I would love nothing more than to invite you to sit across from me at our table. We'd sip wine, chat about what we've been reading, what we've been wrestling with, what excites us, and what funny antics our children have gotten up to lately. There is just nothing like sharing the table to knit hearts together.
It's like this in a family too, isn't it? The table is where we gather to share and experience community. It's where we are known and nourished. Books and blogs and experts all tell us that the table is the stability that our children need to be healthy and whole, that coming together is what ties heartstrings and builds character. When that time is missing, they tell us, the absence will be felt, a gap known and bleeding, the consequences evident throughout our children's lives and society.
So we mothers, we who long to cultivate life in our homes and desire children who look fondly on these years with us? We scurry to make our tables lovely and full and good. Entire magazines and blogs and networks revolve around supporting our efforts, and offer images of the comforts of our family seated round. Together we share how even in the mess of whatever season of motherhood we find ourselves in, it can all be beautiful.
But some of us skirt around the conversation. Have you noticed the ones staying silent? They are the ones left wondering if their ideals and reality will ever actually sit down together.
Their dinners won't look like the ones they pine after or dream of because their puzzle looks different than the patterns strewn across the web. They ache to know they are doing enough and being enough and that somehow, the simplicity of the odd shaped table they set will be enough to nourish hearts.
I'm one of the silent ones.
I'm one of the moms questioning if I should mention that my husband won't likely walk through the door until seven, on a good day. I'm one of the ones who knows that seven is early, and rare, and a delight for us both. That I'm so grateful when he can kiss foreheads and sing lullabies and tickle little tummies before lights out. I'm one of the moms who desperately needs to be reminded that having a man who works hard and long is a grace and a gift, that even though dinner around my table won't look like the ideal family meal, it is enough. It is our portion. It is good.
I've questioned whether to talk about the unique challenges of being a corporate wife here because, well. . . because I suppose my man could quit his job. I suppose we could move to the country and change it all up. I suppose we could quit everything that we have been handed, and also happen to love, so that we could be around the table together every night. Some people might even say we should.
But when you are the wife of a man with a clear calling to the corporate world, when you see the way his eyes light up when he talks about his work, when he advances his field forward, when he leads and innovates . . . when you see his faith and work intersect and breathe life into his being and into our culture itself? Well, then you fight like mad to keep him there.
I know I haven't been silent alone. I know there are many of you who fit the same mold I do, and when there is a gift of a career for our spouse, it's easy to feel guilty about our own worry and our struggles. It's easier to stay quiet than risk being an archetype; to whisper that you fear a wonderful job that provides so much, might actually leave you feeling like you have so little. Because other people? They have real problems that break your heart, and leave you numb and shaken. It feels wrong to talk about being spread so thin in a house full of kids, when you know how very blessed you are, and when at the core, your puzzle is to figure out how to be ok with your man 'out there' doing something amazing that you are proud. It's hard to share that you're not sure you can hold down the fort.
And so we stay quiet, and it becomes more comfortable than speaking up and crashing into the ideals we feel like we aren't meeting. It's easier than admitting we're scared we'll miss the slow bleed if we don't carry on like the experts tell us we should: all of us, gathered around the table. But being a corporate wife, or an odd shift wife, a med-school wife, or a military wife, is making peace with our questions and doubts and puzzles. And not just at dinner time.
It's the soccer practice and the ballet lesson, while we help with homework and rinse hair gently in the bathtub. It's the witching hour when you just aren't sure if you can pull it all together to shine joy to your children in the final hours of their day because you are just. . . you. And you are so tired.
It's the aching need for a nanny or a housekeeper to make the logistics of your day not come undone. It's finding a good one, and crying sobs unexpectedly when she knocks on the door, as you realize, right in that moment, how much you really did need her, and how thankful you are that she is there in the flesh to be on your team. It's the prayers prayed as the only grown up at the table, and the conscious effort to throw resentment and discontent across the room. The thieves that want to slither in and steal the beauty of who and what you've got sitting there have to be ousted daily.
It's the knowing that when your husband walks through the door, his arrival is not the bell that dings for you to have a break, but rather the second shift beginning. One of nurture and care and the keeping and feeding of this man who has missed you and your children all day long, something fierce. It's the loving of the husband who needs to exhale and be at home in your home. It's the guarding of the calendar and even of your own heart, so that you can hedge support and prayer and safety for him.
It's seeing the sacred in being a wife. In being a comfort, in being a safe place. It's catching a glimpse of what is true- that maybe this is what you were made for, as your form feels full and real. Not weighted down but lightened up, dancing and swaying to the rhythm of being a help.
It's coming to know that your table will never fit in a box, but also that what you pour out and gather in is just too big to fit, and knowing that family life can take a million little ways to get to beautiful. Whatever way you're walking on today? I pray you know you are not alone. You.are.not.alone. I pray you see the beauty in the way you shape your days and innovate your hours. I pray you know that there is One who covers over every ideal with his very self. He takes what feels lacking and makes it enough. He's known for taking meager offerings and displaying wonder and he'll do it again right where you feel weak today. I pray you know there is beauty in the life you are making. There are no cracks that he can not seal as he holds you in grace.
I'm cheering for you today,