I owe my husband an apology. I recently handled a situation very badly. Not only did I fail to offer the support and encouragement he deserves, but I behaved in a way that was directly opposite to how I should have. The realization exposed much more than a problem with my attitude toward my husband, though.
It revealed a deficiency in my spirit and a sin that still has a grip on me: pride.
We are empty-nesters. After 21 years of marriage and almost 20 years of raising our daughter, it’s just the two of us at home again. For the first time in many years, our weekends aren’t filled with soccer games or percussion contests and our evenings are not consumed by running our daughter from one event to the next. Just like any time you enter a new phase in life, it is bittersweet. I fondly reflect on and miss having our daughter at home with us, but I also appreciate the additional time we have to focus on our marriage and one another.
So, a few weeks ago, when my husband David told me how he intended to fill some of his free time, I was disappointed. He told me he was going to look for a part-time job in addition to his full-time job. I listened to him, nodding in agreement even though I actually hoped it was just a passing thought that would never come to fruition. I told myself I just didn’t want to have to plan our lives around his work schedule, but I eventually realized that there was something more behind my opposition. There was an underlying fault in my character that I didn’t want to face.
You see, I am involved with a lot of activities, both scheduled and “freelance.” Nearly every Monday night, I participate in jail ministry, which takes 3-4 hours of my time. So, that’s one evening a week that David is a “bachelor.” Since he likes movies a lot more than I do, he sometimes takes in a movie while I am, “in jail.” (I just like saying that.)
In addition to the scheduled Bible study associated with that activity, I am one of the ministry leaders, so every week I spend some time sending out emails, following up with new volunteers, coordinating one-one-one visits, mentoring women after they are released, and recruiting new team members. Whenever I am given an opportunity, I also speak to groups about the ministry, I do one-on-one visits with inmates, and I spend time preparing for the study and praying for the ministry.
Recently, I also agreed to start writing for the blog at our church, too. That won’t take a lot of time, but it’s one more thing. I am also (as anyone who knows me already appreciates) much more active on social media than my husband. It’s an outlet for my
creativity orneriness. I also have a small freelance website and graphic design business (more of a hobby than a money-maker) that takes some of my time every week. I really only do it to keep my marketable skills sharp and to maintain a network of contacts. To stay current on graphic design trends and up-to-date on the very complicated (and expensive) software involved in that business (hobby), I read a lot, do tutorials, and watch training seminars. All of that adds up to even more time (and money) I spend on myself and my interests and my activities — time that is not spent with my husband. Even though I do a lot of this at home, it doesn’t directly involve or include him.
And although I am fiercely introverted, I still do more socializing than David does. I occasionally meet girlfriends for coffee or dinner, and I spend a lot of time helping other people with diet or exercise advice. I have spoken a couple of times to our church “wellness” group and I still occasionally attend the women’s “wellness-centered” Bible study I used to lead.
The fact is, he could spend those hours doing whatever he wants and it wouldn’t affect the time we spend together much at all, other than an occasional scheduling conflict or adjustment. I also argued that it would cut into the time we have available to go to the gym together, but with what he proposed, 15-18 hours a week, there would still be plenty of time to hit the gym if we are intentional about it.
So what was my real problem with this?
That which God detests: PRIDE
The truth is, hard as it is for me to admit and embarrassing as it is for me to share, I wondered what people might think. We have lived in this small, close-knit community for 15 years and we know a lot of people through church, our daughter’s school, and our neighborhood. What would people think if they saw David working part-time somewhere? Would they think we were destitute? About to lose our house? Burdened by gambling debts? (I have a vivid imagination.)
The truth is not as extreme as all that — we are not destitute, we are not about to lose our house, and although we do play the lottery with David’s office, we are not burdened by gambling debts. Neither are we, however, exactly where we would like to be financially at this phase of our life. We aren’t confident in what we have saved for retirement, despite the fact that we both started contributing to a 401k very early in our marriage. We still have debt, including our mortgage, that we would like to pay off. And we’d like to do more for our family and give more to our church. And we’d like to travel more. And we’d like to make improvements to our home. And, and and….
We made choices in our marriage — some good, some bad — that affected our finances.
We both put our marriage and our family over our careers. I took jobs that allowed me to be a wife and mother. I turned down jobs that would have required me to travel extensively even though they would have paid me much more than I was making. I could have sacrificed more evenings and weekends and advanced much farther, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. And my freelance, “business,” barely breaks even. The software I utilize is very expensive, but I have kept it because I want to stay current in those skills and because it is something I enjoy. David has never questioned that.
And three years ago, when I found myself very unexpectedly unemployed, I remember the day that I had two interviews. One interview was for a position in a high-rise building downtown Indianapolis, right on Monument Circle. The business was a fast-growing software application company with a bright future. I interviewed with the owner/founder and left the interview very confident that the job was mine to take. Later that day, I interviewed with my current boss for a Monday – Friday, 9 to 5 job with relatively low stress. Job #1 paid a lot more and offered more opportunity for advancement. It also required daily commute to downtown Indy (something that would be very stressful for me), while job #2 involved only a 20-30 minute commute within our county. Job #1 would follow me home (and anywhere I took it), and job #2 would pretty much stay at the office. David understood when I decided to take job #2. Our daughter was a sophomore in high school and I knew I didn’t have a lot more time with her at home. I also wanted to continue to invest time in the jail ministry, something my final decision easily allowed.
For David, our priorities meant he didn’t pursue some promotions within his company because they would have required us to move to another state. We believed strongly that, as much as it was up to us, we didn’t want to put our daughter through the experience of changing schools. We live in a community with a wonderful school system. She was involved in band, had wonderful friends, and was active in our church’s youth group. There is so much we cannot control in life, we chose to take charge of what we could. In spite of that, David was promoted many times within the Indianapolis branch and has been successful in his position for 20 years.
