Commuter Marriage In Reverse

An amazing thing happened the other day…my husband’s company put a moratorium on travel and, theoretically, he’s home until the end of the quarter. Of course, within three days of the travel restriction, he was off on a two-day trip. Now that he’s home again, there is hope that he’ll be home for the next 40 days. Meanwhile, I’m in Mexico for the week in a sort of commuter-marriage reversal.

I’d be in Mexico regardless, because my husband planned to be home while I’m on my business trip, but now that he’s home for an extended period of time, I’m even more impatient to be home with him and wish this trip over already. The few days that he was home before I left were much more typical of our pre-commuter-marriage life than ever.

I smiled when I got home from work on Friday and saw that the wilted flower baskets had perked up…he’d obviously watered them. Saturday, he cut the grass…such a normal thing! Then, he got the old drafting table that I’d gotten for him, purchased at a garage sale many years ago, and started stripping it. By Sunday evening it was beautifully restored. I smiled again to see that he felt he had time to take on a typical weekend project, which he hasn’t done in the four years since we started on our commuter marriage lifestyle.

So, this week I am the one traveling. This week I have six flights, three of them starting around 6 o’clock in the morning. I am feeling very empathetic to my husband for all of his early flights and having to put in several hours of work even though you are exhausted from 9 hours of travel. Or so I thought it would start out. In reality, I got to bed late after doing laundry and dishes and getting things aligned for the kids for the week. Then at 3 a.m. I awoke and couldn’t fall back to sleep in anticipation of the 4 a.m. alarm going off.

I got up at 4 and could hardly function or remember what to do! Fortunately, the last thing I did the night before was to get myself 90% packed. I dressed and put on my make-up around 4:15, wondering if the make-up would even last by the time I arrived at the office in Mexico City. I left the house around 4:55 with a cup of coffee in a travel mug. Wouldn’t you know that my tank was empty and so I stopped at the gas station. At 5 I was back on the road and picked up my coffee to take a sip…and promptly poured it down my front and into my lap. Turns out it was a screw-on cap, not a snap-on cap…using the last two tissues from my purse, I mopped myself off…no time to stop. 

The airport was really crowded for 5:30 a.m., I had no idea! I got to my gate as it was boarding, with a breakfast sandwhich snatched up along the way. The plane was crammed full, but it wasn’t too uncomfortable. I started reading “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom” which I’d downloaded to my iPad the night before. It was a direct flight, but we did stop and deplane. When we got back on the plane, I was already exhausted and not much up for the three hour flight. We were delayed by someone who’d checked himself and his bag in, then didn’t bother to show up to the gate until half an hour after we were supposed to leave. I couldn’t believe they let him board after all that! It was another half an hour before we could get a time to take-off.

I bought a snack box on the plane which had a picture of a succulent, BBQ chicken breast on it only to hunt through the box for the chicken and find a tiny tin. Inside the tin was something about half minced chicken and half BBQ sauce. I finished my book about half-way into the flight and tried to get a bit of sleep, but that didn’t work very well. By the time we landed, we were stuck crossing Mexico City in a terrible traffic jam, apparently precipitated by it being the first day back to school. By the time we got to the office it was 3 p.m. in Mexico City and 4 p.m. back home…I’d been up for 13 hours on about 3 hours sleep.

I was pretty useless in the meeting, struggling to deal with sleep deprivation and starvation! I did perk up when we went to dinner, but then back across town to the airport hotel since my next flight leaves a little after 6 a.m. My saving grace will be not purposely changing any flights…because I know from my husband’s experience, that is the death knell for getting home as planned.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and sometimes that means just empathizing with a traveler who has it worse off than you do!

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CPK-Squared–Dining Alone Together

Over a thousand miles away, my husband sits in the airport at California Pizza Kitchen.  He is across from his gate, waiting for a delayed flight to get him home. He has a stop, of course. That means he’s going to miss his connection, but at least he’ll be at a hub and only one flight from home. This is too common an occurrence and we’re both so tired and miss each other. He started out ok on Friday morning to catch his flight. He got through security, but then with crowds and conveyors and people in a hurry, the unthinkable happened…his laptop spun to the ground and shattered. It’s no use thinking of careful data back-up strategies at that point. Exhausted, frustrated, and angry, he called someone who was still in the office and they determined that by the time he got home he wouldn’t have access to any IT resources to help with his data problem, so he returned to the office.

