When Daddy Works Late

My husband works late about once a week. It can be rough. I dread that night. Often, he tells me early in the week so I can plan around it, but there are times when the clock hits 5 and I haven't heard from him all day and my heart just knows--he's going to be late. Sigh.

Let me just pause for a moment and give a major shoutout to single moms and military wives who do night time all by themselves every night. You rock.

My husband is working late two nights this week. TWO nights. Since I know ahead of time, I can plan my day to prepare for the crazy of dad-less dinner and bedtime. Here's what I do:

1. Keep Dinner Simple: 

Obvious, right? But I can't tell you how many times I've stubbornly stuck to a "real dinner" rather than stay simple and do only food the kids love. Avoid dinner battles like the plague on nights without Daddy. Tonight's dinner: raviolis (not homemade, no way) and Costco pesto sauce. I also don't shy away from calling up the grandparents to see what their dinner plans are and if involve 3 overactive boys and 1 tired mom.

2. Pace Myself:

Although a mommy work day always lasts until bedtime (I won't even mention everything we do after they go to bed), we're used to the reprieve of that Daddy Home moment and all the help that comes after it. Dinner and bedtime are no easy feat, but they are particularly hard when we're missing half of the tag-team.

When I'm used to running a 5k of motherhood every day, and suddenly get thrown into a half-marathon, I must adjust my pace. When Daddy's working late, I give myself extra breathing room throughout the day. I revert to rest-when -they-rest, newborn-style living. Cross today's day off the top of my list and write tomorrow's day there instead. Almost every goal I've set for myself can wait. Better to maintain a rhythm of rest than become Volcano Mommy, spewing angry mouthfuls of crushing criticism. I know enough about myself as a mom to recognize when I just need rest. So they are asleep or on quiet time and I know Dad's coming home late, I forget the task list and indulge: watch a tv show, read a book, surf the internet, or even take a nap.

When they aren't resting I continue to maintain a slow pace for the day, forgetting the unnecessary and just being Mom.

3. Plan an extra treat:

Think of something special for your kids and keep it in your back pocket for when the breaking point comes. Then you just step back and yell over the chaos: I've got _____ waiting! Think a trip to the playground, that book with flaps you have to keep on top of the fridge so it doesn't get destroyed, a popsicle, or even a bath. Today I have homemade chocolate chip cookies at the ready for when the insanity breaks loose beyond my control.

4. Do a Daddy Thing:

For my 3 boys, it's wrestling, tickling, or Hide and Seek after dinner. I try to do one of their favorite Dad-activities on nights he can't be home with them. Because it's hard for them to not see Daddy too. Because my husband fills a different role in their lives than I do. I can't replace Dad, but I can get outside of my box and give them a small dose of what he offers them.

5. Receive and Give Extra Grace:

I'm going to get honest and say some days I nurse grudges against one or all of my children. Because as much as I talk about giving space for failure in myself and my kids, my default is always going to be expecting perfection of all of us. When I know it's going to be a long day, I have to receive extra grace from God and let it overflow to my kids. Pray for a supernatural filling of the Holy Spirit. Repeat a simple Bible verse (I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Phil 4:13). Play worship songs on my phone. He gives me new grace for every new day. There's always enough on God's table to overflow into my relationships with my kids, but I don't always eat everything He is providing.

When Dad Gets Home:

My husband got home just in time to tuck my oldest son in for the night. But no matter when Wes gets home, even if it's a minute after I finish putting all the boys to bed or shortly before I go to sleep, my attitude should be the same: grateful. Because my man doesn't work late to make my life more difficult. He doesn't work late to avoid his family. He works early mornings and late nights to provide for our us. He works long hours to make certain his job is done right for the good of the company and for the good of his family. And for that I'll greet him with a kiss and a listening ear, not a list of my hard day.