, then it’s too late. Maybe Matt should take his own “sick day” and enjoy a day off with the family. (as a nurse, I know there is always a few other registrars floating around)xx

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Wow Kelly. You have me crying at: “seed of discontentment”. Such a credit to you & Matt that you acknowledge the disconnect and keep trying to communicate and be open and honest with one another. I think that is the true test of a strong marriage. When in a rut it is too easy to walk away and let issues build until the wall is up, then it’s too late. Maybe Matt should take his own “sick day” and enjoy a day off with the family. (as a nurse, I know there is always a few other registrars floating around)xx

  • Reply
    Nikki @ Styling You
    March 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Oh Kelly, an amazing post and outpouring of feelings many of us get in some shape or form. I totally get that resentment thing … and letting it go. For many years I held on to it in our situation – my husband taking a job in Brisbane that meant I was effectively “it” on the ground at home. Something had to give, I chose that something to be me. I dropped the resentment and remembered that so many others have it tougher than our situation. But I can tell you, that move to Brisbane and some semblance of normal family life can’t come soon enough … roll on December.

  • Reply
    Janet @ Redland City Living
    March 26, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Great post Kel, I think all marriages go through times like these. And the secret to surviving, even thriving? Giving each other GRACE. Which is exactly what I see you and Matt are doing in this post. If more married couples practiced the art of giving grace, I reckon there’d be a lot fewer divorces!

  • Reply
    Sam Stone
    March 26, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Hi Kelly,
    I am crying as I read your post. It is very poignant!
    All relationships go through their ups and downs and I believe communication to be the key. Finding the time for that communication can be tough though. You and Matt seem absolutely perfect for each other and so loving and caring. It is lovely to see.
    Sending you lots of hugs!

  • Reply
    Michelle @ Raising Will
    March 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Every now and then a post comes along that makes you wonder if a blogger has Harry-Potter-esque powers; able to read your mind and writes the post that you aren’t ready to write for yourself. You’re not yet willing to admit that perhaps its your own attitude that needs to shift; that you are creating as much disfunction in your family as your absent husband’s work hours by harbouring regret and discontent.

    Beautiful post Kel. Absolutely beautiful. And thank you for being brave and speaking the words our hearts want to say, but our brains keep them quiet. Sincerely, wives of so many hard-working husbands….. myself VERY much included. xx

  • Reply
    Tonya, TheCraftyMummy
    March 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Ahh, Kelly, I hear you – loud and clear! So much of your story is similar to mine, and yet everyone has their own story too. Hang in there. I’d love to say after the exams, life is more normal, but I’m finding that the study continues even after the exams.

    My discontentment comes from always being the parent on duty and never getting to switch off from responsibility. But my reality is that my life is blessed compared to many. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone in this.

    Know that I’m thinking of you guys, and praying for you.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Ah, Kel…I sooo hear you. I’ve just come out of 2 weeks of resentment too. But it’s like what you said, “He gives. I give.” And I realised that for a lot of the time, I was just thinking of my emotional needs. That and he’s been eating all my chocolate 🙂
    What beautiful flowers they are too! x

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Hey Kel. I think I’m going to be reading this post over and over in the next few years. Since Hubs started his internship, we have had to completely readjust and reconnect. And you’re so right – it’s the little acts that make the big difference. I can already relate to some of those feelings of “when is he coming home?” And I know there are years and years of it to come.
    The life of a doctor’s wife 🙂 Good luck and thank you for sharing such insight – the highs and the lows.

  • Reply
    Jane @ The Hesitant Housewife
    March 26, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    I needed to read this. The pressures of ‘life’ have been taking its toll on the connection between my husband and me, and your perspective has given me something to think about, and work towards. Thank you for sharing something so personal xx

  • Reply
    Rachel @ The Kids Are All Right
    March 26, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Oooh, it sounds like you are well on your way to working through this problem. You have received so many comments and I don’t have time to read them now to see if anyone has suggested this, but how about Skype or Facetime on the phone between your kids and their dad? Of course nothing beats the real thing, but it helps us immensely when hubby travels for work.

  • Reply
    Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel
    March 27, 2013 at 7:11 am

    Thanks for writing this post, you’ve said a lot of things out loud that I often think. Like you I have a husband with a very demanding job, and it’s taken precedence in our lives. I struggled with this for many years but am really comfortable with it now, and grateful.

    When we needed a heap of cash for early intervention, we had it. And it made such a difference, and my son needed me a lot at home. With four now, it’s just practical. Funnily enough it’s easier now he is actually away when he works. I just bite the bullet much harder and get on with it. And he doesn’t work when he’s at home.

    Well done you, and here’s to flowers too.