The good news is that his data was eventually retrieved, but not before he’d missed everything but the red-eye…and that was booked. So, for the third weekend in a row, he’s spending it traveling rather than at home. That makes this our fourth weekend apart…and the weeks speak for themselves. I think this is the worst it’s gotten in the three and a half years we’ve been living the commuter marriage lifestyle…so it will get better.

This evening my younger daughter, the ever-social girl with many different social circles, has a birthday party a forty-five minute drive from home. Normally, this would be occasion for my husband and I to dine out together someplace we wouldn’t normally get to. For example, there are a couple of highly touted Brazilian steakhouses in the area that we haven’t tried, and a lot of other restaurants we’d like to try. But given the circumstances, I’m out on my own with no place to go…somehow I ended up at California Pizza Kitchen…it just seemed appropriate. Too bad they don’t have wi-fi…

I tried to coerce my older daughter into chauffer duty, and would have gone on to offer her movie tickets for herself and her friend, but they already had a plan for the night. They are dying my daughter’s hair. Now, I’ve got no idea why she wants to dye her hair, but it’s temporary dye and I think she’ll have fun trying out a darker shade. The funny thing is that she’s the only one in the family without dark brown hair and she’s dying it the same shade as the rest of us.  I expect to come home to brown wavy tresses ala Katniss Everdeen when she takes her braids out in The Hunger Games.

Meanwhile, I’m whiling the time away alone but in public. I’m finding that although I like my alone time to be at home, or at least in a quiet place, I am adaptable. California Pizza Kitchen was noisy with children and chatty teens and now I’m in the very center of the mall on a busy Saturday night drinking a tall decaf cap with skim (an order I had to learn…as I’m a cuppa day gal who rarely ventures to Starbucks).  The people-watching is quite interesting and free wi-fi is a treat.  And, inevitably, I run into someone from work…glad I put on my makeup after all.

It’s time to wrap it up, post this blog, and make my way back to the pre-teen birthday party to pick up my daughter.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and make the most out of an awkwardly placed block of time!

Life Upside Down or Commuter-Marriage Schedule Gone Haywire

Usually March is a quiet, even a boring month. I can be grateful that my life isn’t boring! I started off the month preparing for a business trip to Germany and doing some last-minute volunteering at my daughter’s school. On the third, I was sitting on a plane and arrived in Germany on the fourth…first weekend gone. I found myself back on a plane on the 10th…most of the second weekend gone. For my husband, it was a week at home with all three kids, since our son was home for spring break. He got to live a form of my multi-tasking-life home alone with the kids while working full-time and handling the housework, laundry, cooking, and shopping. Busy as the week was, he carved out one-on-one time out of the house with each of the kids.

My husband picked me up at the airport on the 10th and let me know of a serious personnel issue at his work that required him to be on the other side of the country by Monday morning. I tried to stay up as late as possible and dropped off to bed around 9:30 p.m. Meanwhile, my husband was still searching for a plane ticket. When I got up on Sunday morning around 6 a.m. I didn’t realize that my husband had already left until I found a note a few hours later. Turns out that due to spring break travel, flights were very hard to find and he’d had to fly out first-thing Sunday morning.

He was supposed to return Tuesday…and he did, but many hours late due to flight delays. Arriving home around 11:30 p.m., he went straight to sleep and was up again at 4 a.m. to drive three hours away for two days of meetings at his company’s headquarters. By the time he got home Thursday night, he was exhausted and I was still jet-lagged on my own account plus tired just thinking about his crazy week! But the week wasn’t over yet…

He had another piece of the personnel issue to deal with and had to fly to yet a third location on Friday. Well, flight delays got him there around 1 p.m., but he managed to meet with all the necessary people and was ready for his flight back home. That’s when it got really crazy. Again, due to spring break travel, flights were tight and although he had a ticket, he had no seat. He got booked and re-booked on flights from Friday night until, finally, he got out of town early Sunday morning…third weekend gone crazy.

