When we had seven children, many of them quite young, I was working as the Internet Manager at the local university, along with teaching. My days were long and hard. When I came home, I was exhausted, but I would take time to play with my children and help around the house. But there were times when server issues kept me at work late into the night and sometimes even into the morning hours.
Much of the burden of taking care of the children fell to my wife, Donna, who was home most of the time. In the latter part of the fall, I could tell that she was tired, not just from lack of sleep, but from not having any time to herself. I tried to think of something that she could do that would give her a change and be something she would enjoy. One day I was looking through a brochure that came from the university, and I had a brilliant idea.
There was an Italian professor who worked in the Physics Department just down the hall from my office. The Physics Department did not have a microwave in their faculty room, but we did. So each day he would come to our department to heat up his lunch. The aroma of cheese, oregano, and many Italian herbs and spices filled the air and made my mouth water.
The paper I was looking at was the university's community classes. Anyone in the community could propose a class on a subject that they felt might be of interest to others. If the class was accepted, the person would teach the class in the evening. The class that caught my eye was one on Italian cooking to be taught by the physics teacher's wife.
My brilliant idea was that Donna could have time out for herself, and I would get to try some of the wonderful foods I smelled every day.
I took the multi-page brochure that listed the classes, and I bent the pages back so the brochure would naturally fall open to the page with the Italian cooking. I wanted to make sure it was the first thing Donna would see. I then took the brochure home and informed Donna that I was going to arrange my schedule so one night each week was hers to do something she wanted. I then handed her the brochure and suggested she find something she liked.
She excitedly thumbed through its pages. She went through it multiple times that evening. She took a few more days looking through every option. The next week, just before the classes started, she announced her choice: woodworking.
I gasped because she had never done anything like woodworking before. "Woodworking? I thought you would choose Italian cooking."
"That looks good," she replied. "But I cook much of the day every day. I want something really different."
After the shock subsided, I asked her what she would like to build.
"I was thinking about building a cupboard. I have already drawn out the plans."
She showed me her design, and I was amazed both at her skill in drawing and in her ambitious plans.
"Do you think you can finish something like this in just a couple of months with only one evening per week?" I asked.
"If not, I think I could get a long way," she replied.
The evening of the first class came, and Donna left, excited to try her hand at something new. I changed the baby, fed the children, read stories to them, and got them all in bed before Donna came home. When she did come, her hair and clothes had bits of sawdust embedded in them. She was tired and happy. And weeks later, when the last class ended, I went in to load up a beautiful cupboard, as good as any professional could make. But most important, Donna felt fulfillment in her accomplishment and new skill, and she was happy.
Maybe next fall I'll try my hand at Italian cooking.