So much to do. So little time.
In Turn Your Heart Toward Home, I wrote about the things in our lives that can pull our hearts away from our marriages and husbands. Over the past few months, I have spent a great deal time pondering the fact that when my children were small and I was a relatively new wife, I had absolutely no interest in staying home. I had a career. It wasn’t just a job; it was a professional life. With a graduate degree, I had a purpose in life that had predated marriage and children.
The Best of Both Worlds?
As a college professor, I had the best of both worlds, I thought. Although I needed to be on campus for classes and meetings, all of my other work could be done at home early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends. My children were in day care, but they were with me for more waking hours than they were without me. Later, they would come home to a mom and freshly baked cookies. When other women would ask if I ever wanted to stay home with the kids, I thought they were crazy. My heart was at work and at home. I had a giant to-do list to help me keep track of it all.
When our marriage began to struggle, I was grateful when anything work-related would pull me away from actually tending to the marriage. “Honey, you’ll need to cook dinner. I have a late meeting with some board members.” “I can’t come to bed. I have to stay up and grade papers.” “You know I’d like to have sex, but I have to get up and 4 and finish up my final grades.” I would surround myself with the paper evidence of the work I had to do. And then, when my husband gave up and went to bed, I would half-heartedly do my work, all the while daydreaming of a happier life and marriage. My work items were higher on my to-do list than my husband.
In my view, our marriage problems were a distraction from my professional work. It never occurred to me that my work was a distraction from my marriage. I was doing well in my career, with a stellar reputation at my school and presentations at national conferences in my field. My heart was drifting from home; life was out of focus.
A Different Career
For me, the work that has pulled my heart away was a career—but the pull of work can happen just as much in a woman with a very different life than mine.
A woman whose work is at home can do the exact same thing as I did. One of my relatives found that when her marriage hit a rough patch, her house was the most spic-and-span it’s ever been. She would stay up late (“I have to wash the floor when the kids won’t be able to walk on it”), get up early (“The kids need extra healthy lunches to fight off all the germs at school”), and use housework and parenting responsibilities as a justification to avoid intimacy with her husband. Her heart was turned away from home just as mine was.
When my children were small, we had a group of mommies at church who talked about parenting as their careers. These women had stepped away from high-paying jobs to stay home with their kids—and they were just as structured and driven in their parenting as they had been in their careers. Their day planners were booked solid with lessons, play dates, library time, tummy time, curriculum time, and sports activities. I asked one woman about this, and she said that she should take parenting no less seriously than she had her career. “I’m not a senior manager anymore, but I’m the manager of my children’s lives. And it needs much more of my time than my company ever did.” This woman’s to-do list was longer than mine.
They worked so hard at being the perfect parent that they had even less time available for their marriages than I did. And I noticed that their marriages seemed to exhibit the same tension of intimacy that mine did.
In our work, whether in a career or at home, we were successful. When we worked on something, we knew whether we’d accomplished the task. We knew our worth. We didn’t know how to solve the growing tension in our marriages, but by gum, we knew how to do our work—and when we were done with the task, we knew our efforts had paid off. In our marriages? Not so much.
When Work Pulls Our Hearts Away
When I talk with women about what gets in the way of spending time with their husbands, I hear overwhelmingly, “I just don’t have time. I have too much to do.” I hear this from women who home school, from women who stay home while their kids go to school, from women who have part-time jobs, from women with full-time careers, and from women with full-time careers whose husbands are stay-at-home dads.
When I start to question my value, I tend to look at the things that I accomplish. Instead of starting a to-do list from scratch, I will often begin with a task I’ve already done so I can have a crossed-off item to encourage me. It is easy to become task-oriented, looking more at our to-do lists and judging ourselves by how many items we can cross off.
Yes, we have a lot to do—but are we letting those other things be more important than our marriages? Are we letting our work pull our hearts away from where they should be?
There are tasks to any work we do–but when we are doing the tasks for the purpose of being able to cross them off our lists, it’s a problem.Things come up in the rhythms of whatever work we do. There are days or weeks when we have to put more time into the work than into our marriages—but when these days or weeks become a pattern of living, it’s a problem. When our hearts spend more time dwelling on the value of that work than on the value of our marriages, it’s a problem. When we lose our focus on God and our marriages, it’s a problem.
Where My Heart Wants to Be
I have been blessed with a career I loved, in jobs that I loved, working with people I loved. Over the past year, even while working in a wonderful job, I’ve found that my heart has been drifting away from that work and yearning. As I have grown in my identity in Christ and as a wife in a one-flesh relationship with her husband, I’ve found that although my work was still as wonderful and fulfilling, it was no longer how I identified myself in my own mind. Checking off items on my to-do list had become a tool rather than a goal.
Several weeks ago, I mentioned to someone that for the first time in my life, I wished I didn’t need to work full-time (or at all). As someone with twenty-five years invested in a particular professional identity, this startled me. I realized that my heart had shifted its focus. I have yearned to spend more time with God. I have wanted to have more time for God and for my marriage.
God uses my thoughts and dreams to prepare me for what He has in store for me. As I began drafting this post over a week ago, I was content to realize that although I loved my job, my heart was home with God and my husband—exactly where it belonged.
Since losing my job a few days ago, I’ve had many emotions swirl through my heart—shock, embarrassment, betrayal, sadness, and anger have been the most prominent. But I have also realized that underneath all that is a joy that I have a chance to learn what it is to fully focus my heart on home in a new way as I see my worth as a child of God in a marriage that continues to grow.
Is your heart pulled away by your work and your to-do lists?
Or is your heart turned toward home?
The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. Proverbs 14:1
Turn Your Heart Toward Home
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