This past week I took my kids to a couple of museums. We usually go during the summer because it’s a good way to get in lots of sensory stimulation, keep them away from the constant lure of television for several hours and they have a chance to learn in an experiential way that would take a lot more effort and energy for me to create at home. Plus, I kind of love museums too and love being able to cultivate the love of learning, exploration, imagination and wonder in my children as well.
What I noticed this past week was that there were also several dad’s at these museums. I am not sure what kind of job allows them the flexibility to be able to take their kids to the museum during the day or if they took a day off to enjoy with their children, but it was so cool to see so many of them and made me reflect on a conversation my husband and I have every few months or so. The conversation of provision – as in providing for our family.
About four years ago, my husband was unemployed for about nine months. It was a really tough time for us financially. But since life does not happen in a vacuum, it was not just the finances that were affected. There was a huge amount of stress that came along with it and since we had just bought a new home and had just had a baby you can imagine that providing for his family was the number one thing on his mind. He was so frustrated and discouraged that he was not “providing” for his family. This put our marriage to the test and made us dig really deep. I still remember the weekend when I was trying to figure out where in the world I was going to get groceries and then (without even knowing our situation) a friend from church bringing us four grocery bags full of food. I also remember the humility of taking those bags knowing I had nothing but a big fighting-back-tears “thank you” to offer in return. My husband felt embarrassed that we “had to accept food” from people knowing that it was “his job” to do that for us. It was his job to provide for us and he felt that he was selling us short.
From where I sit, it seems like providing for a family in a financial way is a very big stress and responsibility for a man. If they aren’t married, they want to be sure they are in a position to provide before they get married. If they are married, they want to be sure they can provide the basics for their wife and future family. If they are married with kids, they want to be sure everyone is fed, sheltered, clothed and well taken care of. These are things I cannot fully understand as a mother mostly because my idea of provision is much different.
But where I was going with this whole seeing dad’s at the museum thing was that regardless of how a father is providing for his children in a financial way, there are a lot of other ways that he can provide that have little to do with money. I always remind my husband of these things when he gets stressed out about work and money and starts booking out his days from crack of dawn to past bedtime. Provision is not just about money.
I remind my husband that regardless of how much money he earns (and we survived on very little during those nine months of unemployment) that he is providing for our family by doing the things he already does every day. Being home for dinner most nights, reading stories to the kids at bedtime, taking them to a special breakfast on the weekends, going on bike rides, playing trains, cars, tea, dress up with them, planning a movie night and popping pop corn, telling them the ways in which they are special to him and praying with them, hugging and kissing them, holding their hands in a parking lot or when they cross the street, telling them stories from his childhood, taking them on a hike and packing snacks for an impromptu picnic, teaching them about Jesus and telling them of God’s provision for our family. Most of this stuff doesn’t even cost any money and I have to remind him that when we didn’t have very much money, that he was still providing for our family in a very big and very tangible way. And despite all the stress we did feel during that time, it will always be a time we look back on fondly because with what little we had financially, we made up for in faith, fun and togetherness.
These days, I completely enjoy being able to afford organic produce and museum trips with my kids, but I also know that when we found ourselves in a very tight situation financially, my husband was still providing for our family in huge ways. I know that mid-week museum visits or being home for dinner every night is not possible for everyone (not even for us), but kudos to all the dad’s out there making a difference and being plugged into their families and providing in ways that money can’t even touch.
(Disclaimer: I understand that this post may sound trite to some people and some families. I get that there are families out there without Dad’s or that there are heart-breaking situations that this post does not cover in the slightest. I realize that my experience is different from the million different scenarios out there. My point is to encourage. My point is always to encourage.)