For the Wife Whose Husband Works Long Hours: How To Thrive and Not Just Survive At Home

When Brian was signed on at his current job, we were told the hours were 8AM-4:30PM. Once he started working, we quickly realized {through lots of arguments and cancelled plans} that overtime is just a part of his job. He never really knows when he will be off work- it varies every day and depends on the heaviness of the work load that day, and the type of work required at his last job of the day. Now that we have three [edit: four!] children to support, overtime is a mandatory part of his job a lot of the time, and most of the time he voluntarily works overtime to provide all we need. We have made the decision that as long as his job can support our family, it is better for him to be at work for long periods of time so that I can stay home with our babies, than it is for us both to be gone from 8-5 every day. We are thankful for his job and the opportunity to control our income and take advantage of overtime pay! But it goes without saying, that it is very hard sometimes. A lot of the time, actually.

Being a wife and mom with a husband who works 12-14 hours a day, five to six days a week is a big deal, and it requires a lot more than others realize. Most of my friends' husbands come home before dinner is served. I simply don't know what that's like! I always think about the family studies that have been done showing that families who eat dinner together every night are stronger, stay together, and send happier, smarter kids out into the world. Of course, as a child of the King, it would be foolish of me to believe that my God cannot rise above this statistic in our situation, but it still hurts my homemaker's heart to know we do not have a lifestyle that allows for that type of daily family time.

The hard truth is that moping and complaining about it or trying to change things out of anger won't do anything good. I pray that my husband is where the Lord wants him and that He would continue to bless us and guide his work decisions. That is the best thing I can do, and the most powerful. This is where my husband is supposed to be right now. My job is to rise up in this circumstance, say no to complaining {how would it make my husband feel if he were to work as hard as he does and come home to a complaining wife?} and feeling sorry for myself, and work towards Proverbs 31 in my specific life situation.

It pleases God when I choose to praise when circumstances do not make it easy.

It pleases my husband when I choose joy and am happy with him and his job.

It pleases God when I please my husband.

Clearly, it does a lot of good when I choose joy in my life, and no good at all when I give in to my flesh by griping and allowing depression in. Plus, guess who's watching me? Three little people with souls and hearts open to receive what they see in me. The mom is the heart of the family. What I say and do and the attitude I exude is everything in my household.

Ouch.

Okay, no complaining! So how do you handle life with small children and being a stay-at-home mom with a husband who is mostly gone? Here are my key choices that make a big difference. Keep in mind, I am so not perfect and these are things I struggle with and fail at all the time.

