Why Can't I Handle My Husband's Travel?

Why Can't I Handle My Husband's Travel?

There's this thing going on in my life right now that I keep wanting to write about and keep feeling like I can't.

Here's the thing I want to write about: My husband has been on week-long business trips every week but two since the end of January. During the two weeks he was not on business trips, my father-in-law died and then we were on vacation. I haven't seen him on a normal Wednesday since the beginning of 2014.

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Credit Image: Leshaines 123 on Flickr

That's what I want to write about, because that condition is shaping my entire life right now. Here are the reasons I feel like I can't:

  • I don't want to hurt his feelings by complaining publicly about a situation we're in because of him. Even though it's not his fault—this is his job. He didn't ask to be sent away for weeks on end, and he is trying his best to do right by his client and his employer and also get through this part of the project as succinctly as possible.
  • There are lots of people who are bona fide single parents or whose spouses are gone for months at a time who (in my mind) will look at me whining and tell me I suck and this stretch of work travel doesn't even qualify me for the U.S. team in the Great Olympics of Suffering.
  • He's not in physical danger (any more than anyone is) while he's gone, unlike spouses who are deep undercover or fighting fires or in the military. He's just not here.
  • I'm privileged to begin with, and I know it, so I always feel guilty about whining even as I go ahead and do it, anyway.
  • I only have one child. I always lead with "I only have one child" when I'm thrashing myself for whining, because my amount of chaos as a parent is so low compared to those I know who have multiple children that I feel like I should be able to handle anything with one hand tied behind my back.
  • I'm feeling anxious anyway, and whenever I start going through a period of high anxiety, I overreact to everything. Even my startle reaction amps up. The other day on my run I saw a dead deer, screamed, involuntarily jumped three feet to the left and nearly had a heart attack. Heaven forbid you tap me on the shoulder when I am not expecting it. This is purely physical and not something I have control over, but it's pretty embarrassing. I know when I startle easily I am going to whine faster.

And here I am, writing about it anyway. My husband left again this morning a few hours ago, and there's been a knot in my stomach ever since. As my daughter watched him drive away, she said, "When he started traveling, I didn't realize it was going to get this hard," and my heart shattered again after I'd spent all weekend sticking it back together. The depth of their amazing relationship can be a pit she falls into when he's not there to read with her at night. Last week she took an hour and a half to fall asleep after hugging the iPad we'd been Facetiming on, and it. was. so. hard. to. watch.

So there's that. My biggest concern is her missing him. And then there's the bitchy mommy side of it in that it's hard for me emotionally to listen to her be sad about her dad being gone and to try to prop her back up and tell her it's an adventure when all I want to do is feel sorry for myself. This being-an-adult business is so much less fun than I thought it would be when I was her age wishing I could be a grown up and make all the rules for my family instead of being told what to do all the time.

There's also the "I don't want to scoop the cat litter every night" side and the "I'm the worst cook in the family, and here I am making dinner again" side and the "I'm lonely and it's 10 pm" side and the "my friends invited me to dinner, but I can't go because my girl doesn't want to be left with a babysitter on a weeknight when Daddy is gone" side. And there's the "I really like being with my husband and I miss him" side.

BUT ... he got this job after three months of unemployment, so I should just be happy he has a good job that is intellectually challenging to him and that he is really good at and that he likes, and the fact we're both gainfully employed means we could take the vacation that we just took that was so awesome and the longest vacation we'd ever taken as a family and that memory makes me so happy every time I think about it. So what the hell am I complaining about? I am a terrible person.

So here I sit, terrible person that I am, and I am *thisclose* to crying just thinking about this situation stretching on until the end of April. I wonder why other people are so much more resilient than I am, and why it is such a struggle for me to keep my emotions on an even keel when even the slightest change comes up in my routine. I wonder why, after six weeks of experience, I am not getting used to this. Perhaps there is something inherently wrong with my ability to adapt? Why is my stress something I have to so obviously manage with all of the running and deep breathing and meditation and too much wine?

I try to tell myself that I am not really all that terrible. At least I save the ugly crying for after my daughter goes to bed, and I did manage to clean my house and do seven loads of laundry yesterday, and I did make a meal plan and reviewed the week's calendar and know where we need to be when and the physical part of it will all be pretty easy, all things considered, as it's a light week and there's no more snow on the ground to plow through and make school get canceled. This week should be really easy. All I have to do is stay upbeat or at least fake it.

Right? So why can't I handle this better?

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.

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