I was ready for some home-time with my hubby by now, but life was still messing with us. Unfortunately, his boss has fallen ill and is out of commission for at least the next week…my husband feels lucky that he only has to cover one issue while his boss is out (so far), but off he went this morning on another 6 a.m. flight expecting to return on Friday. The funny thing is that when I read his e-mail this morning when I got up, showing his plans for the week, it just didn’t register that Tuesday is today…and he’s already gone.

Commuter marriage is not for the faint of heart…and pretty tough for those of us who like to plan ahead! He did take into account that we have two important events coming up next week. So, fingers crossed that he will actually get home on Friday as planned so that we can have a normal weekend and that our family can celebrate our special events together next week.

March, you’re really keeping things lively this year!

Find the Joy in the Journey and roll with the punches!

My Funny Valentine’s Days

I saw the other day that someone had read my post on commuter marriage and this prompted me to re-read it. I couldn’t believe the number of exclamation points I used in that post. I think I was trying to portray subconsciously that I was “ok” with my situation, making the best of it, and had figured it all out. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a struggle every day. It is also my reality and I am committed to making it work until the time when we can put this stage of our lives behind us. It is true that I am used to my situation and that I’ve worked-out many of the kinks so that my life runs smoothly most of the time.

This past week has been one where my emotional resilience has been challenged and found lacking. There are times when I am just not up to handling the home scene all by myself and this week was one of them. I had counted on my husband driving our younger daughter to camp, but he wasn’t home. When the drive ended up being in a blinding snowstorm, I at least knew that he was out there thinking about me…except that his phone is not working properly and he didn’t get my voicemail message until days after I returned…so much for my “safe” feeling that if I ended up in a ditch at least he’d be worried about me and contacting the state police.

The weekend itself was fine, but Monday was my husband’s birthday. He was in Tijuana and unavailable by phone for most of the day, but when he crossed back over the border he called me right away. I wished him a happy birthday and lamented that this was not such a great way to spend it. He replied that it was better than a year ago when he was stranded in an airport for the day. Hmm…I had not remembered that being on his birthday. In reviewing my Outlook calendar, I see a different picture. It was a Sunday and it was World Marriage Day. He joined me in church that day as the congregation celebrated marriage milestones including our upcoming 25 year anniversary.

So, I am back to my initial assertion that this is the first time since we met, almost 30 years ago, when we have been apart on his birthday and Valentine’s Day. We don’t always do anything special for Valentine’s Day, but we’ve had some interesting times. I try to find a Valentine’s dinner at a nice restaurant so that we can celebrate both at once. The first time was when we were 21. We went to a fancy restaurant and got a corner window table behind a pillar…in other words we had a lovely city view and privacy. When we were leaving, we got stopped by a chaperone…apparently they mistook us as part of their group celebrating a high school dance. We were justly annoyed at being mistaken for mere children!

On the other end of the spectrum, we once went to the Ritz for Valentine’s dinner where they had a Forties-style big band…we were about 30 at the time and easily forty years younger than the rest of the crowd! Meanwhile, our elders were dancing like pros and we were too embarrassed to even try…we were getting enough attention as it was, feeling quite out of place and the object of unwanted stares.

Another time I remember, we spent the dinner talking about what to name our baby-to-be. We had a girl’s name picked out, but not a boy’s name. My husband ran through the names of all the presidents, in order. George? No. John? No. James? No.  We laughed over Millard and paused at Franklin; we continued on until he got to Bill. Still No. Then he started listing all the members of the Cabinet. Exhausting that, he started in on artists…and finally we came up with a name, not because of the artist but because the name had a personal meaning for us. So, that Valentine’s Day we finally settled on a boy’s name and it was a good thing, because our first-born turned out to be a bouncing baby boy.

I can say this much about our relationship, spanning almost 30 years and over 25 years of marriage, we have memories to warm us through the times of separation. We can look back on our life together and find the moments to laugh about and to reconfirm our love for one another…even when we are apart.

Find the Joy in the Journey, even in the twists and turns. Celebrations are important and are not tarnished when you don’t quite get the timing right. Celebrate anyway.

Related Post: Commuter Marriage–When Your Spouse Lives Six Hundred Miles Away

Commuter Marriage–When Your Spouse Lives Six Hundred Miles Away

A few years ago, I contemplated starting a blog on commuter marriages. When I tried to find books and articles about commuter marriages, I found very little. I never did have the time nor energy to start a blog in the beginning, but I’ve obviously started a blog since. My husband has moved home, so technically we aren’t in a commuter marriage any more, but if you broaden the definition, we really still are since he travels so much that he’s gone more than he was when he lived apart from us.

