Mar 3, 2013  •  In Parenting, Personal, Relationships

Only When It’s Gone…

Last year, I had an unfortunate accident which led to a herniated disc in my neck. I obviously could not take care of both girls by myself with the injury and its corresponding treatments; I ended up staying at my parents’ in the suburbs for almost 2 months so that they and my sister could help me on my road to recovery.

Once I recuperated  I remember returning home to a cold, dark place that — for a lack of a better word — was a complete pigsty. J sheepishly confessed, “I didn’t realize just how much work you do around the house until you were gone.”

I have been replaying that phrase over and over again in my head this past week. Only this time, it applies to my husband, not myself.

As stated in an earlier post, J is currently visiting Hong Kong. With travel time, he will have been gone a total of 10 days.

To the outsider, our home looks relatively normal — which is to say that it’s nowhere near as put-together and tidy as I’d like (the way it was avant les enfants), but it’s cozy and comfortably cluttered. The dishes are clean, the laundry washed and folded, and while the refrigerator isn’t as full as I would like, the average person would not be able to tell, just by looking, that a member of the family has away for so long.

But it feels different.

An unsettling, uneasy sense that something is missing.

the_missing_piece
(from the book The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein)

It’s become obvious to me that my primary forms of contribution to our household are more visible, and perhaps more noticeable, especially to outsiders. Meanwhile, J’s contributions — when you take away the work he does to financially support the family — are more intimate, particularly evident at times of need. Kind of like an extra shot of espresso or even a second line of defense. 

It’s just like what J said to me last year about my absence: I didn’t realize just how much my husband does for this household until he was gone.

Like so many others before me, I had been taking my loved one for granted.

I need to remember how lucky I am to have such a supportive husband. I need to remember how involved he was with both my pregnancies, accompanying me to every doctor’s appointment and WANTING to make the middle-of-the-night grocery runs to satisfy my cravings.

Neither of my pregnancies were easy, with multiple trips to the ER, doctor-ordered bedrests, emergency surgery, and so forth. J held my hand through it all and picked up on the housework, cooking, and errands. He worked from home on numerous occasions (and for an entire 1½ weeks after my surgery), juggling conference calls, managing his staff, etc. while taking care of Claire and tending to my needs.

He voluntarily took on all nighttime AND early morning baby duties for Claire the entire time I was pregnant with Aerin, and continues to help me with them…a full 16 months after the birth of our second child.

When he comes home from work, no matter how exhausted he must be, he smothers the girls with hugs and kisses and entertaining stunts, whispering to me, “I got them. You go take a relaxing bath.”

34995_10100228705823545_383042839_n
Nevermind Aerin’s expression here…this picture will always
remain one of my all-time favorites.

Whenever I feel useless that I no longer support the household financially, he tells me that raising our children, in addition to keeping myself healthy and happy for the sake of them, is my job now and he considers that a more important role than his role as the breadwinner of the family.

He continues to put us first, always reminding me that without us, there would be no Claire and Aerin.

He pushed me to book tickets for my friend’s wedding in LA last fall, saying I haven’t seen this group of friends in so long and that I deserved a vacation. There’s also my sister’s bachelorette party weekend in Montreal later this month, which my husband insisted I attend because “She’s your SISTER. I got the girls. GO. HAVE. FUN.”

So yes, I feel like an asshat for not always remembering all that he does. For only realizing how lucky I am to have such a great man by my side when others complain about how their husbands groan about having to take care of the kids, or barely lifting a finger to help out around the house.

(Not to say that all my girlfriends have asshole husbands — but there’s always a bad apple or two in every bunch, no?)

And in this case, I definitely feel like an asshat because he’s away and I’m missing him not only for his help, but for his presence and being

tulips
J knew how difficult my week has been, so he surprised me with this
beautiful bouquet of my favorite flowers.

J only came to the U.S. to attend college. His plan was to return to Hong Kong after school and live out the rest of his adult life in his native city and country. I know that the only reason he stayed here was because of me, and I’ve always felt a bit guilty about this.

But when I ask him if he wants to go back to Asia where so many of his friends still remain, where the standard of living is a fraction of what it is here ($100/month for a full-time nanny who will also cooks? What?!?) — a place he misses dearly for its culture, food, and nightlife —

He tells me no.

The reasoning? In Asia, office workers tend to work a lot longer hours than here in the states. It’s common to work 14-16 hours a day and go into the office on weekends too. J says that he would not be able to handle those hours. Not because he’s a lazy worker, but because he says he would miss us too much.

There are times when I know my husband is BS’ing to make himself look better. (And believe me; with his ego, he does this more often than not.)

This is not one of those times.

This time, I know he tells the truth.

And once more, I know I’ve snagged a good one. :-)

9 Responses to “Only When It’s Gone…”

  1. What a good guy. Seriously. It’s plenty of work just keeping a household of adults in good shape, but to be able to help whenever he’s home and relieve you and all that because he *wants* to – that’s lovely.

  2. Oh Jenny this made my pregnant butt cry!!! You and J are lucky to have each other . You are both such wonderful, beautiful and living people who are even more wonderful together. Miss an love you sis.

  3. :) I love this! Thanks for sharing this, I hope the rest of the time while he is gone goes swiftly for you!

  4. Jenny Chiu:

    omg i almost teared up reading this!

  5. Kim:

    Your in-laws raised two wonderful men. I have read about your BIL on your SIL’s blog. What’s even better is that you and your SIL recognize what great guys you have! :-)

  6. This was such a sweet post!!

  7. Don’t forget the pollution in Hong Kong either. I wouldn’t want to raise my kids in that smog.

    Loved this post.

  8. Becky:

    It’s so nice to know that you’re appreciated~ your post reminded me of the things that my husband used to do when I was pregnant….and shouldn’t take his love for granted although sometimes I get so hurt and irritated by his ways! LOL. Had a bad morning but reading your post made me feel a bit better.

    Sorry you had to go through herniated disc…I heard it’s really painful. Hope you’re all healed! My husband found out he has it a few weeks ago and got the steroid injection last week but I don’t think it’s helping as much as we would like. Would you be able to share your experience with me and advise me on what I can do to help him out as well as what he can do?

    • Hmm from what I remember, the treatment options can vary a lot depending on the location and severity of the herniated disc. The most invasive treatment I received was a steroid epidural injection, which helped the most in those initial stages of severe pain. After that, I got some prescription pain meds and orders to rest and not move my neck as much as possible (which is practically impossible when you have kids!), so I got A LOT of help from family during this time. Once I reached a stage where the pain was bearable, I started going to an acupuncturist which also helped tremendously. Oh, and I started up yoga, which I continue to this day because I loved it so much. Hope that helps!

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