The other women in my maternity ward were just a bit jealous of me, I could tell.
It was not because of my darling baby girl, for their babies were just as cute. It certainly was not my red quilted bathrobe with the permanent bulge in the front.
No, they were envious of all the attention I received from my husband.
When visiting hours began he was always the first one to come down the hall. He never left my side until the last possible moment. He arrived with impatience and left with reluctance. It was really commendable.
I never had the heart to tell the other ladies that since it was the end of the year and my husband was the ward clerk, I was helping him complete the Form E report.
Since then—and before then—I have had many opportunities to help here and there with his callings. Many a late evening has been spent collecting and stapling together seemingly endless piles of information.
There were the shared moments of early morning when our little kitchen would be a snuggery of warmth and food for us—before my husband charged out into the dark for a three-mile walk to the place where he taught seminary. I could have stayed in bed, but I would have missed seeing his testimony sending him forth.
On some of his callings I went with him. We bounced along dirt roads, and deep in the pines our car lights searched out the mailboxes as we tried to find the home of someone who until then was only a name on an Aaronic Priesthood roll. Later we would rack our brains planning activities that just might interest prospective elders.
Then we moved into Seventies work. What a joy that was! Full-time missionaries crowded around our dinner table. We knew them all, and they were all special to us in some way. I tried to help out by playing the piano at baptisms or delivering records and slide projectors here and there. Increasingly though, the best support I could give would be my understanding of the frequent absences of the head of our home.
I discovered an interesting principle: it seemed that the quality of our time together improved even though the quantity was less.
When my husband was called as a high councilor, my challenges in supporting him took a real leap, for he was often visiting other wards of our far-flung stake.
Now it was up to me to see that our seven children and I made it to Sunday School and sacrament meeting. Dad wasn’t around to get our deacon to his priesthood meeting.
I certainly developed more empathy for the widows and those whose husbands were not members of the Church. Yet at the same time I was able to delight in my husband’s spiritual growth. “Honey,” he would say after a meeting with the stake presidency, “they are really men of God.”
And over the years I learned a few more principles of coping with my husband’s callings, of supporting him and helping him keep close to the family despite his absences:
Be flexible. As my experience with the maternity ward shows, we often have to be willing to change our plans for using our time. It becomes a real art to be able to adjust. It has given me many beautiful moments I might have otherwise lost.
Feed him. He needs to be fed on time, or have something packed to eat if there is no time for a sit-down meal. Loving thought can be put into the packed lunches and the held-over dinners that are sometimes the lot of a Church worker. I have improved at this since the time I packed a soda in his thermos bottle (it exploded) and a jello salad that melted.
Take care of his clothes. A fresh shirt, a reasonable-looking suit, and two matching socks always need to be at hand. Many men will not notice the condition of their clothes, so their appearance may depend on you.
Know what is going on with him and keep him informed, too. Have a weekly planning session with your husband to coordinate your activities and anticipate any conflicts. Try to plan for a night out fairly frequently. Sometimes it is hard to find the time, but it is worth it. And make sure he knows what is going on with the children. He misses out on a lot of wonderful times that you have simply because you are at home.
Have a clean home. A clean, orderly home rests the senses and helps renew the spirits.
Be patient. Many aggravating things will happen. Sometimes you will feel so exasperated that you will be tempted to rip out the phone or set fire to his briefcase. Take a deep breath and let it out slow-w-wly. If you keep from flying off the handle or saying bitter words, you leave yourself open to influences from the Spirit of the Lord. And after a while it gets easier to be patient—it truly does.
Grow spiritually. Besides the way that my husband’s callings have helped me grow spiritually, I have had my own callings, my own prayers, my own scripture reading, my own testimony. If I am not spiritually full, how can I strengthen others who need me? We all need to lean and be leaned on from time to time.
A little over a year ago our stake was split. A new stake was created, a new president called. Late on the Saturday night when these events were taking place, I got a phone call. To my surprise, it was my husband. He told me who had been called to be the new president. Then he paused. I waited, unsuspecting. “He has asked me to be his first counselor,” he said.
It was a while before I slept that night. I remembered the years when he was a clerk, the seminary years, the elders quorum years. I saw us struggling together from our hopeful beginning in the Arizona Temple through all the missed meals, lonely evenings, and constant rushing from one meeting to the next. I think that was when I realized that it would never end. My husband would always serve, would always need the extra support and extra care I had been giving.
And then I thought about the strong, spiritual leader he has been in our home. I thought of how we regard every moment we have together as a precious time. I thought of the fine teacher and example he has always been for our children.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.