How do you balance everything? I get that question a lot.
Interestingly enough, the question comes just as often from wives looking for hints to give their husbands as it does from friends.
Unfortunately, many of them don’t like my answer. I don’t balance everything. I strive for integration.
Here are a few tips for you wives and mothers out there with husbands who are passionate about their work. How do you get him home?
1. Understand the importance of his work to him.
A common misconception from wives is that your husband loves work more than he loves you. While this may be the case, and I’ve definitely been guilty of this form of adultery myself, the reality is that we’ve been made to work (see Genesis). I have a vocation of providing for my family.
I need to work to be fulfilled. I was made to do it and my Creator instructed me to do it. While I sometimes get my priorities out of whack, the reality is that I take great pride in being productive, in what I accomplish, and how well I take care of my family. Work is integral to who I am. By understanding this, you can understand his natural inclination and his flaws instead of just getting angry. The less angry and more understanding you are, the more he will want to be home.
2. Understand your role in fueling his drive.
Your husband loves you and wants to give you your heart’s desire. That new car that you’ve asked for, the home with the white picket fence you dream about, and the budget that you want to get rid of all fuel him. Until he gives you your heart’s desire there is a piece of him that will feel like he’s letting you down (and in some unhealthy cases, inadequate). He wants to be your knight in shining armor.
My wife grew up on 68 acres in Texas. From before we were engaged, I knew that she loved having “space” and wasn’t too fond of living in a neighborhood. That’s who she is. Despite living in a neighborhood my entire life, I took this on as my own passion. I HAD to give her what her heart desired. No matter how much she loved our first and second home and regardless of the fact that she picked them out almost exclusively, I knew that I would not fulfill her dreams until we had acreage. The day we closed on our home (5 acres, with a creek!), our marriage got better. Seriously. Not because she did anything different, but because I knew that I was able to give her something special. Something that was close to her heart. In my mind, I was able to provide for her as she always wanted to be provided for.
I know that the home we bought is not perfect. She wanted the laundry room of her dreams and a front porch (after months of searching, I can assure you that there is no perfect home for a family of 8 that is not custom built for that family). While we love the home, I won’t be totally off the hook until our new laundry room is complete (construction started two days ago! Yay!).
Trust me, these desires motivate me and are in the front of my mind.
Realize how you fuel your husband’s commitment to work without even trying. Understand how you motivate him with your desires.
3. Understand your need to be engaged.
This is a tricky one because sometimes you need to be involved and sometimes you need to back away. Either way, you need to learn how to read your husband.
I’m an analytical thinker. I collect information, connect dots, process, and then make decisions. Sometimes I need to talk things out or collect more data points in order to process things so that I can let them go for the night. Every once in a while I find myself staying at the office in order to talk a decision through with one of my executives.
What can be even more refreshing is talking these things out with my wife. She has a unique outside perspective that I respect and she knows me well enough to be able to read between the lines and point out things that I may not have otherwise noticed. At the same time, if I feel the topic is one that she’s not interested in or doesn’t know anything about, it’s hard for me to break away from processing mode and have a discussion with her.
We’re still not perfect, but Teresa is learning when and how to engage. When she does we have some of the best moments of our marriage together. She feels important and part of my life, and I feel as though she cares about one of the most important parts of my life.
I also love it when Teresa comes to the office, bakes cookies for my teammates, and joins me for events that I have to attend. There are plenty of ways for her to be involved. Once a year we host a company picnic and she works with our HR department to pull it together. To kick off the planning effort she has the team over to our house and prepares us lunch. I love that.
Her engagement in my work life is important to me and makes me want to come home.
4. Understand that you can’t have it both ways.
I know SO many wives that want a husband to work 40 hours a week. A full-time job is not a 40 hours a week commitment. Forty hours is a standard that labor unions that have their roots in the industrial revolution have tried to maintain.
The vast majority of husbands will not be successful in their work in 40 hours a week. It won’t happen. The careers of those who try typically stall. Those who move up the ranks are committed and driven. They go over and above. They understand that results, not effort, is what it’s all about.
This isn’t just about working from 9-5. This means understanding that things happen. There will be urgent things to attend to that creep up just as your husband is walking out of the door to head home.
5. Understand that your emotional response has an effect.
Do you know what I dread the most? I hate coming home when I’m late for dinner or missed an event. I mean it. I dread it to the point that sometimes I stay even later than I need to because I don’t want to face Teresa. I exacerbate the problem to delay the ramifications. I know I’ve disappointed her and I just don’t want to face the music.
When Teresa is understanding (of course, the vast majority of the time!) she alleviates this stress. When she is angry it reinforces the fear and drives me further away.
If you are able to understand the importance of work to your husband, know that you can’t have it both ways, and try to be engaged in what he does, hopefully you will be able to control your emotions when you get that call — he still hasn’t left yet and dinner is already on the table.