It’s Saturday morning.
He’s packing to go away for the week and I’m trying (and failing) to ignore the sinking feeling that is slowly creeping up on me.
He’s been back from the last trip just long enough that I’ve got used to him being around and I don’t want to think about the adjustment to being alone that will hit me later when he’s left and the children are in bed.
Although we do the same routine once or twice every month, it still feels strange to not all be together. There is always an adjustment period.
I wave him off cheerfully, as always. But inside I am wondering how appropriate it would be to literally grab hold of his legs and stop him leaving. We both know what I’m thinking, and yet I still go through the motion of saying goodbye with a big “I’ve Got This” smile. Every time.
It’s Sunday. A day when all around me on social media I’m reminded that families are usually together. But in our house it’s just me and the kids and it’s all a little bit more quiet than usual. I’m preoccupied getting prepared for the week ahead doing an online shop with lots of meals for one and easy food for the kids. I can’t shake the sinking feeling.
That night I find it hard to relax. All evening I am just waiting for the moment that two children wake at the same time and my night time juggling routine begins. It feels strange to be in a big bed alone and I am on high alert all night – anxious about silly things like burglars and fires and being the only adult around to bear all the responsibility.
The next few days pass incredibly slowly with a grin and bear it attitude. I try not to count the days, as that always makes things pass more slowly.
The six year old tells me he wishes Dada didn’t have to go away for work all the time. The three year old gets a daily dose of disappointment every time I tell him “No, Dada’s not back today”. He is too young to grasp how long a week is.
I up my fun game by at least 50% in an effort to be two parents at once. But after the first few “I wish Dada was here”s I run out of things to say except “Me too”.
Of course they notice the vast difference between the weeks he is here and the weeks he is away.
Inevitably, by the time we hit the mid-point, where I realise there is just as much time to come as time that has passed, I start to lose my stamina. I get short with the kids. I stop to notice the exhaustion. To acknowledge that it isn’t all easy “no big deal” stuff all the time.
On the flipside, the evenings and alone time in a quiet house after the kids are in bed doesn’t feel quite strange in the second half of the week. I am used to it, and juggling the baby’s bedtime with cooking a dinner for one has become second nature.
It’s the night before he is arriving back and I’m feeling positive. At this point, hardly anything can go wrong, even if I get no sleep overnight it’s okay because I know he’s back tomorrow and I will cope. I’m noticeably more upbeat. It’s almost over. We’ve made it this far.
Saturday morning, he’s back fresh off a night flight. The kids are incredibly excited. But first he needs to go straight to bed and catch up on a bit of sleep.
Despite all the children’s grand ideas for things we can do now that Dada is back, we don’t generally make concrete plans for the weekend because we never know how he’ll be feeling after a long tiring day of overnight travel.
It’s a bit strange to have him back in the house again, to have another person to think about, to include in food plans. There is another adjustment period as we all get used to having him back.
But he’s here. We are all together again.
I can relax immediately as soon as he walks through that door. We have our friend back and we are complete again.
This routine, the peaks and troughs, the laborious periods of time apart, and happy relaxed time together, totally dominates our life. Everything revolves around it. It is how we survive, financially, but a lot of the time it feels like something we are trying to survive.
I’ve been waiting for the moment when it all starts to feel normal, but I’m realising that I don’t think it will ever feel normal. We are a family unit and life is better together.
I made a video a few weeks ago that centres around a weekend where Sam was arriving back from a work trip. I talk a bit about how it affects our day to day lives, and I also caught the moment where the boys greet him at the door, which is one of my favourite things I’ve ever filmed. You can watch it below: