Today I read a post that really made me think, and I'm indebted to Little Home in the Country for presenting what is essentially my own situation to me from such a different perspective.
I'm not a "young mom". I'm 35, mother to a 3 year old and a one year old. I have lived alone in city and country, supported myself, chopped my own wood--the slayer of my own dragons, as it were. So I consider myself fully capable of handling things with Husband gone. And perhaps that is the problem.
My reading today helped me rethink my role and responsibility as a homemaker (indeed, I don't think I've ever referred to myself as such before). I have many friends whose husbands also leave home for work and we discuss the situation often. Yet only vaguely have we delved into how our own attitude and approach to it affects the mood of the whole family. I see now that I am the thread that holds this little family together. Those two sleeping babes rely on me for their information, for their interpretation of what is going on and why daddy is not home. I think it is time that I step up and truly own the impact my attitude has on how everyone is feeling.
Before having kids, Husband worked away from home for a minimum of 3 months per year. We have been lucky these last few years to have work near home, where he could either travel home for days off or be home every night. But even with infrequent absences, a pattern does emerge:
- 3 year old might stop sleeping through the night
- 3 year old might need more reassurance, more snuggle time, might cry for daddy periodically
- the first full night and full day of daddy being gone are the hardest. We then settle into our "daddy is away" routine.
- conversely, the first full day and night of daddy being home again are also the hardest: emotions run high, tantrums and outbursts abound.
- focus on all that we have to get done and our "work".
- Have a busy but not stressful 2 days after daddy goes, ie) a visit with Grams at the farm, or trip to library.
- outside time.
- maintain nap and bedtime schedule. The rules are the rules.
- plenty of time to talk with daddy: morning, afternoon, before bed. We send daddy pictures on the cell phone, we build him crafts, we bake and freeze treats for him too.
- just a note on Skype--Husband went to Newfoundland 2 summers ago and we Skyped. The then 1 and a half year old cried and cried for daddy and tried to hug the computer. It was the most gut-wrenching experience of my life and we were all so upset afterwards we have never done it since.
- time alone. This will be easier when we live on the acreage, near my parents. I've never left my kids with anyone but my mom and, right now, that's an hour away. I try to use naps and after bedtime for "me time" but a scheduled afternoon per week would be tonic to the mama's soul.
- exercise 4 times per week, intentionally and with vigour. It's the vigour that I struggle with ;)
- engage meaningfully, everyday, with my kids through play, snuggling, reading, conversation. This means UNPLUG. Unplug everything and just BE with them.
- once I have some time to myself it will be easier to give it my all during the day. No more stolen glances at the cell phone or sneaking a blog post or reading while they play. Allowing some independent play is fine, but trying to mentally escape my living room for half an hour every afternoon is a bit much. Unplug.
- admit that many of the behaviours I see in my son are in large part due to the behaviours he sees in me. My frustration and fatigue as a lonely sometimes-single-parent can be an ugly mess. I don't want that to be my boys' reaction to life. I want to teach them to cope, to try again, to foster their own happiness. I want them to take responsibility for how they feel and act, and that begins with me. And it begins now.
- This is hard to say. I need to stop acting like it's his "fault" he's gone working. We need the money. He wouldn't leave if he didn't have to and I don't need to punish him for doing what he has to for this family.
- Designate times to visit. Talking on the phone with children screaming for attention is a gong show. But we need to come up with a way to communicate to daddy his importance to us, that he is in our hearts and thoughts, and that we can miss him without being sad.
- I must allow him to be needed again. I'm afraid my "I got this" attitude translates at times into "just send home the pay". I don't want that. That's awful. I need to be capable, but also capable of leaning on the man that I chose to spend the rest of my life with.
The only way I can figure to teach them that is to show them.