I’m writing this in the pitch dark of predawn, when no one else in my family is awake – except for my husband, who has already been at work for two hours. I probably wouldn’t be up this early if his alarm didn’t blast me into consciousness every morning, but it does. Six days a week, every week. (He’d happily work Sundays, too, except I have to draw the line somewhere.)
He goes in early because he figures he’d rather be gone while everyone is sleeping than miss the evenings we have together by working late. I sometimes casually suggest to him that he doesn’t have to work 12-hour days, but he thinks I’m joking, because to him, anything less isn’t an option.
Yep, I’m married to a guy who’s always working. Even if we were independently wealthy (which we aren’t) and he didn’t have to work, he’d want to work. He’d need to work. I fear the day when he retires, because he’ll be bored out of his skull. Although, honestly, he’ll be more likely to drop dead on the job at 99, waving his cane to direct the young whipper-snapper employees, than to ever see a day when he decides he’d rather just sit at home. It’s just not part of his DNA.
It definitely makes things a little difficult around here at times, because in his (nearly perpetual) absence, it’s up to me to take care of business – everything from the daily drudgery of routine housework to those “special” times when, say, we have four simultaneously barfing children and the cat catches his tail on fire and the roof starts leaking. He’s good about doing what he can from afar – making phone calls to roofing companies and such – but I’m the one who’s pulling out the pans to catch the drips and laundering all the water logged towels.
I’m the one who’s in the trenches, doing the hands-on stuff that makes this household run like a well-oiled machine … and the one who administers the oil when it doesn’t. And it’s tiring, because when you don’t have backup, you don’t get much of a break. Did I mention we have four young kids?
That’s not even what bothers me about my husband working all the time, though; I’m used to handling stuff, and feel pretty freaking capable because of it. What bothers me more is all the family time he misses out on. Saturday mornings, you can find me in the bleachers cheering on the two of our kids who play basketball. I’m there without fail, because their dad can’t be. Sometimes he’ll drive twenty minutes from work just so he can hurry in at halftime, his company logo emblazoned on his shirt like a walking advertisement, and watch them play for a few minutes (but you can bet he checks his phone every time it pings – work doesn’t stop just because he isn’t in his office).
He pops into the occasional school play, makes quick appearances at science fairs and awards ceremonies, and we take two cars to parent-teacher conferences because he always meets me there directly from work. The other day I was at the doctor’s office, scheduling a surgery for our youngest – a routine outpatient procedure, but still surgery – and I had to text my husband to check that he could be there before confirming the date. He could, but he’s going in extra-early that day to make up for it. No surprise there.
Our kids never doubt how proud of them he is, and he always makes sure that they feel loved and supported. And though our partnership may look uneven to some, it works for us. So it isn’t the effect on our family life that I worry about as much – it’s the effect on my husband. Will he look back when he’s old and our kids are grown and regret the hours he missed with us? Will he suddenly feel someday like he’s devoted his life to the wrong thing, like he’s wasted something precious, and will he grieve it?
But I look at him, his enthusiasm and passion for his job, his drive and dedication, and I see a man who is devoting his life to the thing he’s meant to devote his life to. Nothing that makes someone that happy, that fulfilled, can be wrong. He loves what he does, and being a good provider means the world to him. To my husband, being able to give our kids the opportunities and advantages that we never had growing up is worth the hours he has to spend away from them to do so.
His go-getter spirit is one of my favorite things about him, one of the things that made me fall in love with him 20 years ago. To try and squash it would be to suppress who he is at the core. Sure, I sometimes wish we could schedule a Saturday outing without having to wait until he gets home, or that he were around to help out more around the house, but in the grand scheme of marital issues, it could be much worse.
Because I may spend a lot of time trying to coax him onto the couch next to me, but it damn well beats spending a lot of time trying to coax him off of it.