Welcome to the Life of a Sometimes Single Mom

Love & Sex 11

Old San Juan Family VacationWhen I met my husband, he was an active duty pilot instructor at a small Mississippi Air Force base, working long 12 hour days while I went through the motions of teaching college classes and trying to survive what I thought was a challenging existence of solo parenting on most mornings and evenings.
 
It's funny how these days that sounds like a vacation.
 
Don't get me wrong. With his current job as a commercial pilot and National Guardsmen, he's probably home more than he ever was when we first became parents. But those long stretches of four, five, sometimes even 10 days away are enough to make me wish for the nights when I sat tapping my foot by the hall window waiting for his car to pull up.

 
On some levels, I'm fortunate that when he's home, he bears more than his share of the brunt of parenting and housekeeping. But even then, I'm still not enjoying the free happy hour at the Las Vegas Westin and the big, comfy bed with no children coming to visit at 3 a.m.
 
And even his days at home don't necessarily make up for the days and nights when I'm the only parent and housekeeper to three small children, stuffing them all in the car to take my daughter to school, or go anywhere for that matter, cooking and cleaning up three plus meals a day, and doing my best to maintain some sort of order in what could end up being a remake of Animal House.
 
It's only taken me a few years to finally figure out that our roles will never be even, at least in the traditional sense. In a life that I have certainly chosen, I will be the primary parental figure for my kids, I will have to schedule my life around my husband's work, and I will be mostly responsible for the house and all its piles of dirty laundry.
 
There are other smaller sacrifices that are hard to explain, but easier to swallow. I'm not able to plan ahead or RSVP for parties any earlier than the last minute. I'm not able to be as involved in neighborhood or school activities due to my own work schedule and the fact that I have to determine whether the event is worth me paying $15 an hour for a sitter. 

Others aren't as simple as finding a sitter. The loneliness can be brutal as are the short, sometimes non-existent phone and email conversations that usually just involve talking about what kid pooped on the floor and how many walls now have drawings on them.
 
But what's most surprising about this whole experience is that the challenge does not lie in being alone. Like one Marine mom in my neighborhood explained, I get in "the zone" and everything just moves like clockwork. My way is the only way and I live or die by my schedule. Autopilot goes on and even though there's definitely turbulence and pretty rough chop, I've got my hand firmly on the throttle and I don't have to argue with anyone about how to handle it.
 
However, the hours prior to him leaving and the days after he returns are brutal. The world stops so he can pack his bag and track down everything he needs for his trips that really should be in one place but somehow end up all over our house. Fortunately, the kids no longer wail at his feet as he walks out the door.
 
Thankfully, I don't either. Well, most of the time, anyway.
 
And when he returns, it feels like someone has stuck a stick in the wheel spokes of my well-oiled motorcycle -- once speeding along at a rapid pace now turned upside down on the side of road with smoke rising from the wreckage. The amount of extra dishes is astonishing, as are the piles of laundry that I can't believe came out of his tiny suitcase. And the head-butting over everything from the kid's bedtime to our own annoying habits that weren't annoying to just us for the last few days is exhausting.
 
Settling back into a workable parenting and sexual relationship takes just about the amount of time that he's home and then he has to leave again, thus starting the cycle all over.
 
I tell myself that it'll all work itself out at some point. That like the time that he's away, we'll get into a groove and it won't be as hard. But after three years of this lifestyle, I'm coming to understand that this is just one of the many challenging facets of being a sometimes single mom.

love, marriage, sex

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nonmember avatar DeAnn G.

Oh my do I feel you! I am a SAHM of 3 kids and am pregnant with #4. My husband is in the Air Force and sadly I identify the most with when he's home my schedule BLOWS_THE F@CK_UP! I love him being here don't get me wrong but it's almost like another child! "Shhhhh daddy's sleeping don't yell", "not right now, daddy's tired"..... I have to literally steer the kids around him and what he needs for the time he's here, making it harder, not easier when he's home. The kids get in trouble more, from him, and then he acts like I should change my parenting, WHAT?! Dude I do this by myself 24-7 but when he's here it seems like everything falls apart. I even find myself making excuses for the kids," oh he didn't get a nap"or "she is just excited to see you." I feel like I shouldn't HAVE to but, I do, and that's on me. I know i chose this life, I know that my kids are happy, healthy and for the most part,well behaved little monkeys. And I love my husband but just about the time I remember WHY I love him he is gone again. So my friend, I feel ya, I really do.

nonmember avatar Therese

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I am also the wife of an airline pilot and wow, you put it perfectly! It's hard to find anyone who really "gets" what this life is like. There are benefits, but it's challenging!

nonmember avatar sam_tempting

I almost prefer to have my husband work away for a week at a time rather than coming home each day - miserable - after 12 hour shifts. Like you said, you find that grove and you just go with it. It's astonishing how just them coming home can sometimes throw the ENTIRE house for a loop.

