We get up early at our house. Some days are inspired by the vigor and resolve that dawn lends to a fresh new day, and others by nothing more than rigorous discipline. And then there are the days that begin well before sunrise and any pre-determined time when we are jolted awake by the desperate cries of little ones embroiled in a pitched battle against closet monsters and bad dreams which are invariably a combination of both. It’s what Toddlers do and it’s all as real to them as the tears on their face.

As it turns out, this morning showed up earlier than usual but it wasn’t monsters this time, it was unbridled glee over the best dream ever. Jesse was actually a member of The Paw Patrol and he heralded the news with a booming voice for all in the house to hear.

The girl’s bedroom is closest to his and so the aftershock was felt strongest in their room. Cady was up stumbling around like a drunk and Emma, not yet stable enough to stumble, needed to be carried. Both were thrilled about the news and like all people young and old irresponsibly reported their own spirited versions of the dream without knowing from the source how it actually went.

I had already risen for the day when the hubbub occurred, but Ana, who has occasionally experienced REM sleep over the past three years since becoming a foster parent, was out cold and enjoying her own dreams that may well have been about Paw Patrol too. She doesn’t remember, but she is keenly aware of whatever dream she was having ended.

She was a little prickly, and understandably so, when the tiny crowd of unruly revelers poured into our bedroom to bring her the news. Had I been thinking I would have presented a steaming mug of coffee first. Like the dogs and children, I am rarely guilty of considering Ana in the heat of our daily going-ons at Casa Del Goodlad. An area I must improve upon.

The little thundercloud that hovered over my tender bride sprinkled us all equally. No one melted but Ana was in bad need of a time out. We stepped to the side and talked for a minute and she told me how she was taken off gaurd. But I saw something else there. She was overwhelmed, over-tired, and worn down from work and stress. She felt horrible, apologized and vowed to do better.

But it wasn’t her that needed to do better.

I work constantly and rarely take a full day off. It’s just the nature of our life right now. My work is tightly scheduled and I let very little get in the way of it. I proudly call it focus. My days are jam-packed and never long enough but, I do get the privilege of planning how the time will get spent.

Ana has likes to have a plan too but I don’t recall a day in the past three years when that plan wasn’t completely destroyed by the immediate needs of others. Whether it’s the kids or dogs or me or someone else, Ana, like all busy mothers and career women, has to react to what everyone else needs and her own needs and schedule are never a priority. On top of stress and demands, there is a ever-growing level of frustration, failure, and anxiety that comes with not getting things done that I don’t have to deal with.

Me telling her how she has to do better doesn’t help her or the situation, it only makes it worse. She needs me to help her out. That means re-prioritizing my work and the needs of our family as well as ensuring Ana gets some time to take care of her needs. Nothing extravagant. Just things like a long, hot shower and time to do her hair and makeup. Time to sit quietly and read her daily devotions uninterupted. A visit with her sister or a friend over coffee to talk about whatever she wants uninterrupted. Just time to do whatever makes her feel good and happy. Just time without her having to solve someone else’s problems.

But my schedule is ridiculous and don’t see any jobs I can set aside. But what I can do is trim 30 minutes from my social media time. I can shorten my texts. I can evaluate what time I give to others and ask myself if they deserve my time more than my wife does. I can take the kids to the grocery store or the park or the gym and leave Ana at home. If I am working in the yard or the garage, the kids are old enough now to come with me. When I started looking with the intentions of finding time I can give to Ana, there was plenty.

Ana is the foundation of our family, our happiness, health and prosperity. She gives and gives well past what she has to give and does it from the heart. I can tell Ana I love her but it only matters if she feels loved. The way I see it, most important job I have is making sure that she does.