I don’t begrudge anyone who did things differently from us, but this is what worked for us. I don’t regret our decision to put our family and home first. But like everything, there is a trade-off — an opportunity cost, to borrow a term from the world of economics. Was the cost worth it? Yes. We invested in our marriage and modeled to our daughter a strong union. We went to Morgan’s soccer games, attended her concerts, and made memories with her on the weekends. We were home at night to eat dinner as a family, help her with her homework, and host Halloween parties and sleepovers. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Our New Normal
But Morgan now has her own apartment, her own job, and is living her own life, just as we raised her to do. There is some room in our life for new things. I have chosen to fill my room with ministry, hobbies, and the like. David came to me a few weeks ago and told me he was thinking of filling his with a part-time job. When Morgan was born, he was in management for a large drugstore chain. His 60-hour work weeks were a catalyst for us making the changes and choices we made. He had an opportunity to go back to that line of work and pick up a few shifts a week. He proposed every other weekend and a couple of nights per week, no more than 15-18 hours a week.
He explained that he would feel better getting some things paid off and freeing up more of our income to sock away in his 401k at work. He had a valid point.
My Reponse Was…Awful
I pouted. I pointed out how we’d have less weekend time for get-aways, day trips, and working around our house. I asked if he could at least wait until the summer is over (in my head hoping that by then, we’d be in the midst of the holiday season and he would drop it.) I even tried to make him feel guilty about it. Yes. I did. And I hate to admit it, but…
I still let myself get upset about what people might think.
Think Whatever You Want
The truth I really struggle to admit is that, to some degree, my preoccupation with, “what other people will think,” likely contributed to our circumstances as much as anything. How many pairs of shoes had I purchased over the years that I didn’t really need? What had we purchased for our house that could have waited if we didn’t care what anyone else thought? I have purchased items from fundraisers we didn’t need and couldn’t afford for all the wrong reasons. Even charitable giving, if done for the wrong reason, might have demonstrated poor stewardship and careless spending on our part. And if I drill down further into that dark place where I hide any uncomfortable or unflattering truths, one-click ordering with Amazon Prime, Groupons, in-app purchases, and Starbuck’s cravings have easily appropriated more money from me than I should have allowed.
Furthermore, I know that I bear a much larger burden of it than David ever did or ever will. I’m the stress-shopper, impulse buyer, Amazon Prime member, HGTV watcher, and overall over-spender.
And yet, it is David who proposed to do something about it.
The fact is, people are going to pay far less attention than I think. Most people are so preoccupied with their own lives that they don’t have time to write a narrative for ours. But even for those who do pay any mind to our circumstances, some may make assumptions or jump to conclusions. That is not my problem unless I make it my problem.
I need to stop focusing on fiction and misconceptions and embrace the beautiful truths before me.
- The truth is that no, we are not exactly where we would like to be financially, but we have a home in a wonderful community, plenty to eat, reliable cars to drive, and more than we need.
- The truth is that although we may not have enough saved yet for retirement, we are still young and able-bodied and we still have a lot of time to do something about it.
- The truth is that I am glad we chose to invest in our family as we did and blessed to have a husband who was of like mind.
- The truth is — and this is the best truth of all — I have a wonderful, faithful husband who has been my best friend for over 20 years and he wants to provide for our present and for our future.
In a world where men far too often walk away from the responsibilities of fatherhood and the commitment of marriage, David has never wavered in either. When he decided to take a second job, he no doubt already felt the burden of the sacrifices he would inevitably have to make, like missing evening and weekend activities once in a while or even just losing some of his leisure time. So why did I feel I had to pile on even more guilt? Some men look for any and every excuse to get out of the house, but that wasn’t his purpose at all. He proposed to do something I know he would rather not have to do, because it was the right thing for our family.
How I Should Have Responded
This is how I should have — how I wish I had — responded to the man who has been my best friend for over 20 years. To the man who has never once given me reason to doubt his faithfulness, honesty, or sincerity. To the man who is an amazing father, dutiful provider, and my partner in life.
I should have been grateful for such an amazing husband. I should not have let my mind wonder to, “what other people would think.” I should have done everything I could do to support his efforts and I should have thanked him for his sacrifice. I should not have tried to make him feel guilty for it!
Better Late Than Never
He has now been working in his part-time job for a few weeks. And we still have our “date nights.” We still workout 3 or 4 times per week, and our relationship is still just as strong as ever. Because of the humbling lesson I have learned and my commitment to make up for it, our relationship may be even stronger than before.
When David is working and I’m home, I try to get everything done that I can around the house so that when we do have free time together, we are not bound by household chores or running errands. I have tried to keep the yard mowed, the housework done, and I even cleaned out the gutters a couple of weekends ago! Hmm….maybe he had this planned from the beginning!
When faced with the reality, he could have reacted in any number of ways.
- He could have asked me to cancel the subscription to the software and give up some of my hobbies.
- Or he could have suggested I make the investment worth it and go after more freelance business, even though he knows it would be taxing on my schedule.
- He could have criticized me and suggested that if I had only taken that other job three years ago, things would be different.
- He could have suggested we cancel our gym membership to save some money.
- He could have pointed out how much money we spend helping women I meet in jail ministry — hotel stays, clothes, food, gift cards, and the cost of maintaining a “telemate” account so that inmates can phone me from jail at no cost to them.
David could have made me feel guilty for my contribution to our situation. But he didn’t do any of that.
He deserves understanding.
He deserves appreciation.
He deserves support.
He deserves better. He deserves a wife of noble character and I will work harder to see that he has that in me.
Proverbs 31 | A Wife of Noble Character
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
She finds wool and flax and busily spins it.
She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.
She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.
She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.
Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”