One of my rookie mistakes the first handful of times I found myself at home with the kids while my husband was away was to look forward to his return. I know that sounds crazy…how could looking forward to his return be a mistake?
Well, here’s why. Every day Derek was gone, I would miss him more and it would seem harder and harder to manage things at home alone. As things got more stressful, I would keep the exact day and time in my mind when he would walk through the door. I would be completely focused on when everything would be right with the world and I could hand him a cranky child and no longer be the only parent in charge. What I soon realized was that the day or time I was working towards…the finish line, was not guaranteed.
Countless times there have been flight delays and even cancellations. International flights are notoriously unpredictable and domestic flights and connections are not much better. It has been rough to discover that the finish line was moved out by five hours, 10 hours, or even a whole day. And the kid’s little disappointed faces when I have to tell them…granted, I should probably mention that it is worse on my husband…but this post is not about that is it. 😉
What I have learned from these disappointments is to extend the finish line. That is the third tip in our series, “5 Tips for Parents When Your Spouse is Out of Town.”
Extending the finish line allows me to mentally prepare for any delays in Derek’s return, but it also helps when things actually do go as planned. You see, even if he returns exactly when scheduled, it doesn’t mean that my job as a parent is magically over for a little while and I can just go flit off to Target or wherever. In fact, when Derek walks in the door, after all the hugs and presents and stories, he is ready to crash too. He has been traveling and working and has been away from the comfortable routines and rhythms of home. He is ready for a break too. Just simply extending the finish line in my mind a day or two allows me to anticipate his needs as we ease back into the rhythm of “normal life.” Otherwise, I’ll admit, it is easy for me to throw a pity party for myself and turn into a very-not-nice-person-to-be-around because my expectations were unrealistic. If I extend the finish line I can simply enjoy his return whenever that is and focus on him and not how tired and drained I feel. Interestingly, I’ve found that when I have mentally extended the finish line I recover more quickly! Perhaps because I’m not focused on myself and what I think will make me feel better.
Extending the finish line is a practical way to love and serve your family. There are many times as a weary parent where we think, “I’ve had it. I can’t take another minute.” However, it is these moments that grow us and stretch us. If we rely on God, we can find ourselves giving and loving beyond our limits. Extending the finish line is a way of giving grace to your spouse and to yourself. It is letting go of expectations and being patient with the time it takes to recover from a stressful season for both of you.
Your turn. —>Have you ever felt the disappointment of a finish line getting moved out further than you expected? How can mentally extending the finish line help you get through a stressful season?
Singing His Grace,