Parenting when a spouse is out of town

Andree Lau secretly liked it when her husband was out of town for work.

Photo: Yarinca/iStockphoto.com

With my husband, Jason, working out of town all week, I was supposed to be the wife and harried mother who excitedly looked forward to Friday afternoon when he finally came home. But I have a confession: I came to dread it.

Having him home annoyed me. He disrupted the routine. He didn’t know where the extra wipes were. He snored. Financial necessity created our situation. We had just moved provinces, I was still on maternity leave and we were renovating a new house. We needed Jason’s well-paying, stable job — even if it meant he had to fly to the US every weekend and live in a hotel room five days a week.

And so began our imperfect arrangement. Jason flew to Seattle on Sunday evenings, usually just before 10-month-old Harrison’s bath time. The baby and I would fall into a comfortable routine throughout the week.

Every weekday morning, I set up my iPhone so Jason and Harrison could see each other through Skype. Most of the time, they watched one another eat breakfast. At night, I’d wolf down my dinner, cook for the next day, try to do chores, maybe even sneak in an episode of Law & Order.

Jason and I planned to keep in touch every evening. But our well-intentioned Skype dates turned into shorter online chats, and then into even shorter text messages. Most nights they just read, “Tired. Talk to you tomorrow?”

When we did talk, it was always about the baby. A Type-A personality by nature, I outlined every tiny change in Harrison’s bedtime routine, and described his daily poops in excruciating detail. It was my way of keeping Jason in the parenting loop. So when he returned for the weekends, why didn’t he know Harrison now hated once-loved broccoli? Why did he keep putting the long-sleeved onesies on the wrong shelf?

I treated weekends like we could just pick up from five days before, and I expected Jason to keep up after working 10-hour days. I mean, he was the one getting a full night’s sleep most nights. He got to talk to grown-ups and only had to parent on weekends. So what was his problem? There were a few weeks when Harrison would wake around 4 or 5 a.m., so I’d bring him to bed to squeeze out a few more hours of sleep. But that was thwarted on weekend mornings when the baby realized Daddy was in bed, too, and was so excited he sprung awake for the rest of the very long day. I think Jason and I were both relieved when it came time for his Sunday flight to work. He could go back to a routine he knew, and I could return to mine.

Many families do this successfully, but we were drifting apart. After six months, Jason was transferred to a local project. Not wanting to miss much more, he got a new job to be even closer to home. He now picks up Harrison every day from daycare, while I’m the one missing bedtime because of work. With Jason now handling our son’s nighttime routine, I wonder if he secretly likes it when I’m away.

Editor’s note: Andree Lau is the news editor of Huffington Post, BC.

A version of this article appeared in our October 2012 issue with the headline “Away game” (p.50). For more parenting topics, visit our community message boards!

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