Most people don’t laugh when I tell them that my marriage only works because my husband is hardly ever home. But I don’t say it to be funny. I say it because it’s true. My husband is gone more than 50 percent of the time, for his job—a job he loves and a job that single-handedly supports our family.
On Mondays, he leaves for the airport before I’m awake only to return on Fridays at dinnertime. Weeks that he is actually home are spent in the office, working a normal 8 to 5—if you don’t include the after hour phone calls and late night emails. It’s the same schedule he had when I met him, when we started dating and has continued as we’ve gotten married and welcomed two children into our family. It’s our normal and it truly works for us because we’ve made it work. Here’s how:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
Somewhere in the country, my husband is probably laughing as he reads this. He’ll be the first to tell you that communication is not his strong suit. But we do communicate—every day, multiple times a day. Whether it’s text, email, phone calls, Snapchat, Tango or Facebook—we are in contact regardless of what time zone he is in. I know that I’ll hear from him first thing in the morning and right before he goes to bed. But most importantly, our kids know that they will hear from Daddy at least once a day. It may be in the car, on our way to the grocery store, but they know that Daddy will be available to hear about their day and tell them he loves them.
- Stay Informed
Kids’ preferences change faster than Missouri weather. So when my husband comes home from a trip and doesn’t know the new bedtime routine, the whole house pays for it. We aren’t always perfect at it, but we both do our best to make sure we are on the same page when it comes to what’s happening with our children. To help, I have a written schedule on the side of the fridge for both kids. I try to keep him posted throughout the week as things come up, but if he’s home and doesn’t know that our toddler now prefers to be tucked in a certain way, he’ll say something like, “Let’s have Mommy show me,” instead of picking a battle and causing all hell to break lose 10 minutes before bedtime.
- Let Go of Resentment
When our son was a month old, my husband left for his first trip since becoming a dad. I was a nervous wreck about being left alone for five whole days with a newborn, but I was also extremely jealous that my husband was going to get a full night’s sleep and hot food. That is until I realized the price that he was paying. For five whole days, he didn’t get to kiss our son. He didn’t get baby snuggles or to see his smile in person. Every time he steps on that airplane, he sacrifices time with his family so he can provide for us. So sure it’s easy to get upset when he’s enjoying a steak dinner and I’m eating toddler leftovers (again), but we are both making sacrifices. Comparing them or holding onto that jealousy isn’t worth it. As Princess Anna would say, let it go, because I bet if he could, he’d pick bedtime battles over a nice dinner any day.
Tonight I’m lying in our bed, alone, after accomplishing dinner, bath and bedtime for two kids under 3, by myself, for the fourth time this week. I’m beyond exhausted and counting down the hours until his plane lands tomorrow evening. If I had it my way, of course, I’d pick having my husband home every night. Solo parenting is hard. Maintaining a semi long-distance marriage is even harder. But we knew going into this that travel was going to be a major part of our relationship. So we’ve had to figure it out and like I said, who knows if we’d even survive if we were together 365 days a year?