michael has just returned from indonesia. he was gone four days – which is a short time in comparison to his normal trips. but, when you figure in his next most recent trip was 3 weeks long and had him returning late last saturday night (giving him a little over 2 days at home) it didn’t feel so short. i have people ask me all the time “how do you do it?” how do we manage the comings and goings. and my answer is we just do. i don’t mean to sound flippant, but it’s one of those things that we do because we have to. we knew that the traveling and the separation came with this job – with this opportunity to live in thailand. but knowing it and adjusting to it are two very different things. and sometimes it is hard.
when he’s not here the whole family dynamic changes. basically, we function as a single parent family. but single parenting when you’re not really a single parent can be difficult. it’s not so great for the kids to have only me at home. i am not the fun parent. i am the one that is most likely to say no. when i’m reacting to something, i try hard to think about how he would react and balance my over the top with his a bit more laid back nature. i frequently don’t succeed.
but apart from the parenting thing there’s the whole he’s my spouse thing. you know, the “we’re in this together” thing. except, often we’re not. at least not geographically. and i find myself becoming resentful. the bills, the kids, meal planning, household or car repairs (planned and surprise) and any other day to day thing (like bicycle-vs.-motorcy-not-really-an-accident accidents) all fall to me when he’s gone. and i handle it all. not always well, but it usually gets taken care of. the odd thing is that the things that bother me most are the things i would be responsible for if he were home. i read an article the other day and this quote was in it (you can click on the quote for the full article).
The difficulty of living out the married life at a distance is that the independence you need to develop in order to function well apart, directly challenges the healthy interdependence that defines a good marriage when you are together.
i couldn’t have said that better myself. and it points to what i find most difficult. i work pretty hard to not develop that independence. to not have 2 different norms – the he’s home norm and the he’s away norm. (of course, we do have 2 norms – we have the let’s pretend he’s not away norm and the he’s home norm). and by doing this, i think i might be making things more difficult. my fear of becoming comfortable without him might be interfering with my being able to function without him. when i’m dealing with the kids, reminding myself that i’m not the fun parent or that he would handle this differently isn’t at all helpful.
there’s nothing we can do to change his travel. and i’m not looking to. what needs to change is my attitude. it’s not a betrayal for me to truly single parent while he’s gone. it will probably make things better – certainly for my relationship with my kids, but also for our marriage. the article i quoted above is about the unexpected good of life with a traveling spouse. and i think there is unexpected good, but i think if we’re gonna find it i have to embrace the role of not traveling spouse.