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Challenge: My Dad Hero

Pressure to Provide: Helping Husbands Work Through Stress

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My husband is a worrier, much like me. We stay awake at night talking about how much we love our family, and how we’re not sure that we’ll ever be enough for them. How do you look at your babies and see that immense wonder, potential, and preciousness and feel adequate enough?

The short answer is, you can’t. There’s no way I can ever be every single thing that my family needs, but it’s the honor of my life to spend it trying.

That’s where my husband and I differ. I can step away and recognize that while raising a family is an incredible blessing, it’s also more than I’ll ever be able to conquer, and that’s OK. The glory of a family is that we work at it every day, together. We rise and we fall. We get hurt and we hurt each other. Then, with every new morning, we try to do it a little better.

There’s a lot of grace in that sentiment, and I’ve learned to give myself plenty of it, especially as I navigate life as a young mom.

My husband on the other hand? He’s still working through that pressure, and finding ways to feel accomplished while balancing the weight of two little worlds on his shoulders.

He enjoys his job, but doesn’t see the kids until he gets home in the evenings. He brings in the majority of our income, but still feels the burden when money is tight and we can’t afford to go on vacations like all of our friends. He’s the hands-down best husband and papa our little brood could ever hope to have. On one hand, he’s stronger than Hulk Hogan, but he’s also gentler than I deserve. He’s kind and patient and, if I’m being honest, the most fun member of our household.

At night, on our way up the stairs for bath time, he’ll grab both kids in his strong arms and bounce them up the steps chanting, “Papa’s kids!” They’re doubled over in laughter, their heads over their feet and their mouths spread wide in a grin. He’s absolutely everything to us, so how do I deal when he feels like he’s nothing?

I can’t crawl into his head and convince him that he’s all we need to get by. I can’t change his thoughts or adjust his perspective for him. But as his wife and partner, I can offer words of encouragement, and I can talk to him to help him work through any insecurities that threaten to rear their ugly head in moments of weakness.

While it’s not a one-size-fits-all formula, here are some ways I’ve learned to calm his anxious heart and redirect him toward the spirit of positivity and thankfulness that we both crave.

1. Compliment Him.

Everyone, male or female, young or old, loves a good compliment. Don’t you? I’m often surprised at the massive shift that takes place when I simply compliment him and let him know I’m thinking about him, and that he’s doing a great job. Did he wear a new shirt to work? I’ll let him know I noticed, and that it looks sharp. As children, our parents’ approval was paramount. We’d seek it in our extracurricular activities. We’d study hard to make good grades and make them proud. As we grow up, that responsibility shifts to our partner. I might not care if my mom notices my new dress, but if my husband does and compliments me on it, my day is made. Likewise, I’m cognizant to point out anything positive I see that can bring a smile to his face and make him proud.

2. Thank Him.

My husband works at a plumbing supply store, and comes home most days feeling immensely under-appreciated. To counter that emotion, I try to lift him up by noticing the good that he does around the house, and within our family. Did he unload the dishwasher while I was taking a shower? Did he water the flowers for me while I was inside with the kids? Even the smallest act of service can change my day around, so I try to recognize when he steps up and make a big deal out of it. It’s so easy to focus on the things that someone does wrong, and I’m definitely guilty of doing this throughout our marriage (hello dirty dishes right beside the sink!). However, as we grow in our marriage, I’m recognizing more and more the power in the words “thank you.”

3. Just Listen.

How often have we longed for someone to sit down with us over a pot of coffee and just listen as we pour out our heart? My husband might not admit it openly, but he craves alone time to share his feelings and emotions with me. The only problem? I work from home at night, and as soon as the kids are in bed, I need to hop on my laptop and get started. As a result, we often miss each other and don’t have an opportunity to connect. So we’ve started making small adjustments here and there to make sure we have time to check in. He’ll call me during the day on his way to make plumbing deliveries and I’ll take a break from working in the evenings to crawl into bed and talk about our day. We’re intentional with our time together, and use it to express ourselves, share our burdens, and lift each other up.

I don’t claim to know the secret to a healthy marriage or a happy family. Yet, what I’ve found time and again is that investing in your spouse is the critical linchpin in making sure no one slips too far into negative territory. For two people predisposed to see the hardness, or the gloom, in most situations, this took a lot of effort on the part of my husband and I, and it’s still something we have to work at daily. Yet, as his wife, I consider it my duty and my blessing to be that pillar of support for him, especially on days when he feels like he’ll never measure up.

It’s then that I pull him close, breathe him in and reassure him, “You’re all we’ll ever need and all we’ve ever needed. The world is too big and too heavy for you to hold, so let me help carry it – and carry you.”

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