Our setup is not ‘normal’. It’s also not ‘unique’. Millions of families face the reality of spending time apart, be it due to work commitments, military service, medical issues or visa constraints. My husband works away – six weeks gone, two weeks home, and, as difficult as it can be, somehow we make it work.
Yes, i miss my husband. Of course, the girls miss their dad. And sure, there are days that i long for a ‘normal’ life. But, the reality is that my husband’s job requires him to travel and we either suck it up or he explores the possibility of an entirely new career. Realistically, for my husband, as for so many others, changing careers would just not be an option, so, one foot in front of the other, this is the path we walk.
We’ve actually been riding this rollercoaster for almost 12 years now. We have our ups and our downs, but we work it as a family, and so far, we’ve survived.
Dad’s arrival home is always quite eventful. There’s lots of kisses, plenty of hugs and normally a few little gifts for the girls. That first day is always a whole lot of fun, but things tend to get a little crazy… The bedtime routine goes out the window – at least that first night while everyone’s too excited to sleep – and the dinner routine gets flipped on it’s head. Instead of Mom deciding what’s for dinner, it now becomes something that needs to be discussed and agreed upon by two adults. I ‘spose as the primary parental figure in the house for the majority of the time, stepping back to just ‘co-parent’ is a little tough sometimes.
If there is a parenting issue that we disagree on, my instinct is to feel that ‘obviously i’m right’, and to be honest, this is something that has caused quite a few fights in the past. I’ve had to make a mind-shift when it comes to sharing the ‘responsibilities’ and ‘parenting duties’, and one way that we’ve found works well is by trying to include each other in as many of the parenting decisions as possible, even if they seem small. If our daughter wants to go shopping for a new outfit with her friends, we discuss it as team and settle on an answer and an amount, and then back each other up if there’s any arguments. If Dad’s at work, and our daughter stays out past her curfew, we discuss her behavior and what we think the the punishment should be, and then we both speak to her, me in person and Dad over the phone or via Skype.
By staying involved in the disciplinary process, Dad is also ensuring that he remains involved in the ‘better’, more fun aspects of the girls’ lives. Both the girls love chatting to their dad on the phone, and video chatting on Skype is an extra special treat for Sundays. When Dad’s here, you’ll often find the three of them curled up together watching cartoons, and I might as well ‘just forget it’, because that boring old spaghetti sauce (it’s delicious!) i make (that usually ‘rocks!’) suddenly ‘sucks eggs’ compared to Dad’s famous fried egg sandwiches. 🙂
Of course, it’s a delicately balanced little eco-system, and if we are not careful, things will rot and go all mouldy. If there are any issues regarding the children’s’ routine that i feel strongly about, i’ll mention it to my husband before he gets home. If i’m feeling stressed out or tired, and looking for extra help, i’ll let him know in advance that it’s going to be great to have some help and support and that i can’t wait for him to get back. That way, he also has a bit of a head’s up. Most importantly, i’ve come to accept that the first couple of days either side of Dad travelling are going to be a bit rocky. Everyone’s adjusting, kids included.
Grumpy, tearful, tired, happy, excited, confused… Yes, my kids go through a wide range of emotions every time Dad comes home, and again every time he leaves. It is not easy, i know that. As a mom, of course i wish they didn’t have to feel the painful ones, but at least i know i’m doing my best. I listen to my kids, and i make sure they know that their words have been heard. We set aside special time and we rely on our support networks.
In the midst of all the chaos, it’s easy to overlook oneself – this can be disastrous. When Mom’s not looking after herself, she’s going to break down, and if Mom is broken, the whole thing is going to fall apart. I found this out the hard way, and it almost cost us our family. Finding something special that i was doing just for me gave me the energy and the drive to face each day. Taking a step back, not being so harsh on myself and setting realistic expectations for myself and family helped us avoid the dreaded feeling of failure that would obviously accompany any attempt at perfection.
This situation is not easy, and it’s not right for everyone. To be honest, it’s probably not 100 percent ‘right’ for us either. But this is the situation, and you work with what you’re given. As a mom, all i can do i hope and pray that i’m doing a good job, and that my girls turn out okay.
Have you or your partner ever worked away from home? What were your experiences?
Please, remember to share this post with anyone that’s facing a similar situation. It’s not easy, and sometimes just knowing that you’re not facing it alone helps.