Standing alone in the doorway, I once again found myself waving goodbye to my husband. We had been playing this game for over two decades, but it still hurt me to give him a kiss and a hug, knowing that I was on my own for another couple of weeks while he plied his trade out of town.
Years past, when the kids were back in elementary school, we had made the conscious decision to trade convenience for a bigger paycheck. My husband had reluctantly accepted a one-year contract in the oil patch for nearly double the money he would have made working locally, and we immediately began a new phase in our lives.
In the blink of an eye, I joined the ranks of single-parent households, and weekend spouses. Without any training, I leapt in with both feet, confident that life wouldn’t really be that much different with my husband only home 6 to 8 days a month.
It didn’t take long before the kids started placing frustrated calls to their father when I didn’t agree to whatever they had deemed as a necessity. Those long distance calls accomplished very little, and eventually they began to drop off. What I quickly realized, was that I had to step up and make firm decisions on the spot.
“We’ll talk about this when dad get’s home next weekend,” didn’t carry enough weight for anyone. Pre-teens wanted answers immediately, which then gave them the right to either celebrate, or mope. “Dad usually let’s me,” also fell by the wayside, as everyone came to terms with the fact that my word was going to have to be accepted as the final say.
Compromising became the keyword in many of our discussions. My son could take the truck to school as long as he was willing to drive his sister to her 4-H meeting later that night. My daughter could have two friends for a sleepover as long as she was willing to help clean house Thursday night instead of Saturday morning. We all had to give a little extra to make the situation work.
Over the months, I’d been to a handful of community functions on my own, but the first wedding invite that arrived in our mailbox truly made me stop and think. A wedding? A formal dress-up occasion without my husband? Should I go?
I stared at the invitation for days, but with the reply deadline looming, I finally grabbed my phone and called in my response. Yes, I would be attending alone, as my husband would be out of town that weekend.
I’ve never stressed about another function like I worried about that wedding. Who would I walk in with, where would I sit, and what if I was stuck at a table with total strangers who ignored me? It felt like high school all over again.
My husband came up with a good suggestion, so I called our neighbors and the three of us all drove over together. The wedding reception was held in a massive hall, and people mingled in all kinds of groups. Finding other guests to talk to was easy, and the night was actually enjoyable, even though my mother-in-law’s repeated warnings that married women only danced with their own relatives made me chuckle the minute the band took the stage.
Out of necessity, I became a master planner, birthdays and traditional holidays celebrated when we were together, not when society expected it. I also stepped up to the plate emotionally. I had to be the dominant disciplinarian, and it sometimes hurt me to say no, aware that if we’d been a two-parent family living under one roof, we might have been able to accommodate more of the kid’s requests. But we weren’t, so life went on.
I learned to load the holiday trailer and took the kids camping, I manned the shovel when my daughter’s cat was run over, and even stood in as a pallbearer when our neighbor passed away and my husband couldn’t get back in time. I did what I had to do. We all did.
As the years passed and the economy took a downturn, camp jobs now became the only work available. My husband found himself taking longer contracts where he flew in and out, sometimes gone for an entire month at a time.
Life continued to move on for those of us left at home. The kids graduated from high school and moved off the farm to continue their schooling in the city, while my parents sold their neighboring farm and moved away the very same year.
Waking up one morning, I found myself living alone on a grain farm 100+ kilometers away from any of my family. The kids were paying rent for two different apartments in the city, and I was listening to my own voice bounce off the walls in our empty four-bedroom home. Another major life decision was about to rise up on the horizon.
My husband agreed it was time to evolve, so we took some of our savings and bought a property in the city. The kids moved back in with me, genuinely grateful to not have to pay rent while completing their post secondary studies. Before long, we were once again celebrating another round of family graduations.
Later that year, when my husband hit a milestone birthday, we decided on a big house party. As I made the list, I realized that I had unconsciously developed two sets of friends. One group I lunched and shopped with when I was alone, the other were couple-friends, people we socialized with when my husband was home.
This fact bothered me, and I spent a few sleepless nights worrying that I was too successful at making a life for myself while my husband worked out of town. I’d proven over the years that I could handle things, such as the furnace dying, a hailstorm damaging our roof, and my father-in-law passing away. I was strong enough to live alone, I just didn’t want to.
We went ahead with the birthday party, complete with a joint guest list, and although my husband had to be introduced to a few of the partygoers at his own celebration, we adjusted. That’s what marriage has been about for our family.
When I said, “I do,” I didn’t realize how much was actually going to change. But that seems to be what married life is all about. Families do that, they adapt, and whether separated by divorce, death, travelling jobs, or anything else…you are still a family.
My husband is talking about retiring, and I can’t wait. We plan to live the remainder of our lives as a couple under one roof and in the same city. Our situation wasn’t ideal, and many nights I cried as I had little choice other than to complain about my troubles over a long distance line.
My patient and hardworking husband put up with my tears and supported my choices as I struggled for balance as a mother, a disciplinarian, and a long distance wife.
Our marriage worked for us, and as a proud member of THE FIFTY CANDLES CLUB, I strongly suggest that you find what works for you. Society has enough examples of the ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ lifestyle to draw from. Be flexible, and loving, and your situation can be adapted to work for you as you create your own family life.