As I write this the babies and I made a trip to visit my parents for my mother’s 62nd birthday in a neighboring state without my husband. Tom had rotations and didactics Friday and I needed to be in town for an event before 6 pm. Even if I didn’t have an event on Friday night, my husband would not have made the trip with us. Giving up eight hours of board study time for travel and extra rest on the weekend before another busy week isn’t possible during this block. He certainly longs to have less of a workload and more free time to spend traveling or doing activities together. We know togetherness is one cost we are counting for him to care for others as a physician.
Traveling alone is never an easy decision. So many what ifs can cloud the joys of the getaway for me. What if the babies start crying simultaneously just 15 minutes after yielding onto the highway? What will I answer this time when someone asks, “Where is your husband? Why didn’t he come with you?” And the biggest one, “What if I have to pee?!” Seriously Modern World you are failing your mammas with small kids. Someone needs to set up a drive-in lactation pod where we can leave the kids in the car seats, use a spa-like a lavatory with lavender essential oil infused hand soap. On the way out we will be handed fresh juice or a latte while the attendant pumps our gas. (“Garage Mamava” there’s a business opportunity here!) If I choose to live in fear of the what-ifs, I would forfeit the memories. I would also be limiting the memories my kids would be making. That thought hits home. I would feel guilty if I hindered my kids from memories do to my own insecurities.
Whether it’s traveling, attending an event, or just enjoying a meal out of the house, regularly we often will have to go without our spouse. If we choose to wait until he can join us, we maybe WAITING for a long time. In the wait, bitterness can build up against your spouse and their career, the career you choose together. You begin to feel like he is holding you back. Dear friend, be thankful for life, it is too short! Remember, it was a team decision, whether he was already in pursuit of this career before you met or after, it was a decision you made together when you said, “I do”. Just because his main focus may be on boards study or shinning in residency doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to make memories with you. It’s just not possible to be in two places at once, mentally or physically, in certain seasons. He loves you and is working hard for both of you!
For other personality types maybe waiting leads you toward a deeper inward focus where meeting new people and risking vulnerability with others becomes harder and harder. You start using his unavailability as a cover for your insecurities. Dear friend, I hope you will take courage. I hope you will not place undue pressure on your husband to be meeting so many of your needs that he burns out. Then there are a whole slew of us on the pendulum of these emotions, we go through when we have to face our aloneness. He loves you and is working hard for both of you!
Tom and I have come to realize that a healthy marriage is when two become one in support of one common mission, but that doesn’t mean we become one person. Though I am Tom’s wife and his support system on this career journey. I am also Kristen and need to continue enjoying life, even if that means not being able to visit family or attend every event together with the one I enjoy most in this life. I make a conscious effort to get together with girlfriends regularly, to serve with our church, to attend community events, and to give time to The White Coat Wife. It also means that we are mindful of his capacity and leave room for him to refuel when he is home from the hospital, not have to meet unmet longings I have for friendship or entertainment. Often I have to do a soul search. Am I asking my husband to meet an emotional need, I have that is not his to meet? Answering this question helps me deal with my loneliness, unmet expectations, and hopes e.v.e.r.y t.i.m.e.
Before Tom and I were married I lived overseas in SE Asia for seven years. The native people spoke a common tonal language and several dialects in the region I lived. Language learning was a slow process for me as am self-diagnosed tone deaf. Plus the words for “near” and “far” were the same word with different inflections. Like that wasn’t confusing when trying to get directions?!?! Though I had close friends and roommates who were bilingual, always having a friend go with me, especially when it was to run basic errands, realistically could not always happen. I had to learn independence even though it required a lot of energy to function in a second language and there may be blunders along the way. And there were many, many blunders. But I have seven wonderful years of memories, dozens of new friends from all over the globe, and have visited some of the most exotic places on earth.
We are walking through one of the busier semesters for my husband. Some days I get to connect with him for several hours when the kids go to bed, but most days we connect for just a few minutes over dinner with a spunky talking toddler and an infant. We share our plans and schedules weekly and we talk through what Tom can and can’t be apart of each week. And we both keep an open hand to even those plans changing. I’m specifically looking ahead and planning events for myself and the kids, focusing on what we get to do rather than what we don’t get to do. When he gets off early and we can fit in a run together it’s a time to treasure. One of our goals is to run a half-marathon together in the Spring. I know the next six months will not be the easiest as I independently handle most of the parenting and home responsibilities with fewer hours alongside my husband than ever before. My hope is that I would look back at all the memories I was able to make rather than wasting them waiting.