My husband travels for work. Most of the time, he’s only away for a few weeks, but there have been times when he’s been gone for up to eight months. We do our best to schedule visits during the longer trips, but we can’t always work it out. The kiddos and I just make it work at home until he comes back.
When he’s away, people really want to help me. The folks who love me offer to bring me dinner, watch my kids, come by if I get lonely, and include us in their holiday gatherings. I feel so loved and held when they offer to lighten my load. I appreciate my friends and my family so much. The offers of support are incredible.
But I have a secret: My day-to-day responsibilities are actually a million times easier to manage when my husband travels.
Sure, there are a few things I’d rather not do on my own. I don’t really love taking the trash out, dealing with spiders, or doing every dish all by myself for months on end.
That doesn’t change the fact that when he’s gone, I just have less to do, and more time to do it.
It’s really not harder to run the house when he’s away.
Don’t get me wrong — the time apart takes an emotional toll. I adore my husband. I hate spending a minute apart. My three-year-old has a speech delay and sometimes he doesn’t say a single word for two or three days. My six-year-old asks to sleep in one of Daddy’s t-shirts most nights. I leave a light on in the living room because, at 34 years old, I’m still a little afraid of the dark. I still hate to sleep in my bed alone, and I’m always a little relieved when one of my little boys climbs up to sleep next to me. The house feels too quiet, and I get lonely without him here. He belongs at home with us.
I let myself wallow in self-pity a bit for the first day or so. Dishes pile up. I wear crappy pajamas all day and feel sorry for myself. I’m always a little annoyed that I have to do it all alone for a while. But ultimately, I know that if I let things go too long, I’ll just have more work to do later, so I force myself to settle into a routine pretty quickly after he leaves.
The kids and I hit our stride, and it’s surprisingly easy to keep things rolling.
The housework is a breeze. With one less person at home, there is just less to do. My husband isn’t here using dishes, wearing clothes, or shaving into my sink. Because my picky eaters won’t touch them, I don’t cook my usual elaborate meals most nights when my husband is away. I just throw together salads or sandwiches or heat up something simple. There are fewer clothes, towels and dishes to wash, sort and put away.
Being alone frees up a lot of my time. When my husband is home, I like to spend an hour or two at night just being with him. I try to cram all my work and the bulk of the household chores into the daytime hours when he is at the office. I want to be able to just hang out with him when the kids fall asleep, so I don’t consider the late evening to be really usable time when he’s home.
As much as I miss our evenings together, I can use those hours between my kids’ bedtime and my own to be productive when he travels. I can write, do housework, or pamper myself while they sleep. If I want to, I can turn on something my husband doesn’t like to watch, then just do whatever needs to be done. I have at least an extra hour or two at night to make sure the house is in order, and we are ready for the next morning before I go to sleep.
Sometimes when my husband travels, people jokingly ask me how I am handling the “single parent life.” I always cringe. I know they think they’re being funny, but I am careful to acknowledge that my experience is not even CLOSE to the life of a single parent.
When my husband is not physically at home, I still benefit from his role in my life. He calls me every night to see how I’m doing, reminds me that he thinks I’m an excellent mom, and asks me what I need. His entire income is available to our family, and he still does some of the household stuff. I don’t have to worry about paying bills, scheduling pest control and lawn care, or doing the budget. He still handles those things from wherever he is. He can chat with our kids if they’re not listening to me. We are still a team. I can rest knowing that if something major comes up, I am not responsible for figuring it out alone.
Also, aren’t hard things just easier when you are certain they won’t last forever? When my husband is away, I know an end date. I can count down the days until I can toss the kids at him after a hard day. I know it won’t be long until I can jet off to Target, blissfully alone. He’s still with me every step of the way, even if he travels across the country or around the world. I always know he will be back soon.
I know the time apart might look challenging from the outside looking in, but honestly, by the time my husband has been gone a week or two, I start to run out of things to do. We get everything organized and streamlined. It only takes a few minutes each night to straighten up and get ready for the next day. I’m efficient with my work, my kids get into a really organized routine, and my house never looks better than when he’s away.
Now if I could just figure out how to keep it all running so smoothly when he gets home.