  • Brian's days off call for some major family time! I pretty much ignore my cell phone, and so does he. We turn off the world and tune into what our purpose is- family. Depending on what the mister and I are feeling is best for our family that day, we will either hang out at home or spend the entire day out, bypassing naps and soaking up every hour. If we stay home, we are reading books to the kids, having a family movie night, going for a hike near our house, or even getting caught up on things, as long as it is done as a family. We involve the kids in everything, even though it takes a little longer to move through the day.
  • We take advantage of technology when he is working. Brian leaves for work just as the kids are waking up and gets home after they are in bed. When he is working, he doesn't see them. We switched to iPhones two years ago so that we could take advantage of FaceTime on these days. The kids freak out when his face shows up on the screen and love talking to him about their days! Adorable. We try to FaceTime a couple of his work days per week, but I'm careful not to tell the kids about it until it is actually happening, just in case it doesn't work out. I also send him tons of pictures and videos of whatever we are doing that day. He tells me this really helps him feel like he missed less and brings him so much joy!
  • I have it in my mind that I am a single parent on the days he is working. I have to let go of all my expectations about when he will be home, if he could maybe get home early and help me with the bedtime routine, if we could maybe make it to a social event we were invited to, etc. When I hold onto these expectations {because sometimes, they do happen} I am always completely let down if it doesn't end up happening how I wanted. Then I'm in a terrible mood and can't love on and serve my hard-working hubby when he gets home. If there is something I really want to go to, I get a sitter and plan on going alone. If Brian ends up making it too, awesome. If not, I didn't expect him to anyway, and he is free to get caught at work without coming home to a cranky wife.
  • I go out for coffee with a friend once a week, every week, no matter what. I have to take care of myself, and I have to make sure my well is full so that I can continuously and constantly be pouring out to my family. Coffee with my dearest friend is such therapy for me. I'm out of the house, sipping a delicious cup of coffee that I didn't have to make myself, and talking to another adult. Perfection! My best friend and I never miss a coffee night. It may have to be rescheduled, but once a week, we are out, away from the kids, refreshing our spirits with the gift of friendship and good conversation.
  • I plan for the occasional nap during the week. Since my mom hours are almost double most people's, I am tired! I try to let go of the chores and lay down on my couch a couple times a week during the kids' naps. Bella doesn't nap anymore, so I make sure the child locks are all latched and either turn on a movie for her for have her have some quiet time, and just doze for a little bit. It is so refreshing and really helps me get through that second half of the day when most families are welcoming Daddy home for dinner, but I've still got five to six hours until I see Brian.
  • I have a routine I use as a guideline. I have a list of daily and weekly must do's- the things that keep our family functioning smoothly. I never fulfill it perfectly [not my personality], but it has really helped me keep the cupboards full of snacks, the house picked up, and the laundry caught up. When you don't have your hubby home to wrestle with the kids while you catch up, a routine is a lifesaver!
  • I don't let the work schedule become a "pause" button for our family. In the past, Brian's work schedule really brought us down. I would wait to do anything of memory-making substance until he had a day off. A lot of the time, he would be so exhausted or the thing I wanted us to do wouldn't land on the right day of the week, so I was constantly let down and frustrated. There were a lot of days off ruined by my attitude and expectations. Now, I take the kids to do fun things by myself; I don't wait for hubby's day off. We will do something else fun on his day off, but his schedule no longer has me waiting around at home constantly. I prepare ahead of time to handle all of them without help, or invite a friend or grandparent to come along. I know my limits and where I can and can't handle them on my own, and I live my life as their mom.
  • I plan a monthly date night out, and some date nights in on the weeks in between. We have to have alone time together, every married couple does. It is extra important for a couple with schedules like ours! When we go out, we choose one of our favorite restaurants and enjoy the benefits of his working so much with a delicious meal I didn't have to cook. We sit close to one another, hold hands, touch, kiss, and act like a dating couple. When we stay in, we cozy up on the couch and act the same way together. As long as we are without kids and enjoying one another's company, the goal is met, and the marriage is strengthened. 
  • My goal is to leave the house once every day. If I know that at some point every single day, I am going to leave the house with the kids, it helps motivate me to get dressed and put myself together. Usually, we go to the gym. They have an awesome kids club with face-painting, activities, and a huge jungle gym- my kids love it and beg to go every day. It's the perfect place to go most days of the week- motivation, exercise that helps with moods and fatigue, and fun for my kids. On the days we skip the gym, we head to the park or local lake. I will say that I almost never leave my house on Mondays. I don't know what it is, but I just never want to, and the kids are usually fine to stay home too. This is the day I do heavy cleaning, catch up on laundry, and do most of our homeschooling workbook stuff.
     
  • EDIT: We have four kids now, and going to the gym is a thing of the past for me. Also, it has become unrealistic and unhelpful for me to plan on leaving the house every day. Now I just get up and get going in the morning. I will sometimes go for a run, make breakfast, get myself and my kids dressed, and tackle my house work or whatever I've got to do that day. If we have been at home for a few days in a row, I'll plan a play date or a picnic at the park. The point is, I stay busy and don't let myself just hang around getting depressive about Brian's schedule. If you don't have four kids and getting out once a day would be helpful to you, do it! It used to help me when that was my season :)

If you are the wife of a long-hour husband, I understand. I know some of you have hubbies who work even longer hours than mine and go to school! I've heard from you before and I am just floored by your dedication to your families. Great will be your reward in heaven!

Allie Casazza

Allie Casazza , Murrieta, CA