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Guys have you ever been left home alone with the kids while your wife, the kids momma, went out for the night? The weekend? How about the week?

This past week Joannie went to Costa Rica to spend a few days with one of her closest friends while I stayed behind to man the fort, manage the fort, and protect the fort from the quake of our three children.

After Joannie got back, I sat down to think about what I learn every time she takes a solo vacation. Here are seven things I learn:

  • She feels guilty every time she leaves to do something for herself. Thanks to Bréne Brown I know the difference between guilt and shame. Shame is “I am bad,” whereas guilt is “I did something bad.” For Joannie, doing something for herself makes her feel guilty. I don’t think this is “wifey” guilt (she doesn’t feel bad leaving me by myself), but more of mommy guilt (leaving the kids alone with me J). So, one of the things that I try to do is make her feel less guilty. In all honesty it’s hard, especially knowing that she is going to the mountains to swim in hot springs, hike, and zip line. But to make her feel less guilty, I try and assure her that everything will be fine—the kids will be [well] fed, cleaned, and taken where they need to go—and that she needs to go and enjoy herself.
  • She needs the vacation. There’re very few people I know like my wife. She epitomizes a servant. Not only does she work full time as a nurse, she is always serving others, whether it is the kids, someone in need, or me. I have come to understand that freeing her up (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to go somewhere is one way I can serve her. I can attest to the fact that every time she goes on a solo min-vacation she returns refreshed and renewed. I will take a refreshed and renewed wife over a tired one any day!
  • My children don’t eat as healthy when she’s gone. Although I give Joannie a hard time when it comes to her cooking, she really is a good cook. I, on the other hand, am fair. So when Joannie’s away, the menu at the Laxton casa is Spaghetti O’s, DiGiorno Pizza, chicken nuggets, Lunchables, and Chinese takeout. However, I did cook one hot meal—pancakes, eggs, and bacon (I mean how hard is it to mess that up?).
  • Ellie would live with knots in her hair. Most mornings Joannie brushes knots out of Ellie’s hair, particularly the ones that she can’t reach. And more times than not, when this happens, Ellie screeches as if Jack Bauer is threatening to cut off her pinky toe. Because of this I don’t even mess with the hair—I simply don’t go near it. Thus, when Joannie is gone, Ellie’s knots multiply.
  • Our love and appreciation for Joannie grows. When my wife is gone I get a short glimpse of what my life would be without her, and the vision I see is one of great loss. Her brief retreat allows me to recognize the tremendous joy and value she brings to our lives. In addition, I realize just how much our children love and adore their momma—although they don’t behave like it all the time. When Joannie is not present, there truly is a hole, a vacancy, in our life. So when Joannie would call and FaceTime, a WWE Smackdown would ensue between the kids as they fought to fill their lives with a little glimpse of the light of their momma.
  • What it would be like to be a single parent. We all know that life is busy—work, school, school lunches, homework, clean the house, laundry, extra circular activities, exercise, nightly devotions, etc. When Joannie’s gone I’m constantly moving, continuously doing something. Not only do I see how much Joannie does, but I get to experience life as a single parent. For those of you who are single parents, I have great respect and appreciation for you and what you do! You are truly special, one of a kind!
  • I better clean the house before she gets home. One of the things that I learned not so long ago was that while Joannie was appreciative of the time away, she didn’t want to feel overwhelmed when she returned home. In other words, she didn’t want rest, relax, and catch her breath only to return to a house that made her feel overwhelmed. What makes a woman feel overwhelmed you ask? For Joannie, and I would argue most women, a house full of dirty dishes, clothes, rooms, and floors. Thus, in an effort to make her return more enjoyable, less overwhelming, and more welcoming, I get to work. I make sure I wash and put away all the dirty dishes; wash all the dirty clothes, fold them, and put them away; clean and straighten up all the rooms; and vacuum and sweep all the floors. My goal—especially for this past week—was for Joannie to come home and feel as though she didn’t need to do anything to bring order and cleanliness to the house. One may ask why is this so important? Because if your wife leaves and enjoys herself, but returns to a house that makes her feel overwhelmed and even upset, she may be more likely not to go next time. If this happens, we will find ourselves robbing our wives of a great gift of rest!

In closing, I am so grateful for my wife! Outside of salvation, she is the greatest gift and blessing the Lord has given me—and not only me, but our children. And while I believe this all the time, it is good to experience it every now and then as she leaves me home alone to go on a solo vacation.