Sam going on work trips has always been a thing. Usually for a week or ten days at a time. I remember the first trip after we became a family, Arlo was four weeks old. I particularly remember the first trip when I had two kids, Rory was six weeks old and Arlo had a tummy bug. Great memories.
Having a partner who works away from home has been a learning curve. Sam’s current schedule works out to around one week per month away. I’ll start by saying that loneliness is probably my lowest ranking factor. I bloody LOVE my own company. I’m never short of something to read, write, or watch.
It’s the anxious back of the mind at all times thought: “What disaster awaits us this time” as we wave Sam goodbye. The thought that stays in my head from the moment he leaves until approximately two hours before he’s due home. What will I do if an actual, proper emergency happens, and he’s not one hour away, or even half a day away. He’s half way across the world in places that only operate three London bound flights per week.
I never had an anxious mind before children. Now, it’s like, THE RESPONSIBILITY.
Which brings me nicely on to…
NIGHT TIME ANXIETY
No matter what mindset I am in, when it gets near to bedtime, I can never be 100% relaxed during the night when Sam isn’t here. Most nights, I am freaking out slightly on the inside.
ROUTINE UPHEAVAL IS THE NEW ROUTINE
Whether it’s anticipating an upcoming trip, being away, or getting used to having Sam back, the natural rhythm of life always feels in upheaval. There is constantly something happening or about to happen, schedules that need adjusting.
Sam mostly flies on a weekend so that he can be at his destination for a full work day on the Monday. Travelling weekends + trips that cross over a whole weekend = a huge loss of family weekends. Yes, he will sometimes take a day in the week in lieu, but now Arlo is at school and we can’t go on weekday adventures, I am acutely aware of the loss of family time.
Excluding the nights, the weekends on my own are the worst. Without the routine of the weekdays, it can feel quite empty and ungrounding. I like to always have some kind of plan for the weekend. It helps.
THE WORK COMPROMISE
I’ve mentioned before that with the amount Sam is away, I feel an increasing need to clear my schedule so I can be there for the children. They deserve to have one parent who isn’t splitting their time too much, which is definitely what I was doing before when I was simultaneously trying to work from home and look after two children in the same sitting. The effect on our weekends is essentially the reason I decided to take on only a limited amount of family photo shoots this year compared to last. Family photo shoots happen on a weekend, weekends have become too precious to disrupt further.
YOU HAVE TO BE REALLY GOOD AT COMMUNICATION AND ORGANISATION
I often have to wait days or weeks until I know Sam’s schedule before I can confirm a date. Our general planning method is to send a barrage of texts “we need to do X” “can you do X date” “let me know your thoughts on X” only half of it to get lost due to time differences and other threads of conversation.
THE EMOTIONAL FALLOUT
This has only recently become a thing as the children are older and more aware. One child has absolutely NO sense of time, thinks every plane in the sky is Dada’s, asks approx 3 times a day if Dada will be back today (and gets upset with a dissatisfactory response). The other one has an all-too-accurate sense of time, which, in recent months has led to heart-rending moments, an increased sense of missing time with his dad, and some big fat tears. “I’m not the same without Dada. Things don’t feel the same. I never ever want him to leave me.” I’m still navigating my way around how to deal with these intense, guilt-inducing moments of emotion.
I get cabin fever. I become quickly conscious of the fact that I’m tied to the house in the evenings. I can’t go to choir rehearsals, I can’t go out to see friends, I can’t pop out to the local shop for some last minute chocolate. Generally, as soon as Sam steps through the door, I find myself desperate to break out of the house for an evening.
I never feel hungry (stress), but I will always feel more capable if I eat. Fresh food, proper meals. Fuel.
The last night is always the most relaxed I’ll be. As I know whatever happens, however much sleep I get or don’t get, he’ll be back tomorrow and it will get a bit easier.
Week long trips are fine. I’ve adjusted to those and they never seem long anymore. It’s the ten days and the two weekers that I don’t think I’ll ever adjust to.
I like the closeness I feel with the kids. I always feel a bit more connected to them when it’s just been me and them for an extended period.
The stretches of time when he is here seem to go on for longer. I’ll be thinking “It feels like Sam hasn’t been away for ages”, when in reality, it’s only been three weeks.
Going back to being sandwiched in on that double bed is a killer, though.
Whilst I don’t think I’ll ever fully adjust to having a partner that works away from home, I don’t want to gloss over the fact that good things have come from it too.
Sam has always travelled for work (albeit not always so frequently), and due to the nature of his work, it will probably always involve travel. Financial flexibility definitely makes things that little bit easier when Sam’s away, in the past it has been a lot tougher. Stable work is the reason I can occasionally afford a babysitter every now and then if I have an event I can’t miss, a takeaway when I’m feeling low on energy, or the funds to do something fun with the kids on a weekend when it’s just the three of us.
Plus, I do get to watch a LOT of crap TV.