Three years into it, I’m an old hand! It’s just my normal life, so it doesn’t seem so hard. And, there are definitely more women out there raising kids on their own than in commuter marriages and hats off to them, because that’s much more difficult…they never have times when the family truly reunites.

With a commuter marriage, it’s the reuniting and re-separating that are the real problem. You have to really re-write all the roles in your marriage and family. Of course, we did not do that! We didn’t develop our roles to begin with by sitting down and discussing things rationally, things just “evolved”. And when we started down the path of commuter marriage, they “evolved” some more! Mostly, I just started doing everything and when he’d come home, he’d try to pick up things that I had taken over and we’d both end up frustrated. Mostly, I was just tired.

Which is not to make light of a difficult situation, but we definitely have made the best of it for our own sanity. In the beginning, we all reacted differently. I tried to encourage my husband to take advantage of all his alone time in the deep south by encouraging his artistic side. He studied architecture in college and that’s the man I fell in love with. Well, I fell in love with the whole package! But, he didn’t follow that path. Instead, he dove into his training…biking and running every day. That’s how he coped, but he was unhappy being alone every night and stressed by his boss always asking him when the kids and I would be moving there every time they ran into each other (um, never!).

This, really, was our major stressor. Our home was so underwater (thanks to the renovation and the “neighbor thing” on top of the crash of the housing market) that we couldn’t afford to move and his company couldn’t afford to buy us out. I did consider moving, but I could not find a job that paid more than half my salary in his new city…unless I worked for him! And that, on top of the housing situation, took a backseat to the fact that we had a son entering his junior year in high school…not an ideal time for a move at all!

At first I was completely overwhelmed. We had developed our own method of dividing the parenting and household duties and all of a sudden, it was all on me. My son wasn’t old enough to drive and on top of that, it was my husband’s “job” to teach him. Suddenly, it was all on me. Imagine my panic when he came home from camp in early August after turning 16 a few weeks prior. I found out that he could only get a parking pass for school on a single day 10 days hence! If he couldn’t drive himself to school, I would have no way to get him to school and back without compromising my position at work!

I was at work that Monday and researched the level 2 courses and found one that started in two hours! I called my son and instructed him to jump on his bike and ride 5 miles to a neighboring high school! Then, I tried to find an appointment for him to take the driving test and called my husband to see if he’d be home the coming weekend to teach him parallel parking! That all went well and the following Monday I took him to the police station to get his license. On Tuesday, I sent him off solo on a practice run to school…then on Wednesday was the real deal and he GOT HIS PASS! It was like winning a decathlon for me! Phew!

That was just one of my challenges, but the most dramatic and fun to tell! On the downside, was how the kids handled things. My son was happy as a clam to be “on his own” more and more as a teen. Not having his dad around meant fewer challenges (at least in person). He and I had the, I am your mom! Talk more than once…and it’s tough to assert your control over a boy/man who is bigger than you and has his own ideas about adulthood…but we managed to navigate those rough waters.

My older daughter took it the worst. She is so attached to her dad and missed him so much that it broke our hearts. That first semester, her grades took a nosedive. This wasn’t good as she was in 8th grade at our church school and her grades would limit her choices for high school. She is a poor test taker and was doing poorly in school. In the end, her grades ticked up at the end of the year and I was able to plead her case at a good college prep school and she was accepted. She absolutely loves her high school! I told her, you get a fresh shot; no college will ask about your middle school grades. She has taken that advice to heart and regardless of what grades she earns or what test scores she gets, I am confident that she is trying her hardest. A parent couldn’t ask for more!

My younger daughter is the most resilient, and as she was only 8 at the time, she seemed to adapt well to phone calls and Skype to keep in touch with her dad. She’s also the most extroverted of my kids (by far…she’s the most extroverted person I know!). She has kept busy with so many different activities of her own choosing such as scouts and sports.

So, maybe I’ll talk more later about being in a commuter marriage, but if you’re doing the same thing yourself and want to pick my brain, I’d love to talk with you! It’s been a growth experience for me and I’m happy to compare notes!

Find the Joy in the Journey!