Everything turns to shit with the utterance of those dreaded words. If you are married to someone who travels for work you know exactly what I’m talking about. These plans rarely happen months or even weeks in advance. They are typically instead dropped in my lap a mere one or two days prior to departure. I’m never thrilled but have finally accepted my fate as a single mom, albeit temporarily. So when I got the word that my husband needed to go Florida for four, possibly five days this week, I put on a happy face, grit my teeth and tell him to enjoy a bahama mama for me. It wasn’t always so rosy though…
The year my second son was born was the year in which my husband’s work travel increased, exponentially. He was gone about ten to fifteen days per month. When he wasn’t traveling, he was working from home so he would often saunter out of his home office, dirty dishes in hand, and casually tell me that he was leaving the next day forTexas. He’d probably be back in three days. You can picture my reaction as I was dealing with a three year old who complained about everything while cuddling my colicky newborn in the sling to keep him from wailing. Suffice to say, it wasn’t pretty.
He eventually became afraid of me but rather than deal with his fear head on, he did the “man thing” and down-played each trip. “This is just a one day job” he’d say. I would then painfully extract the details of his trip only to find he was leaving on a Monday afternoon, gone all day Tuesday, and returning late Wednesday night. So it’s a one day job that will take a full three days to complete. Was this deceptive tactic a wise choice given my hormonal state? My friends, I think you know the answer to that question. To his credit, he did keep his trips as short as possible, often taking red-eyes and leaving at ungodly hours in the morning. He never stopped to take in the sights or visit a friend; he got home as quickly as possible and because of that we stayed married. He did, however, have the gall to tell me how exhausted he was on these trips. He wasn’t sleeping well on those king size hotel beds in the quiet room where no one was waking him up to suck on his nipples or cry about a bad dream. Poor guy!
We ended up seeing a therapist together at some point during that year. We went under the guise of wanting to learn to be better parents but we ended up talking a lot about the havoc two children were wreaking on our marriage. The first issue to come up was the travel. I expected Ms. Therapist/single mom to be extremely sympathetic to my plight, but to my shock and horror she was siding with my husband! I sat there while the two of them discussed my reactions to his work travel. She was careful to label them reactions, as opposed to responses, which apparently are the much more mature and appropriate way to go. Who knew? She nodded with empathy as he explained how hard this was for him. He didn’t enjoy all of this travel and being away from his family but what choice did he have? She even added her expert opinion that I am “low to adapt” and therefore we must find ways to placate my weakness. My response to that opinion: fuck you (imagine what my reaction would have been!)
In hindsight I can see that she was probably right. I am low to adapt. I react rather than respond. At 44 I don’t see this changing so I guess we are going to have to find ways to deal with me – good luck with that. She suggested that rather than tell me about his travel plans face to face, he should call me and leave me a voicemail explaining his plans. That will give me time to go throw some stuff across the room, complain to a friend, have a glass of wine and then gradually reach acceptance, the final stage of grief. We left her office with a plan and my husband looked so happy you would have thought we’d had sex in her coat closet. I think it was the fact that a woman finally agreed with him. “I really liked her!” he exclaimed. “I think we should keep seeing her, don’t you?” Personally I’d rather he see a prostitute than that agreeable therapist because I didn’t need one more person pointing out how manic I had become. I liked trying to convince him that I was “normal” for a post-partum mom of two. I didn’t want to be labeled “low to adapt.”
We didn’t return to her, but not because of my insecurities. It was just too hard to schedule an appointment when he wasn’t traveling. We did, however, try her voicemail idea. It felt sort of ridiculous since my husband worked from home so if I saw him calling me from the other room, I knew what was coming. I tried hard to respond and not react. I listened to the voicemail and resisted going in the other room to give him my tirade about how hard this was going to be for me. Amazingly enough it worked. By the time he finished his work day and we were ready to discuss his trip, I was over my emotions and was ready to deal with the details: could my mom come and help me? Could I get a sitter so I didn’t have to miss Mom’s Night Out? Did we have enough wine in the house?
Two years later when I hear those words I’m still not thrilled but we no longer need to use our voicemail trick. It is what it is and I’ve learned to adapt, slowly of course. I try to keep us super busy to make the time fly. The morning he leaves I get out the calendar and we talk about all the fun things we can do: playdates, dinner at our friends’ house, a trip to the museum, etc. The worst part for me is being responsible for the garbage. I also have a hard time with the “I miss daddy” factor. While I do believe my five year-old gravely misses his father, he also uses these three words to manipulate me into feeling sorry for him as he now thinks he has an ace in the hole for every transgression. “Cole, why did you hit your brother?” Out goes the lip and as it begins to quiver he retorts, “I miss Daddy!” Oh please. I’ve gone from being sympathetic to being a cold fish. Suck it up kid, he’ll be home soon and you’re all his!
These trips are no longer so bad; in some ways they are actually easier because we get into our routine and no one comes home to periodically screw with that routine. One thing I cannot accomplish, however, is to implement change. So, even though I pledged to try something new each week, I need to take a break this week. We are in maintenance mode, nothing more. Please forgive me. I’ll be back again soon to give you an update.
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