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He Said, She Said

I'm not really a workaholic.

Jeff's side:

I teach communication and leadership at a Christian college. You wouldn't think a professor would have to travel a lot—and you'd think he'd have tons of time in the summer to spend with his family. But that's not how it is for me.

My specialty area is teaching young people to be leaders as Christians and to talk with nonbelievers about their faith. That involves a lot of traveling to work with youth groups, churches and professional associations. Then, part of my job at the college is running a summer institute, where teenagers do intensive sessions in apologetics and leadership. That means summer is my busiest time.

Danielle has been great about hanging in there when I'm away from home. For a while she was working to help us make ends meet. But since our son, Graham, was born, she's often at home 'round-the-clock with all the responsibilities of caring for him. Meanwhile, I'm on the road, which is exhausting too. It's hard on both of us.

Several people have called me a workaholic, but I'm not sure that's really what I am. I know I'm torn between family and work. My job is important—not just because of the ministry aspects, but also because it pays our bills. And it's demanding, especially in terms of time. But unlike a workaholic who is married to the job, my first love and loyalty is Danielle. What could I do differently to make things easier on her?

Danielle's side:

When we were dating, one of the things I admired most about Jeff was how hard he works. He's never lazy, and if he commits to something, he'll get the job done.

Before we got married, I knew his job required a lot of travel. But I didn't realize what it would feel like to have him gone that much. And maybe I subconsciously thought he wouldn't schedule as much travel once we were married. But, of course, his travel schedule was as bad as ever—and then it got worse when he changed jobs and as his ministry grew.

We've kept talking about this problem and tried to stay close despite the schedule. But now that we have Graham, I'm more home-bound and Jeff and I have even less couple time. Sometimes I've felt like a single mom because he's had to work so much.

It's not just the travel. When he's home, he's madly following up from the last trip with correspondence while packing for the next journey. In between he squeezes in some quick home-stuff, like mowing the lawn. It's hard to find time just for us when his work consumes so much of his time.

I know Jeff has to work—not just to provide for us, but also to do the things God is calling him to do. Even though I don't like it when he has to be gone, the rational part of me wants him to pursue these opportunities. Still, it's hard not to become resentful about his work.

What Jeff and Danielle did:

"The best thing we did," the Myerses agree, "was keep talking."

"We started a tradition on our honeymoon that we'd take a walk every night," says Jeff. "Of course, that's every night that I'm home. But that gives us a chance to debrief."

Beyond the first step of consistent communication, they knew they had to get Jeff's travel schedule under control. One solution presented itself as different organizations offered to pay for Danielle to come along. Whenever possible, Jeff began asking for this arrangement. When Graham was born, he was included. By the time he was six months old, he'd been in 15 different states.

Joe White, a friend and an experienced work traveler, offered the Myers one pivotal piece of advice: determine in advance the number of days in each month that Jeff can be away—and then stick to it.

"We decided eight days was our maximum," says Jeff. "It's less than I used to be gone. Also, I've gotten better at planning trips so that I can be gone only overnight and get back the next day."

The Myerses break the eight-day rule only if Danielle chooses to go along. That veto power was also something their friend Joe recommended—that any commitment beyond the ordinary should be run past Danielle first. "We're trying to stay a team," Jeff says.

Meanwhile, Danielle works hard to be an encourager and not a complainer. "I want to make home such a great place that Jeff will hate to leave!" she says. "I'd hate for things to get dry between us so that being on the road becomes more attractive to him than being home."

The Myerses try to keep their traditions as much as possible when Jeff is home. That means taking those evening walks. "And I'll make him homemade chocolate ice cream," says Danielle, "and I'll read to him while he eats it!

"Even when other things keep us really busy, it helps to have things that we always will do together."

Interviewed by Annette LaPlaca

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Busyness; Marriage; Work
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 1999
Posted September 30, 2008

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