Every parent of littles knows what the hours between 3:30 and bedtime look like. Kids start to get tired, stir crazy and hungry. Often Mom does too. Patience wears thin and tantrums become more and more frequent. Believe me, no one sings “I’m So Glad When Daddy Comes Home” more enthusiastically than Yours Truly. I look forward so much to having a reinforcement, someone to help with the most hectic stage of the day – dinner, clean-up, and tuck-ins for three children under five.
Shortly after we moved into our current ward, my husband received a calling that requires a lot of him. Often he will be gone two nights a week for meetings and visits, Saturday mornings doing service (like moving someone or painting or yard work) and Sunday mornings for meetings before church. He serves willingly and enthusiastically, without a sign of complaint.
For most of our first year here I was pregnant with our third child. The pregnancy was a challenging one. I experienced intense and constant morning sickness which was coupled with some complications that put me on modified bed rest. 700 miles from the nearest family member and still new and without close friends, I felt like I had no support system other than my husband. I desperately needed his help and support in the evenings when he came home from work. I was unable to be up and about cooking and cleaning very much, which meant a whole lot of chaos in our house with two constant mess-makers.
During this period, it really felt like a sacrifice to support my husband in fulfilling his calling. I knew our family would be blessed through his service, but I murmured in my heart. Because he was still new in his job and working later, our evening family time window on such nights was very small. He would often come home, eat dinner with us, and leave straight from the table to fulfill his responsibilities. With a grim smile I would send him off and then face the bedtime circus solo – feeling nauseous, exhausted and resentful.
I did not complain verbally, but I sure murmured in my heart. I remembered Sariah and how she sometimes gets shamed in Sunday School lessons for murmuring about the things Lehi was called by God to do. I felt like now I could understand where she was coming from. I was feeling resentful over some evening and weekend hours without my main squeeze. She, on the other hand, left her home, belongings, relatives and everything she knew to journey into the desert with her family. Then she watched her sons leave for Jerusalem, knowing they were risking their lives and might never return. Her husband was a prophet, but he was also human. Surely he had made mistakes and bad judgement calls in the past. How tempting it must have been to her to question his judgement in that situation and to murmur at him fulfilling his calling in the way he understood he needed to.
I recall one evening after our daughter was born, my husband had left after dinner to attend to his calling. I felt discouraged that the kids had only seen him for 30 minutes that day. I was lonely and desperate for adult conversation with my best friend. Our newborn was crying inconsolably and the other two would not fall asleep and kept calling to me and crying from their beds. Everyone was crying. Everybody needed me. And I felt that there was none of Me left to give.
After I managed to get the baby calmed down and the other two finally fell asleep, I went into our bedroom and sunk into the armchair in a totally exhausted state. My thoughts wandered towards my husband’s calling and I felt resentment begin to bubble inside me. The Holy Ghost interrupted my thoughts and I saw the situation clearly, perhaps for the first time. I had always known it was a blessing to serve. But the Spirit made it clear to me that night that in fulfilling his duties to God, my husband was also fulfilling his duties to us.
Having a husband who is away fulfilling his calling does not mean I have a husband who does not love me or care about our family and our needs. It means I have a husband who is keeping his covenants.
Having a husband who is gone to administer a blessing to someone means that I am married to a man who can call down the powers of heaven to bless me and my children. He is worthy to exercise the priesthood.
Having a husband who is away at a service project means that I have a companion who loves to serve the Lord and his fellow men and who will likewise serve our family with every chance he gets.
Having a husband who fulfills his duty to the Lord means that I have a husband who feels deeply the call of duty and will always strive to protect and provide for us.
That evening, when I was feeling so drained and spent, the Lord opened my eyes. I realized that underneath all the exhaustion of raising a young family, I am so deeply grateful to have a husband who serves God and others faithfully. His character, obedience, and commitment bless our family on a daily basis.
Of course, there have been occasions when I told my husband that I was the ward member who needed him most that night, and he rearranged his appointments to stay home and minister to me. The stake president and his counselors have made sure I know to communicate to him when I need him to put his calling on hold. I have done so when I have felt the need. But on the evenings when he does take off after dinner, I now strive to remember what the Spirit spoke so clearly to me that night. I have a new perspective on his service and on the opportunity I have to be a “helpmeet” in helping him meet his responsibilities to serve others.
I know he will hold a number of different callings in the future, as will I. Whether he is gone for a campout, service project, meeting or home teaching, I hope to retain the gratitude I have felt to have a husband who serves. And I hope he will extend the same patience towards me when I am the one who is called away to serve.