Stop Being Mean to Mommy
“So that’s what it sounds like when your heart breaks”
She measures barely 40 inches tall, and I have yet to take the training wheels off her bike, but today she made me feel like the child. My oldest daughter, three years of wisdom to her beautiful name, directed some tough words at me this morning while my wife and I were arguing. I say arguing, because we were having a significant disagreement, but neither of us was yelling. I have to give my daughter credit, because she was able to look past not only our adult vocabulary, but also right through all of our b*******. “Stop being mean to mommy” she says. “I’m not being mean, we are just talking”, is all I could afford to retort. I was completely taken aback by the reality of the situation as it dawned on me…
My heart is breaking at the thought she thinks I’m hurting her mom. Am I hurting her Mom?
I struggle as a dad at times, because of the fears that come with being a parent. It started with a single question: can we become pregnant (so many couples face this challenge), and once we were, we started praying we would avoid a miscarriage. I hoped each ultrasound showed ten fingers and ten toes. Two pregnancies and two very tiny, premature, but healthy, babies later, I wondered how could I protect something so small and precious. I have a fear of strangers around my kids, mostly the future 16 year old boys who I know will break my daughters’ hearts. I’m scared of not knowing what to say when they start to ask tough questions, and what happens when my kisses no longer heal their boo boos. And those are just my fears. If I wasn’t so selfish, I would have realized sooner that I have been hurting my wife for a really long time, by the things I didn’t do and say, as much as by the actions and words I did. So I better get this out in the open now.
I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.
I struggle as a husband at times, because I can act self-centered. I hide, from helping at home as much as I should, behind the agenda that I need to work more to pay for the stuff we own. When I come home, I’ve fooled myself into thinking that I’ve “earned the right to relax”, even as the kids run around dancing on my wife’s last nerve. I love my job at the firehouse, and it has stood as rival to loving being at home with my family. I’ve failed to remind my wife how beautiful a mother she is, because I’m preoccupied with satisfying my own goals. The public tells me all the time that I am brave to be a fireman, but does letting me wife go to bed mad because I refuse to say I’m sorry make me a coward?
Why do I let ego occupy so much space in my life….The reality is I’m not as brave as my wife.
So many leaders loose sight of what’s really important. Unfortunately it’s really easy to do, especially when you experience a lot of success at work. But the reality is, we should take the extra time to see our family’s perspective more often, and to ask about their fears and hopes. I’m a stubborn man and I don’t ask for her help when I should. I’ve realized anger masks people’s hurt and fears, and it’s obvious even to my three year old, that my wife and I are scared and angered for our marriage. If this is hitting too close to home for you, please don’t beat yourself up, struggling to balance family and work is more common than you think. But you should realize that the struggle is not just about you— it’s about your significant other and children.
Marriage and parenting are hard. It’s not a Disney movie, where all the conflict happens in the first two hours and then ends happily ever after. But, marriage and parenting are the best things to ever happen to me.
I normally have a pearl of wisdom which I share, in an attempt to support leadership and families. I’m not sure I have it this time. I think in this moment I just need to shut up, stop making this about me, and start listening better to my wife on how to support and love my family. However, I would like for you to consider this thought. When we talk about leaders, we are talking about those who can instill hope in our situations and problems. Whether things are great at home, or on their last leg, you always possess the ability to do just that—make things better. It’s time to recover our work and life balance, and put our families first. I hope that you never have to hear the words, “Stop being mean to Mommy,” before you realize you need to start leading your family.
Benjamin Martin is a lieutenant with the Henrico County Division of Fire (Va) and an 11-year veteran of emergency services. He is a graduate of and former Deputy Curriculum Chief with the Virginia Fire Officers Academy. He focuses on empowering aspiring leadership. He is equally passionate about supporting and promoting resiliency in existing leadership. He writes and speaks under the banner, Conscious and Intentional: The opportunity of leadership. He has two bachelor's degrees, Allied-Health (Pre-Med) and Fire Science, and is currently working on a Master's in Public Administration. You can reach him at Mar91@henrico.us