Sidelines: Turning the Frown Upside Down

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By Monica deRegt

So I'm on my own again. Me and the three kids. My husband is away for two nights for his job. I'm sure many of you can relate. Although I know everyone deals with things differently, I also know from a few interactions with other ministry spouses that there is a general feeling of "ugh" about this part of being married to a youth pastor. Whether it's a youth retreat, a mission trip, a summer campout, or even just 10 evenings straight of your spouse having meetings and youth nights, whatever it is, it's just not fun to say goodbye to your spouse and start solo-parenting for several days. And I don't know about you, but I can quite quickly spiral into feeling very sorry for myself in these situations.

Recently, around the dinner table, we were teaching our son what "turn that frown upside down" means, and I found myself using the same words on myself this morning as my husband drove out of our driveway at 7 a.m. Over the years of giving up my husband for 1-,2-,3- and sometimes even 17-night work-related trips, I have learned many ways not only to cope, but also to actually enjoy the silver lining of this particular cloud that blows across our sky quite frequently. I'm going to share with you a few of the ones that help me through these times, and hopefully, if you have some good ones to share, you can post them and we can all help each other out!

  1. I often use these times to spoil myself in little ways. Since there is no other adult to cook for, I might order a pizza for the kids and me to share (it's amazing how much less pizza you need to get when your husband isn't around!!), or I might feed the kids eggs on toast, and then order Chinese food for one after they go to bed. Or we'll take a few extra trips through the Tim Horton's drive-thru (car rides are a great way to get out when things are going crazy at home). I've also rented chick-flicks, or given myself a foot bath or a bubble bath--anything that makes you feel a little extra special! It's a great time to do it.
  1. I really get to know my children. Often I feel stressed by the fact that I am parenting alone, but the flip-side to this is that the kids get a lot more of my one-on-one attention when Daddy is gone, especially at the breakfast, lunch, and dinner table that is usually filled with a lot more adult conversation. By the end of one of my weekends alone, I usually find myself feeling much closer to my kids, and incredibly blessed by the renewed closeness in our relationship. As a treat to them, or something to make up for their sadness at seeing Daddy go, I will sometimes let the kids share my bed with me, which can be great cuddle time! In general, I just seem to have more time for them, and that is always a good thing for both of us! (I often say though, that it would be great for Daddy and them as well ... something to encourage!)
  1. I have learned to embrace the quiet time. Sometimes, at the stage of life we are in, I feel that our lives can feel chaotic, and there is so little time for myself, let alone quality time with God. Usually, when my husband is gone, I am more drawn to open my Bible and spend more time in prayer (admittedly, sometimes out of desperation for help!), and I seem to have more time for that when he is gone. This isn't to say that I think this should happen ONLY when I am alone for a few days, but the truth is, it happens more readily at those times, and I've come to appreciate that and look forward to it.
  1. Although I don't like it when my husband goes away for a while, I am thankful for what is taking him away. I have many acquaintances who are often home alone because their spouses are gone on fishing trips, sports tournaments, ski weekends, scrapbooking retreats (I'm talking about my male acquaintances here--women do take off too!), etc, etc. While there is definitely some merit to having your own interests and pursuing hobbies, I am thankful that most of the time if I am home alone it is because my husband is feeling called to do ministry for the sake of God's kingdom. That is admirable, and I like to try to remind myself that I am honored to be married to such a devoted man.
  1. And last but not least, as the old saying goes "absence makes the heart grow fonder". This is so corny, but so true! It can be so easy in marriage to take your spouse for granted and not think about all the ways you appreciate him/her. But when they are gone, you realize how much you miss about them. Having my husband gone a lot is a constant reminder to myself and the kids of how much we love him, and on our phone calls we get the chance to say that, when it might not come up as quickly in everyday life. These parts of his job can actually be healthy for our marriage and family life!

Wow, this list is so positive, I just know that when my husband reads it, he is going to think I actually like it better when he's gone! Not at all! But it's been fun to turn my frown upside down, and I look forward to hopefully hearing some more great ideas from some of you. And now I think I'll head to Starbucks ...

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