My husband has a job that means he often needs to work away. This can be in the UK or abroad, and can vary from one night to anything around a week-long. Although this frequently annoys me, I can’t really complain about it. I married him knowing what his job involved, and at the end of the day it puts a roof over our heads and pays the bills. He also really enjoys his job and it has, and will give us some great opportunities to live abroad.
Before we had James I used to arrange to see my friends and keep myself busy when he went away. I’ve lived on my own before and used to quite like it, so didn’t worry about him not being there. I was never scared to be by myself, but it could be lonely. I missed his company, especially in the evenings.
However, once James came along, the thought of being left alone with a baby to be solely responsible for was daunting. At the time we were living in Lithuania, so my husband’s trips were usually back to the UK. I was being left in a country with our baby, where I didn’t have any family back up. I would worry about things going wrong and not knowing what to do. It is so much easier to cope in bad situations when you have someone there to support you and to come to a decision with you. If something happened to James it would be my responsibility to decide what to do, in a country where I didn’t speak the language. I found that really scary. We were first time parents and didn’t really have a clue. We Googled a lot of things and just made up what we were doing as we went a long. I wasn’t worried about being lonely, I had James to focus on, I was worried about something going wrong and not being able to cope.
One of the first times he went back to the UK I had one those days where everything just seemed to go wrong. I had to make sure our cats vaccinations were up to date to enter the UK. Taking two cats and a baby to the vets by myself was going to be challenging so I asked my lovely friend Ethel to come along and help. Somehow between the vets and our flat I managed to lose the key fob to enter our building. I had no idea where I lost it. There was snow on the ground and I was juggling a baby and a cat. I stood in the car park with two cats and James, and was not able to get inside. I felt panicked. Luckily, Ethel spoke Russian and was able to get the security guards to let us back in.
That day I also managed to drop my phone down the toilet. Now this was the second time I had dropped this phone down the toilet, and I just knew rice wouldn’t work again. I blame the maternity trousers with only having back pockets. That evening I ended up walking with James in the snow, to collect a new key fob from the landlady and then driving to the nearest shopping centre to buy a new phone and get a new sim card. Without my phone I felt lost. What if something happened to James? We didn’t have a landline. I needed a mobile phone. That day I just felt like everything was against me, but the important thing was that James was fine and oblivious to everything.
I moved back to the UK with James a week before my husband. Initially we stayed with my sister, but then moved into our house when all of our things arrived. At least in the UK I had family to help. I’ve found that when I am on my own I often change part of James’ routine to make life easier for me. I started co sleeping with James when we left Lithuania, as this was the only way I could get a decent amount of sleep. Co sleeping didn’t last long and he was quickly put in a cot in his room. I actually decided to start sleep training James on one of the times my husband was away. I was getting desperate for sleep, so I came up with a plan. I knew the first night would be the hardest. I thought if my husband was away he wouldn’t have to worry about being kept awake and I could get the worst night over and done with by myself. He knew what I was doing and supported me. Then when he returned the next day we continued the new routine and it was definitely the best thing we did.
Since being back in the UK my husband has travelled overseas a few times. These trips are usually a week-long. As James has got older we face different challenges. He now notices when Daddy isn’t there, especially as he gets used to Daddy playing games with him and it has become part of his routine. As James gets older, we will be able to explain where Daddy is and when Daddy is coming back. I have started showing him where Daddy is on a map of the world. I know he doesn’t understand at the moment, but one day he will.
Having a husband that often works away can be lonely, especially in the evenings. If you haven’t spoken to any adults in the day the only conversation you are having is with a toddler. James doesn’t say much at the moment and prefers to grunt or grab my hand to show me what he wants. Not having that back up and support when you are dealing with a toddler is hard. I am far more likely to take an easy option with James, when my husband isn’t there. It is easier to stand your ground when you have someone supporting you and backing you up. If James is kicking off while eating I am far more likely to get my phone out and let him watch something, than when my husband is here, who would say just ignore him, he’s fine. I know he is fine, it can just be relentless listening to him whine when you just want to eat in peace and you haven’t got anyone else to talk to.
On the other hand it also has some plus points. I do sometimes enjoy having some time to myself. There is only James to think about and only James and I to cook for. The food bill is cheaper and the house is cleaner. The problems we have are that I get so used to slotting into a routine of just James and I, that when my husband returns home I have to remember to stop doing everything myself and let him slot back into where he left off.
Experiencing what it is like to not have my husband around every so often gives me massive respect for single parents and really makes me appreciate having him around. I know he is always coming back and I usually get to FaceTime with him. In the early days he also used to get me to Whats App chat with him every time James woke up in the night. That really helped me feel supported, even though he wasn’t physically there.
I can’t finish this post without saying that one of the worst things about him being away is having to deal with spiders by myself! They always seem to know when he is not here and come and torment me. It happened this week and has happened before when he has been away. The one this week was huge. Luckily, I had a friend on messenger offering to burn my house down for support.