I'm Independent, But It's Still Hard When My Spouse Travels For Work

by Ashleigh Wilkening
Originally Published: 
Two Little Kids On A Video Call With Their Dad
Hero Images / Getty

It sucks when my husband isn’t home. I’m not talking about the small windows of time while he’s at work, running an errand or any other brief moment out of the house – it’s when he’s away for larger stretches of time while traveling for work.

Am I capable? Yes! Am I strong? Absolutely! Am I independent? You betcha! Regardless of me being all these things and more, I still feel as though a part of me is missing when he’s gone. My support, my partner, my best friend is hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away for a duration of a couple of days, weeks or even months. As a military family, this is a routine occurrence in our household and although it’s something we experience on a semi-regular basis, it doesn’t make it any easier.

When he’s home, his presence gives me a physical support system and a wingman to our partnership in marriage and this wild ride of parenting. Although I take the lead in managing our household and my role doesn’t deviate much while he’s away, his absence is felt stronger on an emotional level that’s difficult to manage alone.

I’m the knower of schedules, planner of activities and events and everything else keeping this family functional and operational-ish. While this is shared with my husband on a day-to-day basis, I’m usually the doer because honestly, I’m hella good at project managing our family. Often times it’s the invisible, intangible efforts that consumes more of my time and energy, but none the less, I take pride in this role. I wear it as a badge of honor and rock the shit out of it.

We both have our strengths. He’s better at grilling dinners, fixing crap and tending to anything else on his “honey do list” that I assign him. He takes care of the big bugs and I take care of the spiders because he cowers at the sight of them. Yes, he cooks, cleans and does laundry. He also changes diapers, gives baths and everything else related to child-rearing, while I’m making sure we aren’t running out of the essentials and packing school lunches like a boss. This list isn’t all encompassing with definite cross-over without anything completely resting on one person. But like I said, we each take the lead on certain tasks because we both are better off if I don’t attempt to fix the dryer or hang anything on the walls, just as we all enjoy not running out of toothpaste and toilet paper.

Responsibilities aren’t set in stone nor split down the middle because life raising a family doesn’t work that way. With him home, I can count on him as a back-up and have an assurance of knowing someone else will and can be there if needed. If I’m running late, he can pick up our son from school. If one of our kids needs to go to the doctor and I’m unable, he can do it. He can do the grocery shopping because taking our three little ones on my own sounds like my worst nightmare. While he does all of this and more, without him, I carry the burden of doing it all for everyone, stretching myself thinner than ever.

Self-care doesn’t take a backseat, but rather becomes non-existent. The option to have family nearby to lean on most often isn’t a luxury I’m afforded. It’s just me, myself and I. Sure he’s a phone call away, but it isn’t the same.

I’m the last line of defense and that scares me more than anything. If I fail, I fail my kids. While he’s gone, I’m the sole provider of comfort, security, and caregiving. I’m their one and only and that’s a huge responsibility and weight to carry around.

What if I accidentally sleep in and don’t get my son to school on time. What if someone breaks in and I’m by myself with the kids? What if I have a flat tire on the freeway, or worse, get into an accident? What if I lock us out of the house? There are so many what ifs constantly running through my mind that I don’t normally have when he’s home. I don’t even realize how much his presence puts me at ease until he’s gone leaving me drowning in anxiety until he returns.

Despite proving I am more than able to take care of everything and everyone by myself, as I have done many times before, the unsurmountable strength it takes can be overwhelming at times. It goes far beyond the physical act of keeping everyone alive, but rather the mental load of feeling and worrying for everyone. I’m taking in all the fears, anxieties, frustrations and every other emotion, only to supply everlasting comfort, security and love in return.

As my children are young, unable to fully understand my husband’s absence, other than “daddy at work,” my heart pangs every time they cry asking for him with no comprehension of situation. In those moments, it takes all of my energy not to breakdown right alongside of them. They miss him. I miss him. And when nightfall finally sets in, while the children are asleep, I can’t help but to be overcome with loneliness.

Although the weight on my shoulders to keep it together is heavy, I’m reassured it’s only temporary. In the meantime, I make sure everyone is living their best lives in hopes of providing a much-needed distraction. Rules are bent, sometimes broken. Spoiling and bribes are at an all-time high. We all seem to be drowning our sorrows in ice cream and cupcakes. I do whatever I can to reassure, console and make sure my children feel loved, secure and protected until their father returns and our family is whole again.

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