What does it mean to pro­vide? To be a provider?

I am the sole provider for my young fam­i­ly, by which is meant that my twice-month­ly pay­check as all the pecu­niary influx to our famil­ial cof­fers, and by exten­sion all that lies between us and star­va­tion and death. Undu­ly melo­dra­mat­ic, of course (when am I not?) but you get the idea. I work long and hard to earn the mon­ey we need to pay our bills and eat.

But is that all that it means for me to pro­vide for my fam­i­ly? Is it pure­ly a mat­ter of financ­ing our way of life, mak­ing pos­si­ble what­ev­er stan­dard of liv­ing we deem desir­able, appro­pri­ate and attain­able? To put it anoth­er way: should I be bring­ing home any­thing besides money?

I feel that there should be more to it than that. I feel that I should be bring­ing home more of my self at the end of each work­day; the amount of self I have at home should be greater than the amount of this com­mod­i­ty I have to expend in the work­place. I feel that I should be able to enjoy my fam­i­ly after a day’s work, real­ly enjoy them, not just stum­ble along behind them for a few dull hours between hom­ing and my bed­time. I should have such work as allows me to keep the greater part of my spir­it to live and love.

But at present this is not the case for me. I am con­tin­u­ous­ly drained of all ener­gies. At home I am a bro­ken use­less thing, a bur­den to my dear wife rather than a help and a joy. On my morn­ing way to work I often began to weep invol­un­tar­i­ly as the build­ing comes into sight; it is almost more than I can bear to think of, work­ing anoth­er long day like like the day before.

This is not, to me, an accept­able cir­cum­stance. I need to be hap­py. My fam­i­ly needs me to be hap­py. Not gid­dy every minute of every day, but able to laugh and play and read a sto­ry to my son and go for a walk and wash a sink­ful of dish­es after sup­per. Able to smile and say, “Well, at work today.…” I don’t need a job I love; I do need a job I can like, enjoy, excel at, and do these things with a min­i­mum deple­tion of my frag­ile soul’s con­tents. I can­not afford to pour out my life at work; I have peo­ple at home who need me to pro­vide a hap­py, lov­ing, vibrant hus­band and father.

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