Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to Survive the Long Lonely Night

In every marriage, there will probably come a season where you will have to spend more time apart than you'd prefer. Maybe he's working nights, long hours, traveling, whatever the reason - it's no secret that it can wear on you and cause stress.

That's us right now. Mark's working at a new job and thus, has to put in the hours to learn the new products and get up to speed. In previous years, I've never handled this season well. This time, I've taken a new approach:

1. Set Your Expectations

My previous failures all had this in common - I'd have some expectation of when Mark should arrive home, and then when he missed the mark I'd flip out and a tidal wave of emotions ranging from disappointment to rage would appear.

Now, I set the expectation that the kids and I will be eating dinner alone. I will be putting the kids to bed by myself. I will be changing all the diapers, wiping the noses, reading the stories, and tucking them in. When I set myself up with that expectation, then I have nothing to be disappointed in. In fact, if Mark should make it home early - I'm pleasantly surprised! What a change from before.

For instance, 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1: I expect Mark to get home for dinner by 6:30. I prepare dinner and wait, fuming. I end up burning part of it because I'm caught up in my own grumbling. Kids and I eat cold, partial burnt dinner. Mark arrives home at 7:30. I sulk about his lateness, nag him to come home earlier and go to my room to read.

Scenario 2: I make dinner for the kids and I. We eat a pleasant dinner and clean up. We get ready for bed. Mark walks in right before I have to change diapers. I'm totally surprised he's home before kids are down. I hand diaper duties over to Daddy and get to relax while he talks about his day and puts kiddos to bed. We then enjoy a movie together.

Hmmm...which sounds better? And what was the difference? Only my attitude.

2. Plan your evening alone, but welcome a "guest"

I don't know when Mark will arrive home. It might be a late night and I may have 2 or 3 extra hours to myself after the kids go to bed. Then again, he might walk in the door early. I have learned to keep busy when I'm alone. And in all honesty, I enjoy my alone time - because I don't get much of it in the first place. What a perfect time to read a good book, watch a chick flick Mark doesn't want to see, or do my quiet time. I can work on a craft project, or just veg on the internet doing useless facebook status updates! Taking care of two children and a husband doesn't often afford "me time", so why not take advantage of it?

That being said, I may not have 2 or 3 hours to myself and I need to be ready to "switch gears" if Mark should come home. I enjoy spending time with Mark, and during this season when it's unpredictable when I'll have time with him, I don't want to waste a night by insisting - "I'm reading". I always try to have a movie ready or take a break from my "activities" to just hang out and talk. And sometimes we part our ways - he plays games, I finish my movie - but other times we do something together.

3. Get plenty of rest

This is so important. Taking care of two children and a house ALL day and evening alone IS tiring. This is a season where it's OK to take a nap, go to bed early, or take breaks during the day to relax. We are not machines and our minds and bodies do need to replenish. Going to bed at a reasonable time, and learning not to overdo it during the day has helped me push through what ends up being a really long week. This is not the time for me to do large scale projects or cleaning. In the past, I've worn myself out during the day, which turned me into a grumpy beast the next day for kids and husband.

4. Don't nag

This was a big one for me, and still is. I mean, I'm a woman, and I've got an opinion. In fact, I don't think it's just an opinion - it is THE right thing to do. Look here hubby, if you would just do X, then this wouldn't be a problem. Or if you wouldn't do Y then things would be sooooo much better. Why can't you just do....

Yeah. It's annoying just typing it and it's annoying to him.

And it doesn't make anything better.

It just makes everyone miserable.

Him - cause your nagging him and no one likes to be nagged.

You - cause your nagging is creating negative feelings in you that will affect your attitude, perspective, and behavior.

Just don't nag.

So what do you do instead?

4. Feast in Him

So how do you find that extra strength?

How do you get through another hour? 5 minutes?

How do you not scream in frustrations?

How do you not run screaming out the door when he comes home?

How do you keep from going to that negative, complaining, whining place?

How do you stop from setting all your needs and expectations on your husband?

Each day I have to wake up and make a choice. I can live for me - with my needs, wants, desires, frustrations, complaints, etc. Or...

I can live for Him. I can focus my heart on Him first. I can spend precious minutes (and I mean minutes...we're moms here not nuns) feasting on His Word and spending intimate time at His feet. I can follow hard after Him. Applying His truths to my life, being a servant to my family - not for their sakes, but for Him. How much more noble does life become if we are serving Christ, not man? It's easier to change that diaper, wipe up that spilled milk, and give loving (not exasperated) discipline if I'm doing it all in the heart of serving Christ. Now there's a boss!!!

But I don't always choose Him, because it is a daily choice and I'm a forgetful woman. Some days I wake up and choose Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! And those are the days I yell at my kids, nag my husband and complain ALLLLLLL day (that was probably yesterday or the day before).

So to remind me, I posted the fruits of the spirit in my kitchen:

Long suffering (Patience)

I read these and then I am reminded - am I seeing these things in myself today? And if not - ewww, I better run back to His feet and reconnect. Because when I see these things in my day, I know it's a day lived for Him.

So that's it. That's how I cope. Nights are long and lonely without my hubby, but it's only for a season. I could choose to suffer through this time, but I choose peace and contentment.


Shelley said...

You are inspired, dear one. :) Thanks for the insight.

Tamra said...

Love this. Right on.

Merae said...

I love you sharing this Mel. I love your character being spilled out here and showing your love for Him and your family.