I don’t usually write for Mama Bear Mondays, but some things have been on my mind that I wanted to share with you. For the wives, this letter isn’t really for you, but I pray that it gives you a bit of grace and peace and understanding for your husband’s journey.
Okay, fathers, how’s it going? You have a kid, or several. Awesome, right? Not awesome? I get that; I have four children. I did not want four children. I did not want three children. I did not want two children. I barely wanted one child. They are he hardest, most disruptive, most frustrating houseguests in the world. No one ever told me that.
Maybe they joked about it.
But I’m not joking—kids will fuck you up.
Every one of my children has broken me in new ways, and I am writing today to tell you that there is hope. So let’s get practical. Here are a few practices that help maintain my sanity:
1. Take the long way home.
Yes, your wife may have the noose waiting for you when you arrive, but you are responsible for you first. Are you tense about what your boss thinks of your performance? Take the time to journal about it, call a friend to confess, or just breathe and remember that there is more to life than the American Dream Machine.
Did your parenting partner threaten to feed the babies to the dog when the witching hour hit? Pray for her (she is responsible for her own emotional health and needs) & take the long way, listen to some music and enjoy being alone for a minute before you step back into the blitz. These things are important and your family will suffer if you don’t take the time to love yourself first.
2. Show up.
Going out to happy hour is probably not showing up, it’s escaping. I did it too. Finding an excuse to start a new project at work at 4:45, heading to the fridge for a beer the moment I got home, watching HGTV until my eyes were numb: all escaping and hiding.
Please be honest with yourself. And ask for help if you need it.
None of those actions was loving to myself though, I was just avoiding the fact that I didn’t want to be spending another night stuck at home with needy kids and a tired wife. When I learned to suit up though, I found that a good night getting covered in baby food and reading Goodnight Moon for the 9000th time is genuinely more fulfilling than an alcoholic beverage or hours of TV
How great is it to be greeted by a kid who will love you unconditionally for at least another 3 years? How special is the chalk nebula they proudly scribbled on the front door to welcome you home? I mostly love checking the closet for monsters and tucking them in tight, sometimes. Really, that’s all I wanted in the world. To be loved, to do good work. They all give me purpose.
3. Give yourself a break.
Men don’t often learn what masculine femininity looked like in regards to home life. No one prepared me for the reality of feeling a hard, good life, the reality of four children, four miracles who just kept coming. Give yourselves a break on the days when you are ready to squeeze your kin until they snap.
Breathe deeply when your wife adds one more nail to-do to the list coffin. When you want to quit your job and step away from the pressures of reality, give yourself a hug in the bathroom and remind the little boy looking back at you in the mirror that you’re doing a good job.
I mean that literally. Give yourselves a timeout. Tell your wife that you need to take a shit. Lock the bathroom door. Take a drink of water from the toothbrushing cup next to the sink. Lay down on the floor if you need to. And breathe until you believe that you are capable and effective of going back out there. Because you are. You are allowed to take a break too.
You are allowed to be afraid and confused and angry, too.
But if you start to take care of yourself with the same tenderness that helps you care for your family, I think you will find you are a better, stronger, more loving man than you knew you could be.
Grace & peace,