Men’s retreats—whether church getaways or hunting trips—have always baffled me. This, I think, is one of the most honest statements I have ever written in this online space.
Allow me to explain.
We live in a world that keeps a frenetic pace, one in which children are expected to be exceptional and excel at everything. From basketball practice, to running club, to piano, to Little Theater, to yada-yada-yada, our children are inundated with cultural notions of American exceptionalism from the cradle. “You can do anything you put your mind to,” we say, and so, they are forced to do everything we put their minds to.
Our family is no exception. Our children are in karate, extracurricular clubs, school productions, and para-church ministries. Isaac wants to join the basketball team and take piano. Jude wants to take art and guitar lessons. Add to this the growing interests of Ian and Titus, and my family’s schedule is growing very full. (And this is without mentioning doctor’s appointments, church functions, and community involvement.)
By society’s standards, my children have a relatively relaxed schedule, but still, we find it difficult to keep the pace without becoming frazzled.
Move to strike.
Amber finds it difficult to keep the pace.
If I’m honest, I’m not quite sure how she does it. She wakes early to spend her time in scripture and prayer, and before she can whisper her last Amen, Titus is begging for a new sippy cup and Jude needs his school lunch made. From there, she is in constant motion, out of breath as she tends to the needs of four children. And though I live the extremely-busy-with-complicated-adult-business-meetings-and-teleconferences sort of life, I am not the constant chauffeur/butler/housekeeper to children who’ve not yet mastered the art of holding adult conversations with a frazzled mommy.
In all that going and blowing, in the flurry of activity, what happens to rest for my wife? How does she carve out quiet places to decompress and dream? Often, she doesn’t.
And this, I think, is where my befuddlement with men’s retreats, hunting trips, and the like comes in. As men, we are intentional about carving out time for ourselves. But these sorts of retreats leave the women at home alone–again–to tend to the children. The father’s retreat becomes the extended work week for the mother.
This is not to say men don’t need time to decompress. After all, we all have stress that needs blowing off (or blowing up, depending on the sort of retreat). But if we’re not seeing the corollary need for our wives carve out the same kind of retreat for themselves? I suppose you could call that sexist.
(Was that too strong?)
This morning, Amber is away, writing in a coffee shop. It’s no weekend retreat of massages and shopping, but it’s a mini-break from the routine of the day. There, she’ll prepare for a lesson she’s giving to a local women’s group, drink a few cups of coffee, and maybe have an adult conversation or two. It’ll be one morning where we trade roles, where I tend to the constant needs of our children’s morning routine while her mind is free to wander and dream a little.
Soon, Amber will attend a women’s conference. There, she’ll spend time with good friends, cry about whatever it is women cry about at those conferences, and catch a catnap or two. She’ll be filled with life by human connection. She’ll be recharged by rest.
I carve out these spaces for Amber because I think women need retreat just as much as men. I carve out these spaces because here, in these Fringe Hours–these times of making space for herself–she is refreshed. I carve out these spaces because when she returns, when she hugs me and thanks me for tending to the harried life of chauffeur/butler/housekeeper, I’ll look into her eyes and see a woman alive.
I wrote this post in celebration of the release of The Fringe Hours: Making Time For You, the new book by my friend, Jessica Turner. Maybe you’re a mother who needs to learn the art of carving out time for yourself. Maybe you’re a fella who knows your wife needs to carve out time for herself. Either way, grab a copy of The Fringe Hours. You’ll be glad you did. (Really… go on… BUY IT HERE!)
In this month’s Tiny Letter (my once-a-month, insider newsletter delivered straight to your email), I’ll be discussing the Lenten season, the darkness of my heart, and the discipline of quiet reflection. Look for the newest edition later this week (the week of February 15). And if you sign up today, you’ll receive a FREE DOWNLOAD of the song “Train Wreck.” It’s a song I wrote about pain, loss, and the love of God.Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.