04 Oct Welcome Home
Not all women have the opportunity to be home full-time with the children for longer than a maternity leave. Life is very different when you are home and your husband is not. When I was newly married, I assumed my husband had the better end of the deal by leaving home everyday to go to work with adults. He didn’t have all the noise, chaos, mess and fights to deal with. He could talk to normal people in a normal way, receive a lot of intellectual stimulation and also receive more acknowledgment, affirmation and rewards. I’d count the minutes till he got home, using all my energy to keep myself together. When he’d walk in the door, I felt I could finally come undone and hand things over to him, tell him about my day and have a break.
Surprisingly over time, I realized that my husband comes home mentally exhausted, having put his best foot forward all day long in work performance and work relations. He is a conscientious man who works hard to support his family and bring honor to his family name. All day long he is in a battle zone of demands, responsibilities and expectations from his superiors, colleagues, and those whom he serves. He enjoys his job, but it takes a toll. He gives his all so that he can keep his job, advance in his career and support the growing needs of our family.
It became apparent after a couple of children that my husband needed to come home to a house that was welcoming, attractive, refreshing, calm and nourishing. Since I am at home during the day, this is a real possibility. Experience taught me that he appreciated a real Welcome Home from everyone. Over the years I have gained insight from many women on how to make this moment a real joy in his life. Our home is the heart of our family, a haven for every member – a place where we love and are loved. My husband is the most important person in my life and his happiness and welfare are essential to me. When we welcome him home, we show him how much we value the daily sacrifices he makes us for, how much we love him and how important he is to each one of us. This can be done in numerous ways. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Try to get a feel for when your husband will be coming home. You may have to ask in the morning, call or email if he has sporadic work hours. That way you can be ready and anticipate his arrival.
- Encourage him to call if he is running late. Many women live for that moment he walks in the door. Oftentimes we find just a 15 minute delay is enough for us to become unglued from exhaustion. Use word pictures to convey this to him. For example, all day long I feel a storm is brewing. As the day progresses, I feel like I am getting hit by thunderbolts. When you walk in the door, it is like a beautiful rainbow above a gorgeous sunset. If you are late and I don’t know why, I feel caught in the worst of the storm without any shelter. A phone call makes all the difference. It is like you give an umbrella and a bag full of hope.
- Now that you know when he’ll be arriving, make an effort to get ready in ways you know he would appreciate. You have to study your man to know his particular likes. Think of comments he’s made over the years, things that upset him, or you know he dislikes. Maybe he says the following:
- He can’t even walk to his favorite chair – Don’t take the comment personally and get your back up; rather listen and try to do something about it. Ten minutes before you expect him home, rally the kids to get a dustpan and scoop up the toys. Even just clearing a straight path free from legos and dinky cars will be appreciated. Praise them for their help. “Boy will daddy be happy to walk in the door and sit in his favorite chair because the room is tidy. What a happy moment you are making for dad.”
- The noise of the children upsets him. — Again, don’t resent his comments or take them personally. He’s drained and has a hard time switching from one demanding environment to another. Just imagine if you were air dropped into a management position of several demanding employees with little or no training on your part. You’d feel overwhelmed too. So take it in stride and plan your day a bit differently. Make your dinner with your breakfast cleanup when you have more energy and optimism. Take your kids somewhere after naps where they can run and scream it all out. You need the fresh air too and it will help you feel like there is life beyond the confines of your home. Give a great snack when you arrive home and then they’ll be ready for time on their own reading, playing, doing playdough or something low key. That will give you a down time and also unwind everyone before dad arrives.
- Talk positively and regularly about your husband to your kids during the day. Tell them how much he’ll love that picture they drew for his office. How hard he is working because he loves his family so much. How excited he’ll be to hear about their milestones. Get the kids eager to have him home. Dad is our hero. Talk about him like that. My youngest children often will say, “Mommy, Mommy, you’re hero is home.” They know he’s the most important person in my life and it gives them such a sense of security and well-being.
- Make a great effort to look alive when he arrives. I know you feel worn out and probably look it, but realize your husband spent a day working with fantastic looking women. He needs to come home to a place and a wife that truly renews him in body and spirit. Freshen up, brush your hair, put on a dab of lipstick, and better yet, a big smile. Give him a warm hug, sound joyful, be joyful. Wear colors that look great on you. This does take a big effort after a long day with little kids, but it’s worth it to him. Think of what would please him – a cold drink, a couple minutes alone, etc. for him to get his bearings.
- Encourage the children to welcome him home in words and big bear hugs. Yeah Dad’s home!!! Welcome home Dad!!! Intermittently have your children draw chalk I LOVE YOU DAD’s on the sidewalk, or tempra paint on the entrance window, or little signs on the mailbox, WELCOME HOME DAD to make him concretely see he is missed, loved, thought about. It makes a world of difference to a dad. When my husband is away for long periods, we always make signs, surprises and special meals to welcome him home. It’s become a wonderful family tradition he looks so forward to. He really enjoys being valued highly. Who doesn’t!
