Everyone knows—or can at least imagine—how difficult it is to be married to someone who is gone more often than he is home. Some spouses are gone during the week and home on weekends, some are gone for three months and home for nine, others are gone for nine and home for three.
We’re all aware of the difficulties of being responsible for each meal, clean-up, laundry, running around, paying bills, feeding animals, maintaining exercise, making beds, shopping for and putting away groceries, and filling the vehicles with gas. By ourselves, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I was thinking about this last week, when the lawn mowing service was set to come and I needed to get in the backyard and clean up the dog poop before they arrived so they would mow it.
I put on my dog poop shoes, grabbed the shovel, and entered the section of the yard designated “dog yard”. I was three piles into it when my eleven-week-old pregnancy hormones kicked in along with the smell and sight of my work, and I began throwing up. Repeatedly.
“It’s okay, Mommy!” my five-year-old Eva called. “I’ll go get you some water! Just stay there!”
“It’s okay, Honey!” I called to her, eyes blurry from tears and nose running, still gagging. “Mommy’s okay. But can you get me some tissue, too?”
I stood heaving next to the shovel for the two minutes my daughter hustled to help me out. I thought about stopping my task, as it obviously wasn’t going well. But I quickly remembered the lawn service won’t mow over the poop, and then I’d be stuck with overgrown grass and even more poop later.
Next, I thought about the dinner that still needed to be made, teeth that needed brushing, dishes that had to be cleaned, and the tuck-in and prayers that needed to be said. All still ahead of me, and I was the only one who was there to do it.
So, of course, I did it. A couple days later, as I reflected on that especially long day and evening, I thought it would be fun to play a game and see how many positive aspects of married single motherhood I could come up with. The following is my list.
Benefits of Being Married to a Long Distance Spouse
1. I’m Perfectly Capable of Doing Things Alone. I have no problem talking to doctors, looking at ultrasounds, getting kids to birthday parties, and attending functions by myself. I can shut the house down and get everyone into bed, snuggled and peaceful, all by myself. I can also get everyone up, fed, dressed, and out the door in the morning. Not saying that’s without a certain amount of raised voices or whatnot, but I get it done!
2. I Have Physical Strength. I can haul eight bags of groceries up my stairs, four in each hand, and then walk back down the stairs to retrieve sleeping children and pack them up the stairs one by one and lay them on the couch to continue their naps without waking.
3. I Value Women’s Friendships. I enjoy talking to my Jazzercise friends, fishing moms, preschool teachers, ballet and gymnastics moms, writers, bloggers, book group moms, and online moms who all offer so much support, encouragement, advice, and humor on all aspects of parenting.
4. I Enjoy Lots of Snuggle Time with the Kids. Each morning, we sit together on our extra-wide recliner to drink milk and coffee and watch the news. At night, we sit together on Eva’s bed for prayers, a song, and a group hug. I get the privilege of enjoying all this bonding and memory-making.
5. I Can Make My Own Decisions. If I constantly waited for G’s input or go-ahead to do things, I would do absolutely nothing. I’ve adopted two dogs, fostered dogs, purchased a couch and a chair, and looked at potential houses to buy all on my own. While I wouldn’t make any major decisions alone, G has full faith in my ability to make good decisions and to act on them.
6. I Am Available to Attend All of the Kids’ Activities. I’ve never had to miss a ballet performance, gymnastics show, preschool graduation, or swimming lesson. We have also taken road trips together, just the three of us, and have a good time listening to music, stopping for food, and making up new jokes.
7. I Have Total Remote Control. At night, I can flop on the couch and catch up on all the programs I like but that totally annoy G when he’s home.
8. My Kids Have a Special Bond With Their Grandparents. They absolutely love spending time with my parents. My dad recently spent a week building them a playground in the backyard, complete with an extra slide, telescopes, monkey bars, swings, and ship’s wheels. My mom took them to the mall last weekend to get pictures taken with their cousin and rode the mall train with them a time or two.
9. I Get To Hear All the Funny Things They Say. I laugh and then record in a journal their sweet little sayings. A couple of recent gems:
“You aren’t as smart as me, but you’re still a sweet Mommy.” –Eva, 5.
“You guys are ballerinas. We are working mans.” —Vincent, 4, referring to Eva and me, Daddy and him.
10. I’m Always Grateful for G’s Help When He’s Home. Each and everything he does to help out is huge, no matter how small or large the task, and I’m grateful not to have to “do everything.” Taking out garbage, sorting recycling, emptying the dishwasher…it’s all noticed and appreciated!
11. My Marriage is Never Boring or Annoying. Each time G arrives home from a fishing season is a momentous occasion of celebration. And because he’s not usually here for long after he does arrive, each hour and day and week is spent just happy to be together again. We never repeat conversations, badger each other, or become bored. There’s just no time!
Fishing marriages either disintegrate quickly or last forever. After eleven years of being together and nine years of marriage, I’m grateful that we’re as excited to see and spend time with each other as we were following the day we met.
12. My Kids Learn How to Get Along. The children are aware that it’s just them and me holding down the fort when Dad’s gone, so we have to cooperate and get along. If we say or do anything regretful, we quickly apologize, forgive, and move on. If the day was a total disaster, we sit together before bed and talk about how each new morning is a fresh chance to start over, try again, and do better.
13. My Kids’ Daddy Is a Hero. The kids ask every day about their dad. They want to know where he is, what he’s fishing for, who’s on the crew, when he’s bringing the boat home. When Daddy comes home, he’s their hero and he fills their little worlds with amazement, joy, and excitement. Then I get to sit back, relax, and let the three of them create their own memories and strengthen their bonds.