Life can be pretty hectic for families. Kids in school, activities to participate in, no extended family nearby, building and maintaining friendships (we all need a village), work and illnesses and aging parents and let’s face it, the list goes on and on. Some families have one spouse who travels extensively. Others have financial stress or job instability or need to move to find work. Some families are military families facing deployments, or physician families who struggle with the often hidden demands that particular lifestyle entails.
In our family, one of our main challenges is that we have a very unpredictable schedule because my husband Matt is an anesthesiologist. He is a managing partner in a very busy private practice anesthesia group. Sounds pretty exciting (spoiler alert, exciting is subjective).
My elevator speech is that the position allows him to help steer the future of his group (our livelihood) in a profession he is truly passionate about, (and I’m so very proud of him). My reality is that on top of an average of 70 or so hours of clinical work per week, otherwise known as his day job, he is also one of three managing partners handling…everything, (and I’m so very proud of him).
Under the best of circumstances, life feels busy and hectic (join the club right)? Under the worst of circumstances, he’s gone for 85 or so hours in a week/weekend, sometimes up until 11 when he is home trying to catch up on emails and practice management, and we miss him. I miss him. But hey, how boring life would be if I showed up to a hibachi restaurant with my 2 and 4 year olds in tow and my hubby actually showed up (instead of me trying to manage them, the fire, the meal, his order, packing up his order and heading home because his “I’ll definitely be there by 5” turned into him running in the door to help with bath time at 7:30).
Making life even more complicated for Matt is that I have a primary “love language” of quality time. Meaning that I feel most loved when I receive focused, undivided attention. In Matt’s world, time is the least plentiful resource he has to give. Whether it’s an ER visit for our child’s first broken bone, an important pregnancy ultrasound, or even the day after I give birth, that “focused” and undivided attention is often not mine for the taking because he’s putting an epidural in for someone else who is giving birth or helping someone else’s child with multiple broken bones come through surgery safely.
Sometimes what he does is downright awe inspiring to me and I know he’s right where he needs to be at the right moment for someone else, to keep them or their child safe. Other times, (and it does not make me proud to admit it), I feel jealous of the people who need him and I wonder exactly what type of “emergency” or important life event I will need to face to get his complete, predictable and undivided attention. It certainly makes my love language of quality time a tricky one for him.
My secondary “language” is receiving gifts. This would seem like a silver lining if only he had the time to make a call during an average day to arrange for a small token to let me know his thoughts are with me even though he can’t be. But as the person who schedules his dentist appointments and plans his travel and shops for his clothing and returns calls and emails for him, I know he can’t typically use the phone during his working hours. For someone who has gifts as their love language, it can be a challenging state of affairs when I have to text “do you want me to get myself a mother’s day card” and only mean it half jokingly.
Recently though, he hit a home run. He woke up earlier than his usual 5 am. He left the house, and when I woke up he was walking in the door with bagels from a deli we heard gets them delivered each morning from Brooklyn. Now, as a native of NY state, I am admittedly a bagel (and pizza) snob. I recently asked my brother to ship me bagels from NJ because I can’t find bagels where I live that are worth my time and calories. My usual carb loving self goes into overdrive when I’m pregnant, so bagels have gone from “nice to have” status to “I’ll pay anything, just ship them.” So when my husband heard about this deli that has authentic NYC bagels, he knew I had to have them.
When he walked in the door, I was thrilled and touched. My emotional love tank (see The Five Love Languages) was officially refilled. He thought of me, he made his already early morning even earlier, and he brought me a small token to let me know that he loved me. For those who have not read The Five Love Languages (which I review in a different post here) I highly recommend it. While bagels are not technically on the list of love languages, I’m pretty sure they’re mine. Sometimes, in these hectic days, and for those in the midst of working long hours or raising young families or managing career demands, it truly is the little things than can keep us feeling whole isn’t it?