I suppose it's obvious that the kids would be affected by having a traveling parent. As long as my kids can probably remember, my husband has been gone more than he's been home.
When he first started traveling, my oldest daughter (then an only child) struggled with his departures. But it made sense since she was the only one who ever knew him when he had a "regular" job, if you can call 12- to 15-hour days, sometimes weekend trips, regular.
But she, like my others, grew accustomed to the routine, so much so that I found myself explaining why he'd be coming home at night on days when he had Guard duty. "Going to work" meant that he'd be gone for a few days, sometimes more, so for them, his leaving and returning on the same day would throw them for a loop.
I'm fortunate that overall, my kids are super resilient and adjust fairly well to going from one parent to two parents. Other than oftentimes only wanting mommy to do everything, or worse, going to me for every single thing that they want or need even when my husband is home, the transitions are fairly simple.
However, since adding a 4th child to the family and my husband just recently returning to work with a five-day trip to Africa, I've noticed that my 3-year-old son, in particular, is a little more anxious than usual, which manifests in tantrums, defiance, and worst of all, sleep disruption.
Of all my kids, he tends to be the one who needs the most structure and consistency in general, so it's really not surprising that he has so much difficulty when my husband leaves and then returns. I think what's most difficult is that my other kids are the complete opposite, so it makes his anxiety even more challenging. I can usually identify it pretty easily, since I find myself putting him in the corner or taking away privileges more often than usual.
And the crying fits and tantrums seem worse than they ever were with the terrible twos.
But I'd happily take all that just to not have the sleep disruption, which involves him coming into my room every few hours for the entire night. Sometimes he'll wake up crying and scream for me. Other times he'll just pop in to say "hello" at 1 a.m.
And 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Either way, it's maddening -- and now with a 2-year-old who does the same thing AND a newborn -- well, let's just say I don't see much sleep in my future.
Add in postpartum hormones and it's not pretty.
My husband's absence this past weekend has been helpful in that it's made me much more aware of my son's anxiety and what I need to help him deal with it. Part of me is surprised at how helpless I can feel even after being a sometimes single mom for over three years now. Another part of me understands that I'll never know it all, at least when it comes to my kids.
And that I probably won't be getting much sleep any time soon.
Image via Kristen Chase