Six months into our marriage, we thought I had a severe case of the flu when my husband took me to the family doctor. Both of us had government jobs in Washington, D.C and were working and saving for our first home. Our big plans included the benefit of two salaries for five years before we started a family. Obviously, our plans and God’s didn’t quite agree, because the doctor confirmed the suspicion I hesitated to mention: We would be parents in less than eight months.
Ready or not, our little girl, Sherry, came into our lives in January. Six weeks later, I returned to my GS-4 job in Washington D.C., and the week before, we moved into a two-bedroom colonial in Arlington Virginia. The first morning I handed my baby over to the care of Charlie’s mother, I cried. My grandiose vision of happily ever after had morphed into a sea of disappointments.
Every afternoon, after working longer than my required eight hours, I waited on Pennsylvania Avenue for Charlie to pick me up. My husband’s impatient battle with traffic as we crossed the bridge into Virginia often resulted in an argument, keeping me from the much-needed snooze I could have enjoyed. By the time I had to face my real job of housewife and mother, my nerves were shot, I was exhausted and I struggled under a heavy load of guilt. Though successful in my office job, I felt like a failure at home.
From the moment I walked through the front door, I scrambled to meet the needs of my family, picking up and straightening as I went. A meal and formula awaited preparation, bottles needed washing and sterilizing, and diapers lingered in the dryer, waiting to be folded. I’d never heard of Pampers. I moved about in a fog while attempting to console my unhappy infant, and at the same time, work around a husband who leisurely sat in a recliner, reading the Washington Post and watching the evening news.
Amid the chaos of a working mother, resentment built towards my husband. What did I expect? He grew up in a home where the lines were strictly drawn between women’s work and men’s. His mother emulated the perfect housewife–every cushion in place and not a speck of dirt in sight. She did everything for her husband and children, including filling their plates, cutting their meat and ironing their boxer shorts. Why did I not see this before I said “I do?”
The saying, “Love is blind,” would have described me perfectly. Charlie teased that he had plucked me off the farm in South Georgia and put shoes on my feet. Though it made for a good laugh, the element of truth hurt. I often thought of the many drastic changes my life underwent after I left college and married a man from the Washington suburbs. I might as well have moved to Mars. Perhaps that why I wrote Journey to Hope, my next novel. The book features a young woman who leaves the life of a Boston socialite to become the mail-order bride of a Wyoming rancher. Though an opposite scenario, the impact felt similar.
I remembered life on the farm as peaceful and serene. My even-tempered father went fishing to avoid the least argument with my mother. For more, see: https://thatothersmayknow.blog/2017/07/13/life-on-the-farm/. We worked hard, but we also took time to rest and regroup. We spent time swimming in the pond and playing board games around the table. We read the Bible and prayed as a family. Though my mother often worked outside the home, my father helped cook and care for my sister and me. He wasn’t much at housework, but a perfect house didn’t seem important to either of my parents. How would I survive with a man who kept his underwear stacked so perfectly you could see the bottom of the drawer?
Feeling abandoned and alone in my struggle to be a good wife and mother, https://thatothersmayknow.blog/2019/09/02/feeling-abandoned/, I finally looked to the One who had been my constant companion since a child. I brought my complaints before him. “Lord, change Charlie,” I cried in desperation. When no answer came, I read in a Christian devotional, “Don’t pray for God to change your husband, but pray for God to change you. Trust God to take care of your husband.”
When I set aside the time to work on my own relationship with God, my problems seemed fewer and my peace returned. I found reasons to be thankful for the man God had given me and the baby girl who brought us such joy. I thanked him for the job where my coworkers appreciated my work and enjoyed my company. I learned how to seek God’s answers through His Word and prayer.
My resentment towards my husband faded as I gradually replaced it with an attitude of gratitude. I saw my husband through the eyes of love and I prayed God’s blessings upon him, my child, our home and our places of employment. I prayed for Charlie’s parents as they cared for our daughter. As a bonus, God gave me close friends within our church family–friends who would understand my struggles and pray with and for me.
I won’t tell you that our lives became perfect with my newfound commitment, or that Charlie suddenly developed a love for housework and culinary skills, but I will tell you that God never abandoned me. He has shown himself strong through sickness, disappointments and trials and, after fifty-five years of marriage, he continues to show up and change us into people who are more like Jesus.
Without God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness, I would have given up years ago. But I’m thankful God knew the kind of man I needed and he didn’t make a mistake about the timing of our first child. He knew what we needed and when we needed it most. Separately, our differences looked impossible, but together, they have become tools to strengthen our marriage, secure our relationships and grow us in love for one another and for God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6