- Think more of your husband’s appetite when planning meals. It’s good to make things that kids like, but don’t sacrifice your husband’s tastes in the process. You know his favorite foods, drinks, desserts, etc. Make a regular effort to please him in small details of your menus, snacking foods, desserts, drinks, food presentation etc. It has often been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Think about it, plan for it and regularly do something for him. Even putting out a tablecloth, candles, or a glass of wine to mark his achievements, special days etc. speak volumes to him about how much you value his contributions to the family. If you don’t cheer him on in such a way, who will? A wise woman develops her skills in this area.
- Channel your problems differently. Your husband is your knight in shining armor. Each day he goes to battle to put out many fires at work. He too focuses on the moment he can leave his job and let everything hang loose. If he doesn’t feel that home is a haven where he can recuperate, you are encouraging him to check out other doors, or put in longer hours at work. Beware. You’re aim is to shoot for 50 years of great marriage, not something on the rocks. So don’t complain to your husband as soon as he walks in the door or is eating supper. Channel it elsewhere or wait till later to share what is really important. Learn to distinguish between dumping and seeking advice. You do need support, but find other avenues. Call girlfriends to unload normal craziness on them during the day. Friends offer a great venue for support, laughter and sharing of news.
- Don’t expect your husband to be superhero. He’s a normal man with normal energy levels. He too is zapped. Make your evenings pleasurable, as stress-free as possible. Children’s after-school programs should be an enrichment to the family, not a drain of energy, time or money. Balance is important. Don’t sacrifice your marriage for your children. They need mom and dad together, more than paid activities. Keep outings to a minimum. He’s been pulled in different directions all day long, don’t continue the trend to the detriment of his well-being.
- Develop healthy routines in the evenings. Suppers together, everyone helping to clean up, quiet time for play, homework, reading, baths, prayers, etc. These rituals form a great part of the fabric of family life because we a lot of talking, laughing, enjoying and being together occurs in such an informal and relaxed manner. Bank the moments as often as you get them. They are treasures that will slip through your fingers when the kids get older.
- Help your husband relax. Find magazines he enjoys, books he can browse through, even for just a moment. My husband rarely has time totally to himself. We keep the house re-freshed with new library books. Cartoon books like TinTin, Asterik, Calvin and Hobbes and Dilbert are some of my husband’s favorites. It takes just a couple of minutes. He loves the escape and the humor. Help set the tone. Try different kinds of music from the library. Find out what he likes to listen to. Invest in some good tapes. Develop his interests. Have the music playing when he comes home. Encourage him to take up a childhood hobby, even if it is just an hour a week for him to escape from his burdens into something he thoroughly enjoys. It will re-fresh him so much.
- But what about me? I’ve slaved all day. Why should I bend over backwards for him? He does little for me. Sometimes these ideas run through our heads and lips. We feel victim, martyr, maybe rightly so. But your husband could start the same list from his life’s demands. The thing is not to get caught up making lists and pitting oneself one against the other. It’s not about who does more or less. We shouldn’t keep score. We’re in this because we love each other. We promised on our wedding day to be there through thick and thin, good and bad. Marriage is about giving oneself for the well-being of the other. When we’ve lost this perspective it’s time we re-assess. Maybe we need more sleep, more friends, more fun, more communication, or maybe a healthier view of our role, our self-giving etc. Josemaria Escriva once said, “Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” The solution is not in withdrawing and expecting more. It is a desire of the will to gladly give oneself because you love and want to be loved. Focus on making him happier and you will find it won’t take long and he will be looking for ways to make you happier.
- On a slightly different note, if you need to leave for a few days and have your husband take care of the kids, make it enjoyable for them. Let them let their hair hang down, so to speak. Get your husband a great supply of his favorite munchies. Post a schedule of meals, events, phone numbers etc. on the kitchen cupboard. Maybe get a babysitter to come in for a bit, to free him up. Have easy, fun meals for the family that is little work but definitely kid pleasers (cans of zoodles, spaghetti, pizza, burgers, pop, chips). Don’t be too hung up on nutrition and balance. Get them a supply of fun movies. Re-stock your library book selection. Let them have a bit more computer time maybe. Even stay up longer. Let dad do what he wants with them and be a kid. Don’t get hung up on the house being a mess when you get back. So what! The time they spend together feeling free of mom, enjoying life and each other is such a rich bonding moment. Ask your husband for ideas of things he’s always wanted to do at home, but never had the time. Make it happen for him while you are away and you’ll see that everyone is happy with the scenario. It makes it so much easier for you to take a break the next time. My kids look so forward to it, they often ask, “So when you goin’ away again? Can’t you stay longer?” When you do come back they are excited to see you, and believe me everyone appreciates return to routines, mom’s good cooking and the special presence of you in the house. Everyone wins.
These are just a few of the ideas of how to Welcome Dad Home. It is a subject more women need to think about. Family is a priority and it should be in a man’s life. However the way a woman handles the welcome home determines whether her husband wants to come home or not. Many men escape into work, too much work, because coming home has lost its appeal. Your sacrifice and effort in this department makes a big difference over the years. Your marriage is worth it. It’s a small cost to pay for stronger and more vibrant marriages. Give it a try.