  • Reply
    Renee Veldman
    March 28, 2013 at 5:16 am

    Thanks again for sharing your personal life (and thanks to your hubby too) but letting us out here know what it’s really like for others….makes it easier to tackle your own problems knowing that you can feel that way, and still look at turning it around. xx

  • Reply
    Denyse Whelan
    March 28, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Kelly, dear Kelly, how much I loved seeing you again at DPCon & having a hug & chat. You write with such conviction & healthy honesty. Today this post has made me teary. I am a long way from you in distance but close enough to send you a squeeze hug through this comment… D xx

  • Reply
    March 30, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I’ve taken a self-imposed hiatus from blogging – indefinitely. But I am so glad I read this beautiful post – it’s just what I needed. My husband works away from home a lot, and I often have the seed of discontentment festering away inside of me. While I’m used to the irregular hours and his time away from family, it doesn’t always mean that it’s easy. But we’ve learned to make it work for us. Like you, it’s the connection that I miss. The debriefing at the end of the day, the hugs, the adult conversation, the bouncing of ideas etc. I’m learning to put aside my pity parties and focus on being intentional about that connection as best I can.

  • Reply
    Nathalie Brown
    April 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Connecting is the key. My Mr runs his own business we try to do our own dates nights and he will try and do something with the kids and me about once a month. We’ve been married 20 years this year and we have re-connected many times. X

  • Reply
    Christie-Childhood 101
    April 20, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    What a special post, Kel, thank you for sharing, it spoke deeply to me. In the busyness of life, the tiredness, the push and shove, the disconnect can take hold before you even really notice and the walls go up. Your post is so spot on about finding those moments of reconnection xx

  • Reply
    June 18, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Your post help define many of the same frustrations I too struggle with. Thank you for making me feel validated in my feelings and disappointments and not just that I am being selfish for wishing things were different at home. You have helped me to identify this and try to focus on the positives and to keep working at it. Thank you xx

  • Reply
    June 27, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Thank you for sharing this. It did worlds of good. 🙂

  • Reply
    June 27, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I have never commented here before, but have been a reader for quite a while now. I write this in a darkening kitchen with the lights off at 9pm, waiting for the sound of my son’s door opening. It probably won’t, but I am always on pins and needles on these nights spent alone when my husband is traveling. Washington, DC tonight, China next. It’s certainly a tough thing, to be a single parent but not, at the same time.

    This piece was so moving and absolutely lovely, with some real take-away messages that I will remind myself of as needed.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Monique Resenberger
    June 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Bravo on the connection of moments in time, the perspective on a whole of you and your family as individuals is well rounded!!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Oh I can so relate…
    My husband works stupid rotating shifts that don’t match up with the rest of the world so we sometimes go long periods without seeing him awake. He also works in a sealed sterile area, so for the 12 hours he is at work he is only contactable when he is on his lunch break….

    I am grateful that his job supports our family, and I am grateful that he has a job, and one he is good at and enjoys. And I am used to managing on my own, I’ve been doing it for a long time too. And the shifts do have their perks sometimes…

    But sometimes the weight of carrying everything on my own, without someone even to talk to about it all really gets me down… but you are right it really is about changing your perspective, focusing on the positive and working through it all…

    Much love and strength to you… and your gorgeous family.

  • Reply
    Miss Chardy
    October 8, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Great post, so funny that it showed up on my facebook newsfeed today because I really needed to read this today. Thanks so much. So great to know that I am not alone and that I should just slap myself and stop feeling sorry for myself because I actually have it pretty darned good. Could you please give me a virtual slap. Thanks for a great post, loved every single bit. xx

  • Reply
    October 8, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for writing this piece. I am also married to a surgeon. Our first and only child was born 3 weeks before the first of my husbands big exams near the end of his training, and it currently feels like my period of time as a mother has mostly been characterised by single parenting – since around day 4. My son is now nearly 4 years old. Husband got his consultant post 2 months ago, in a different city, and he’s been home 3 weekends in that time. We are waiting to join him once our house is sold. I am tired of spending all my evenings alone and not having a connection with anyone. You have made me feel better however, knowing that someone else out there – and all the other commenters on this piece – have the same thoughts and feelings.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I headed on over from FB intrigued. My situation is similar. Hubby out before any of us get up, and occasionally back before Kids are in bed. I too have to call in babysitting favours for any activity on a week night. He is around the weekends (well most) and I’m thankful for that. Our holidays are quite restricted in terms of dates, and when they don’t match the school holidays well…
    I understand.

    We are supposed to be grateful ‘all the time’ – because we are lucky – I know that. There’s someone always worse off, and there really is. But from time to time we all feel a little disgruntled at our circumstances. And it’s only human to wish it were different

    The bit about serving up soup late at night. I’ve done that many times. It’s the little things that truly show you care. Like when the Hubby put a beer glass in the freezer for me to enjoy after my run and shower one baking hot summer’s day.

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