Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Long distance husbands

Rob is in the middle of an 87 hour week.  He was home a few hours last night, then left for another 24 hour shift at 8 am this morning.  He gets done at 8am tomorrow morning and has to be back at 5pm for another 24 hour shift.  He gets done at 5pm Friday night and goes back Saturday morning.

Plus I'm working 40+ hours this week plus taking human biology at the community college--one more class down towards my RN degree.
You can imagine how my house looks.

It is hard, sometimes, not to be jealous of the wives who get to be, well, wives.  Their husbands come home at night, and they can pass the fussy baby off to him for a few minutes.  When their toilet backs up or their car won't start, their husband can either run home or will be home that evening to take care of it.  They get to cook dinner because someone other than themselves will be there to eat it.  They roll over in the night and feel someone else's body next to theirs. 
This isn't my life.  My husband comes home for a few hours or even a night and then leaves again for another 24 hours.  When something breaks, I fix it or hire someone to fix it.  When the baby is fussy, there is no one to hand him off to for a few minutes.  I don't even bother cooking, because I hate wasting food and I cannot get the hang of cooking for one.  And we have a double bed, not even a queen size, because we can't justify the expense when most nights there is only one person in the bed.  When I need grocery shopping done or the electric bill paid, I can't wait for a day when my husband is home to do it.  It has to be done, and it all falls on me.

Add a pretty-much-full-time(though it wasn't supposed to be) job into this, and, yes, it's hard.
It's hard to work all day and come home to a messy house and no food(or our highly processed staples: frozen pizza and Hamburger Helper) and no other adult there to help.
I won't dare to speak for single mothers, but for a quasi-single-mom: It's all on me.  All the time.  With no vacations.

So if you know a mom whose husband isn't around a lot, pray for her.  It's harder than you can imagine.   Don't judge them--they may not be working a lot because they want the boats and the big televisions, but maybe the husband makes a pitiful hourly wage and needs all the overtime, or, like my husband, works in a profession(like long-distance trucking and equities trading and corrections) where eighty hours a week is simply what the job requires.   My husband is mandated overtime; he rarely chooses to pick up that many hours a week.    Yes, your husband may have a lovely home business where he is home every day, or have an 8-5 p.m. job where he walks in the door every night at 5:30 on the dot.  You may even be of the persuasion that the only way to properly raise a family is a lot of fatherly involvement, which you believe is best done by having dad at home in a family business.  Those are lovely goals(though when my dad, an engineer, owned his own company, we saw a lot less of him, and we had no health insurance, so though he made loads of money, the home business idea didn't make a lot of sense and he dissolved it to go work a 9-5 job), but they aren't for everyone.

(And, yes, I say this because I have had those ideals quoted to me and been told that my family will simply fall apart because we work a lot of hours.  This is generally followed by the recommendation that my husband go back to contracting, despite that it would be a $25,000 pay cut and lose our health insurance)

But, practically, what can you do?

Offer to take the kids every now and then.  I only have one child, and I can't imagine having three or four or five and trying to drag them through Wal-Mart.  Offer to watch the kids for an hour or two so Mom can run errands.  Remember, Dad isn't coming home that evening to play with the kids while Mom decompresses.  So step in and offer to give Mom a little bit of time to just get some basic grocery shopping done.

Invite them over for dinner.  Especially with a baby, I have a hard time cooking for myself.  Usually I don't; and since Rob has taken this job, our fast food bills have skyrocketed.  Honestly, it's super easy to swing through Burger King on the way home from work or toss a frozen pizza in the oven, rather than coming home with no energy and trying to find something to cook for just one person.  Even on the days I'm not working, I just really have a hard time spending the time and energy on dinner when I'm the only person home.  And a Mom by herself with a lot of me, she'd love dinner and some adult company.

Offer up your husband.  There is nothing more frustrating than having something break and my husband being gone for 36 hours.  I am fortunate; when something happens that I don't know how to fix, I have a lot of guys in my fire department and a Dad who are all only a phone call away.  And trust me, I've had to ask for help.  And especially if she has sons who want to do manly stuff--if your husband is taking your boys fishing or hiking or even just teaching them how change the oil in the car, call her up and see if her boys would like to participate.  Nobody will be offended, trust me.  There is probably a little boy sitting at home wishing his Dad was there to play basketball, because, at least in our house, Mom isn't going to do that.

Call her just to see how she's doing.  I am fortunate in that I can usually talk to my husband when I need to.  Unless he's with a patient or sleeping, he's available to talk to me.  I understand not all men have jobs like that, so we count our blessings that I can always call or text him.  However, I don't have a lot(read that: any) female friends to talk to.  And my husband and I are simply on different wavelengths a lot of the time, and I would love a girlfriend to chat with.  Who won't be clueless when I'm sobbing on the phone because I just got home from work and am exhausted, the dog needs to be walked, the baby is fussy and clingy, there is laundry to do and a dishwasher to run, and groceries to buy, and Dad isn't due home for another two days.  And yes, that was tonight, and when I called my husband crying, his (mostly unhelpful) response was that if I couldn't do everything to eliminate something--even though I pointed out that the big four things were our son, work, housekeeping and trying to cook decent meals, none of which could really be succesfully eliminated from our agenda.  He then told me to stop thinking and just do what he suggested, which I am very sure a best girlfriend would never say.  In all seriousness, though, a five minute how-are-you-doing phone call to help a stressed out and overwhelmed Mom decompress could make all the difference in the world.

And if you are a Mom whose husband is gone a lot?
It's okay to be overwhelmed.
It's okay to not serve gourmet, from scratch meals and it's okay not to scrub the bathroom every two days.
It's okay to sometimes cry.
It's okay to ask for help when you need it.
It's okay to even be a teensy bit jealous sometimes when you see picture perfect families having picnics, and all you really want is just to see your husband for five minutes.

What's not okay?
Criticizing your husband.
Wishing you were married to someone else.
Fantasizing about how much better life would be if only your husband would listen to you and find another job.
Comparing your family to what you think everybody else has.

It's okay to acknowledge that sometimes this is a tough road to walk.  It's not okay to spend all your time dwelling on how hard it is.  If you're a Mom who is alone a lot, you're couragous, and strong, and can do more than you think you can.

In the end, we all have to do what is best for our family.
It's hard.  Being married to a firefighter-paramedic is not for the faint of heart, but I'm proud of my husband and what he does.
And tonight, now that the baby has finally gone to sleep, I can go run the dishwasher and feed the dog and pick up the living room and fold the laundry.  And I will go to bed, alone, and wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.

And, really, I wouldn't have it an other way.


Navy_Blue21 said...


I am at a loss for words. I can't even begin to tell you how badly I needed to find someone who really gets my situation. I feel like I could have written this myself.

We are made of strong salt. We will get through this.