They Do Exist.

Emotions: On Female Bread-Winners And Hard-Fought Contentment

Editor’s Note: I don’t want to add a single word to Leslie’s post below. Read it, and read it again. Share it with the newlyweds or not-so-newlyweds in your life. Leslie Lee blogs about faith, creativity, and life at leslielaughs.com and tweets at @leslielaughs. – Lauren

Right now, I’m the main bread-winner for our family.

My husband hates that I have to write that sentence.

And me?

I hate the emotional strife this sometimes leads to in our marriage.
I hate that sinking dread that precedes looking up the checking account balance.
I hate it when people think I must be unhappy because of where we are in life.

The thing is, I am happy, and I’m finally starting to see that this season in life has taught us invaluable lessons that we would not have learned on an easier road. We’ve learned to fight against resistance, to push into honesty, to pursue sacrifice, and to protect each other for the world-weariness that can tear so fast so deep.

My husband is still working on his degree, and he also works a labor-intensive full-time job to help us pay the bills. I’ve graduated and am working at a great job. So, we still live in the college town that I moved to back in 2005.

Four years here has turned into… more.
Four years has turned into waiting and learning.
Four years has turned into calling this season of in-between home, sweet home.

And me and In-between? We’re BFFs now, after being frenemies for quite a while.

Honestly, I’m surprised that I’ve learned to deal with In-between. I think the keys have been, one, learning the importance of remembering that my husband and I are on the same team and, two, realizing the power of hard-fought contentment.

The fact is that genuine contentment doesn’t come easy. For me, longing to start a family and start “putting down roots” can throw me down quick into a deep, dark hole of discontentment. Losing sleep, pounding my fists against the wall of In-between, turning God-given longings into childish whining – it can weigh me down all at once.

But eventually my fists get sore and I recognize familiar, insidious discontentment.

It seeps through the cracks in your heart, eventually making you unhappy about everything – dirty dishes, hopes, apartments, babies, cars, parties, jobs, carpet—it all gets sucked in and labeled NOT WHAT I WANT.

But by the grace of God, instead of hanging out with my NOT WHAT I WANT label-maker, these days I’m holding tight to a pieced-together, mismatched, fragile hem of hard-fought contentment.

My contentment is frayed on the edges and worn in the middle because my emotions are emotions: they can build up or tear down, they can point to issues or conceal them. They can help me identify problems, deeply feeling both the good and the bad, and they can help me listen to my intuition as a woman. But, when I take them to be absolute truth, putting my very heavy hope in what my feelings say, tightly hoarding them up into a layer of faux protection, I actually open myself up to discontentment. In-between starts to look like an attack against me and my beautifully orchestrated plans that must be God’s will.

Thankfully, finally, by God’s grace I’ve learned to make nice with In-between. And it’s a good thing too, because life is a long series of in-betweens. Life doesn’t always fall into our pre-scheduled blocks. Expectations fail and we find ourselves floundering in the In-between.

‘Arriving’ and finally getting to where you want to be in life is contrived. I think that as a culture, we usually get to one milestone and sit and enjoy it for about a second, only to quickly move on and set our eyes on the next milestone – because that next step will surely, surely make all of life better.

What we sometimes forget is how much shaping and learning goes on during these in-between times. The habits you make in the in-betweens will not magically evaporate when you get where you want to be.

So, I try hard to remember that the perseverance we’re cultivating now will serve us so much better than sitting unhappy until we get to that next milestone. We actually haven’t hit any huge milestones since we got married a year and a half ago. We’ve seen tons of sweet, small successes, and we’ve celebrated those together. We’re having fun, trucking along in this hybrid adult/college student season. Sometimes we screw up. Sometimes the valleys seem long. Sometimes we ask for help. Sometimes I love this season. And sometimes I don’t. But we’re still here, still in the college town, still persevering and learning.

And damnit, that’s okay.

Because I’ve learned that there is no arriving.

Yes, we must cultivate dreams and longings and goals, and we must work hard at them, but I am beginning to learn that the Lord will come through on those when it’s time.

And, even in the midst of His provision, every. single. season. will have its own imperfections and struggles. There will never be a flawless season in your life.

Someday soon, I won’t be main bread-winner for our little family anymore. But, guess what? Life will still be screwy then, too.

So, I say we don’t have to thrash through the In-between, pushing reckless to get to that magical arrival point at any cost, in any condition.

Instead, let’s stick to our guns. While we work hard to move forward, let’s stick to our hard-earned contentment and learn to embrace In-between.


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10 Responses

  1. Robyn

    Wow, this was much-needed and so timely. My life feels like one big series of things with not-what-I-want labels, but I'll remember this:

    "What we sometimes forget is how much shaping and learning goes on during these in-between times. The habits you make in the in-betweens will not magically evaporate when you get where you want to be."

    Convicting words.Thank you so much for sharing.

    January 23, 2012 at 12:58 pm

  2. Wow this was good! There are several parts I need to write down and keep in front of me. Thanks for always being a friend who understands and pushes me towards God and contentment.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:12 am

  3. I'm in a sort of in-between stage as well and, "damnit, that's okay." Thanks for saying that, because sometime when I watch how everyone else seems to be moving faster than I am I start to feel that maybe what I've done isn't enough. It's reassuring to hear someone talk about these issues. Thank you very much for your writing.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm

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  5. Tonna

    In the words of Joyce Meyer: "Learn to enjoy where you're at on the way to where you're going." Learn to be content in any season of your life – whether you have much or little…

    This was a great article! :-)

    February 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

  6. Lauren

    Be proud of being the main bread-winner. As a woman, there should be nothing wrong with that.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm

  7. vanessa

    This statement caught my attention: "Someday soon, I wont be main bread-winner for our little family anymore." I said that too. And when it never came it caused a lot of disappointment and anger in me that I didn't feel relief from a role I never anticipated holding onto long-term. I wanted to be home with my children when we had them but things didn't quite turn out that way even though it was what we had "planned". I am now almost 14years married and if there is any word of advice I can give in this area, it is to hold space for how life might turn out "different" than you expected or hoped. As soon as we stop protesting reality and accept that we are owners of things we can control but it is not our role to control our husbands or God then we will experience greater peace for how the journey may evolve. I've learned to embrace that God has blessed us through the work that I do (now from home), and have learned to be okay with being the main breadwinner. Personally I've experienced in our situation that expecting that to change was hope deferred and in the past made my heart sick. Now I am learning to love the adventure and dance of marriage and no that nothing will be to hard to bear.

    May 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm

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