I am grateful to have a husband that I can off load some of the household duties and kids on (however infrequently it may be) when I reach that breaking point and just want to walk away.

Also? Congrats on your new gig! ;)

nonmember avatar VHMPrincess

Wow. Yes - this is a great area to write about! My husband just left yesterday for 60 days somewhere EAST of the US. All three kids melted down this morning - I had to drive 10 miles PAST my office to drop the kids off, then drive to work. After work I had 20 miles BACK HOME to get the older one, then back to get the little ones I dropped off this morning then home again. So that's like 2 and 1/2 round trips around the DC area in RUSH HOUR. And I get to do this for 8 weeks, yay! NOT. Sometimes it's easier - if something isn't done right or I can't find something, I KNOW it's because I forgot or I didn't put it away or it is in a spot that I usually put it. No one else to blame around. It usually takes 2 weeks to get back in routine when he gets home and I love him being home, but the adjustments are rough on both ends.

nonmember avatar tara

oh, yeah. we're still in the fighter pilot non-honeymoon. yesterday he left at 4am and returned at 8:30pm. both the baby and i were sick and i was exhausted but i also knew he'd had an even longer day. i keep thinking it is going to get better -- maybe at the next assignment?? -- he'll have more time to be a more involved parent. i hope it isn't wishful thinking. i've not given up quite yet. (but when he is gone, whether for 2 weeks or four months i totally echo all that you've said -- i get it done, my way is the highway.)

nonmember avatar shortysho

Great post Kristen! As the wife of a Canadian reservist, I can empathize. When we were w/o kids, having DH gone for 1 night a week and 1.5 weekends a month was fine, time to order the take out he didn't like and rent chick flicks. Now, its time away from a kid who really really wants his daddy and no break for me before another hectic work week!

nonmember avatar alimartell

oh. I KNOW this. I LIVE this. My husband works two weeks of every month in Toronto. and we (the three kids and I) live in Atlanta. The first week while he's gone is usually fine. We've got our routine, etc. but by the end of the first weekend and I realize we have a full week plus another weekend ahead of us, I realize just how lonely and tired I am. SIGH.

nonmember avatar Sue @ Laundry46

Oh yes. I have been living this life too. The hardest thing is the evening activities... hockey, Cub Scouts, PTA meetings. Dragging all the kids with me is... well... a drag. And it's hard to even FIND a babysitter on a school night.

nonmember avatar angryworkingmom

Boy, did you hit the nail on the head with this! I completely understand..mostly that I run this show like a crazy train going 100mph. When my husband is here: he tries to pitch in and then get's all your Kate Gosslin when I say hey- I got this.. We have a routine..it's a GIGANTIC cluster when the single parent routine is interrupted by the 2nd parent

cvgre... cvgreenmom

I was a "retail widow".  I had a T-shirt I'd wear from work that said "Who's the last action hero?".  As I made my way through THE LIST with three little boys in tow, I would get laughs and remarks.  "You are the action hero, lady!  When he was gone, I was IN CHARGE at warp speed! Then Hubby was out of work 8 months.  I had enabled him to be in his own world. It was easier to take charge then talk in a civil tone. I took a time out and found I'd rather "teach" the boys to fold clothes and sheets after work, not cook!  Hubby loves to cook! He does most of the cooking and shopping now.  I'm more organized so I put groceries away. He loves researching things. I do not have the patients for that!  He hates phone calls and I don't mind it at all.  He pick out cards and I pick out gifts. We had to come together or be divided and conquered. I was controlling & busy to avoid the physical ache of loneliness. Exhaustion is a great avoidance tool. Kids grow up. Marriage is eternal.  I don't need to be an "Action Hero".

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