A couple of days ago I was unbuckling our oldest when she looked up at me and said, "Daddy's never coming back."
"What?" I was so confused.
Then through tear-filled eyes, she whispered, "He's always at work."
My heart broke into a million pieces. It was true. He had just worked a 90+ hour week and she was usually asleep by the time he got home. I promised her we would take him lunch the next day at school so she could see him. She nodded her head and said, "Okay. That sounds good."
We're in season. We knew it was coming, but this kind of thing is hard to prepare for. You can say, "This is going to be hard" a million times but when life is actually BEING really hard, it's tricky to know how to make it un-hard.
Of course, being a coach's wife has its plusses.
You become a part of a network, a family, a club. You watch your husband spend thousands of hours pouring motivation and encouragement, wisdom and strength into young men who may or may not ever have a positive male presence in their lives again. You experience the high of a win as if you were actually padded up.
But most days are not characterized by these things.
Most days are just me. All by myself. Or scratch that. With three little hoodlums that I have to take care of ... all by myself. During the day, I am not thinking of the excitement of playoffs or the impact my husband is making on his players, but mostly how my 1-year-old keeps waking up at 5 am coughing and how my three-year-old is dropping her nap and whether or not I should call a therapist for my four-year-old or when I'm going to make dinner because I can't afford not to cook.
The grand things -- the lessons and the friendships and the influence and the being-apart-of-something-bigger -- they make it so worth it.
But the daily grind blurs my vision sometimes.
Your spouse is doing something that matters, that demands so much of him, so much of his soul, that sometimes it doesn't feel like there's anything left for you.
And sometimes your leftover life, everything he's left behind, the slack you've had to pick up, the cross you didn't necessarily choose to bear, demands so much of you, so much of your soul, that you don't have much left for him either.
And sometimes you get used to life without that person. You adjust your schedule to fit the needs of the rest of you, not him, because that's what survival looks like. Life goes on, incomplete, but it goes on.
And sometimes, it's harder when he's there. Everyone has gotten into a routine. Expectations have been set based on the ones always present, so things get confusing when there are new expectations present.
And you creep into a really scary place.
Wives become head of household. Husbands become outsiders in their own home.
We have so been there. Sometimes we are still there. I've learned a few things.
Here are My 5 Top Tips to Help Your Marriage Survive The Season
Let him lead. Not because men are better than women at leading their families, but because in the depths of a man's being, he craves respect. He needs it more than anything.
Let him parent. I tend to think I parent better because I parent the most, and therefore think I should be in charge of all things parenting. But I cannot contradict his yeses and nos (and vice versa). You have to show a united front, lest your children get the idea that what Dad says doesn't matter.
Go to him. Be a part of his world. Go to practice. Go to the field house. (Obviously, this is specific to coaching... insert appropriate places here). Go to pep rallies. Take him lunch at school (if you don't work). He can't leave, but maybe you can. Even if he doesn't say it, he needs to see his family. He needs to feel supported and cheered for and being present is a good way of showing that.
Communicate. Text him. Email him. Send him pictures and videos of the kids throughout the day. Tell him you're proud of him and you love him. Give him those compliments you're too awkward to say in person. The beauty of this day and age is you can still talk to each other even if you never see each other.
Make your minutes precious. We are so bad at this. We are so dead at the end of the day that the only thing we want to do is nothing. But this is your ONE CHANCE to connect. Put away the technology. Stop looking at your phones. Make what little time you have together meaningful.
This is a season of sacrifice and service, which is incredibly draining.
And it's so hard because I am naturally a selfish person, and the refining process is a very painful one. It's like God is taking a huge torch (called football season) and burning away all the crust that has coated my heart (called this-life-is-all-about-me).
But, lean in closely so you don't miss this part, don't forget yourself. Give yourself time and priority. Connect with people and connect with God. Ask for help and give yourself grace.
You are worth nothing to no one if you are worn and empty.
And you are worth far more than nothing. You are worth so much. You are worthy of so much. There is no guilt in self-care, only strength, and refreshment.
Don't forget your worth. And don't forget you're worthy.