I saw him in the rearview mirror. My husband walking with his head downcast. Alongside three of our neighbors, after finishing the morning bus routine, he headed toward home where he would enjoy the remaining coffee in the already half empty coffee pot and the quiet house. Our second-grader twins were now on their way to school, and I was driving their younger brother to his pre-K classroom. My husband would enjoy the quiet house, working a few hours without the children barreling in, though he might not admit it.

We didn’t have a definite plan for children when we married. We awaited something. Given my volunteer work in a Kazakhstan orphanage, we decided on fostering. I wanted children, but he, with 12 siblings, wasn’t so sure. When the infant twins arrived in the summer of 2014, and the next little one in the spring of 2016, the love flowed instantaneously, ineradicably.

Overnight, my husband eschewed his previous life. Uninterrupted workdays, running races, travel, naps on the weekend and beer at the bar with friends was gone. Instead, like many new parents, sleepless nights, diaper changes, laundry, meals and lots of comforting crying littles became his world, our world. When the twins left us for reunification with the birth family, we shared a deep soul pain, but he had an air of confidence about our twins’ permanent return. And they did.

My husband remains steadfast with his work. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, for 20 years, and lots more work hours before that, when he was younger, without a wife and family. Like many, the pandemic required that he work from home, and I worried how the logistics would work. Hmmm… husband in office, two children Zooming with teachers and completing assignments, with the other child mischievously running around the house. Yet, my husband consistently helped, and accepted any day’s potential choppiness, while forfeiting his work hours to after the kids’ bedtime.

I admire my husband’s loving-kindness moments because they sometimes occur when I least expect them. Recently, our daughter, full of anger and rage, decided to climb onto the upstairs handrail that overlooks the living room, 15 feet below. “You are scaring me,” he softly said, and off the handrail she went, into his open arms.

I don’t begrudge my husband’s relief when he works in the quiet house or has the house to himself. Instead, I want to reassure him that it is OK to relish this quiet time, and the nourishing qualities that come with it; it does not diminish his sacrifices, his steadfastness, his unbinding love for us. And even though we will think differently about the quiet house when the kids are gone, we are older, and perhaps lament that the house is too quiet; for now, ingest the ephemeral calm. Within a couple hours, the kids will be home, one will be upset about something, the dogs will bark, the phones will beep and the neighborhood kids will knock on the door. And he will continue to put his family above all else. For that, I am grateful.

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