How My Husband's Travels Affected Our Family
“If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.”
For the past eight years, my husband has traveled to China to design and develop products for our business and for an import company based in New York. His talent was spotted at market one year, and the rest is history.
Except it's not.
His trips started off as once per year. Steadily, his trips increased to three trips to China per year, for three to four weeks at a time. More and more factory owners were asking him to come.
He also traveled setting up and designing showrooms in New York, Dallas, and Atlanta, as well as setting up our businesses temporary showroom at the Atlanta Market twice per year.
Once, I added up all the weeks he was gone in a year, and it was close to twenty weeks....that was the REALLY bad year. That year, he was also hired by a Canadian company to come for a week and set up their store for Christmas Open House.
When he left for his first trip to China, we had a two year old son. During the course of his travels, we added an additional son to our family.
While he was gone, I always felt like a single Mom. Days would pass without hearing from my husband, depending on what part of China he was in. Or he would Facetime us, but the service would be sketchy. His face would be blurry, and we could barely make out what he was saying. Emails were hit or miss.
It was frustrating. But we trudged forward.
He felt like he was doing something good for the business and for our family, and I wanted to support him.
I have a flair for independence, to a fault, so I never really let him know how difficult it was for me when he was gone.
But I needed him. I needed him more than he realized and more than I would admit.
Our sons needed him.
And he needed us.
But we got caught in this cycle of him thinking he was providing a better way of life for us, and me wanting to be a supportive wife. Many tears have been shed over the years while he was gone. I would have a bad day at work and then come home to sick or unruly children. We were all doing the best we could do.
While he was gone, I felt like I had to be the Mom and the Dad, and I would speak out loud, "Lord, bless all the single Moms and single Dads out there trying to do this gig on their own day after day after day."
My patience was thin, and I would totter between two realities a.) Live stressed and high on adrenaline making my boys walk the straight and narrow--being more strict than necessary, raising my voice more than usual, ready to duct tape them to the wall. I didn't stop from the time I got up until the time I went to bed.
OR b.) Every man for himself. Survival of the fittest. You want to eat junk for dinner--sure. Hot cocoa before bed, why not. (Okay, so I wasn't that crazy, but close)
You want to slide down the stairs on a mattress--go for it. Just let Momma take a bath in peace. You want to stay up until midnight on a school night, I don't have the energy to fight you tonight. Momma needs sleep.
Don't want to brush your hair or wear matching clothes to school. That's cool. I can't argue with you anymore. And I'm too tired to climb a tree to break a switch, and I didn't trust them to break their own. You Southern Mommas know what I'm talking about.
Parenting with both parents present is exhausting enough. Parenting solo while working full time and being overly involved in church and community activities will darn near kill a woman.
I missed my husband so much my heart literally hurt at times, and I longed for him to come home. We all did. We used a handmade paper calendar attached to the refrigerator to count down his homecoming and slowly mark each day with an X.
In the beginning, we were eager to mark the days off. Toward the end, things began to get blurry and we would skip several days of marking our faithful X because we were all tired. We were in survival mode.
By the grace of God, we made it each time. Only by the grace of God.
The days we picked him up from the airport were always like Christmas morning full of expectation and joy!
Except my husband would be so tired from being on several planes making his way back to the good ole USA that he didn't have much to say or contribute for his first week home. Jetlag became another time thief.
But for years, we walked around clueless...totally oblivious to the toll it was taking on our marriage and our family. We both thought everything was going well until, one day, a light bulb went off in both of our heads as we talked about my husband's upcoming international trip.
A series of serious conversations led to my husband saying, "I can't go back. I can't leave you and the boys again."
I cried. He cried.
My husband had grown weary of traveling. It caused him to miss out on so much. He didn't realize just how much. It was sucking the life from him.
When we told the boys of his decision, they were excited. Our oldest said sheepishly, "Sometimes when you are gone, I forget you are my Dad."
That statement was like a sharp knife to my husband's heart.
He never knew our kids felt this way.
I told him about my breakdowns while he was gone. He had no idea and said, "I guess I just knew you were strong and independent. I didn't even realize you needed me." And I sure didn't admit that I needed him. I guess I feared he would see me as weak.
But boy did I need him.
So, we made a vow that we would seek God first, in all things. That we would filter every decision we make through the question, "Are we seeking God first with this decision?"
When you are living a stressed out and busy life, it's hard to have overflow to share with others. We can go through the motions without any self-reflection or quiet time. It's hard to be Jesus when you're thoughts are so consumed with work or other activities.
Next, we would ask how our decisions would impact our marriage and our family. We promised to always keep God first, each other second, our children third, and our careers last.
And we promised to honestly communicate what we were thinking and feeling from that point on.
We made the prayerful decision that my husband would no longer leave us for weeks at a time for work.
We aren't sure how this will affect our future. His design work was our bread and butter in a lot of ways.
But we know that our decision is an obedient one. We want to honor the Lord.
The Bible tells us in Genesis that it's not good for man to be alone so he created a helpmate for him. There's a reason for that. Husbands and wives belong together. It is not good for either of them to be alone for long periods of time.
Our hearts ache for those caught in the "travel trap."
Some people's total income depends on travel. And maybe that works for their family or that is the best they can do. We decided to cut back on our spending. No material thing is worth what we were losing...precious time together as a family. Time that can't be regained.
We were missing out on life with the ones we loved the most.
My boys need their Daddy present. They need his leadership, his guidance, and what he has to offer them as head of the household. I need those same things from my husband. It's hard to be someone's rock when your miles and miles away.
Military men and women HAVE to travel and stay away from their familes, and they have our utmost respect and honor. Gosh, they sacrifice so much, but we are not a military family. But ask the military families how it has influenced their marriage and their relationship with their children? There's always a consequence. (P.S. Another reason we should support, pray for, and honor our military families.)
We definitely don't judge anyone that has to travel for work. We aren't saying it's wrong. We are just saying, BE CAREFUL! Stay awake. Stay on guard. You don't want to wake up one day with a spouse you barely know because you haven't invested quality time together in your marriage. Satan goes around like a roaring lion. He wants our family. He wants YOUR family. He wants to slowly pull our lives out from under our feet before we know it. Friends, don't let him!
We have to pray every day to ask God for guidance on what is best for our families. We have to trust him when he moves us from a comfortable spot to an uncomfortable spot. We must always weigh the risks of our decisions with great diligence.
Our family doesn't want to live a life of regrets. There's enough of those that are outside of our control. Neither of us want to look back and say, "Look at all I missed by being gone or by being too busy. Look at how it moved us farther apart instead of closer together. Look at what we inadvertently taught our kids about family." We don't want our kids growing up with missing memories of their Daddy when they don't have to do so.
We aren't sure what the future holds for us or our family or our business, but we know who holds the future. And because we know who holds our future, we can rest in the peace of Jesus. He always provides! He has never let us down nor forsaken us, and we don't think he will stop now.
Father, thank you for being so very faithful to us and our family. Thank you for providing for us and for always providing a way even when we don't see it. Thank you for giving us another day together. Thank you for opening our eyes to the dangerous effects of being away from our family. Lord, if anyone is reading this that needs to re-evaluate their work situation, help them to see your will for their lives. Help us all to trust you with the future. We know that when you close a door, you always open a better one. Thank you for being who you are to us each and every day. In Jesus' name. Amen.