“But I don’t want daddy to go to work,” my 2 year old son whimpered. I felt the exact same way, and I had every reason to throw my hands up in the air and cry about it along with my toddler.
My husband, who serves in the military, had been gone only a few days for a 6-week training on the other side of the country. My two children and I were fighting terrible colds, and my 27th birthday was going to be spent without my husband for the second year in a row. We didn’t have any family nearby and were living in a small town. It was hard not to feel like a single parent and it made me feel isolated.
Later that night, after my kids were asleep and the house was quiet, I was on my computer and decided to scroll through old pictures of my husband and I when we were dating. I missed him, but through missing him, I realized that I was given an opportunity to reflect on our relationship and I was truly comforted.
We fell in love several years ago, soon after we met in college. But as our relationship progressed and we decided to get married, we began to look at each other with a confidence unlike any other. We believed that in choosing marriage, we were choosing to love each other despite whatever challenges may come our way. Here we were, in the middle of a challenging time being physically apart, but actively choosing to love, and I became even more convicted in our love right then.
The conviction I have from our marriage fuels me. It has given me confidence to take care of our children, without the constant help of my husband, and it has motivated me to take care of myself at the same time. I have thrown parties, gone to countless doctors appointments, gotten haircuts, fixed faulty fire detectors in the middle of the night, unclogged sinks, and the list goes on…all with the product of our love, our children, along for the ride.
It is times like these, when my husband is gone, that I am reminded that true love isn’t based on a feeling alone—it is an act of the will. My husband and I decided to marry each other because of an honest desire to become united and to love each other despite the challenges we may encounter. Even though I miss him when he is gone, I can still love him throughout my day. I do this by simply caring for our two small children—by doing this I’m loving him in a very real and physical way. But I can also close my eyes and recall our wedding day, remembering that we have truly become one, and distance cannot separate our vows to each other.
When my husband is home, we let our kids soak up as much time with him as possible, even if that means pushing bedtime back or letting them sneak into our bed in the middle of the night. Almost every evening, too, after we get the kids to sleep, my husband and I go on a date, in our living room, and focus our attention fully on the other person.
Mother Teresa once said, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” I think that in these challenging situations in life, there is a greater joy to come from the struggle. Love can give us the strength to face hardships, and the hardships provide us with the opportunity to love even more deeply.