Gearing Up and Thinking

David volunteered for a work project in Molvania and is leaving in June for three and a half months (16 weeks/roughly 112 days). We recently went shopping for all the “gear” and clothing he will need for such a stint, and that’s when it hit me that he is really going. This is something that we have been mulling over for a year or so, but it’s always been far enough away on the calendar that the reality hadn’t sunk in. He was originally scheduled to leave next week, so it has come upon us quickly and although he has all his gear now, I don’t think I am entirely prepared.

Funny, because the first thing everyone asks when they hear this bit of news is, “Whoa, what does your wife think?” Some are more creative in their line of questioning and say, “So, I guess you and your wife discussed this a lot before you decided to go, huh?” David likes to answer, “My wife? She can’t wait for me to leave!”

I did say that. I’d like to be able to say I said it with one iridescent tear in the corner of my eye, and added, “Because the sooner you leave, the sooner you will be back in my arms, darling.” But actually, it has just reached that stage of any long-term expectation where I just want to get it over with. Like Week 42 of a pregnancy. You think I’d know better than to induce by now. However, if he really wanted to say something for effect, I think he should say, “My wife? Do you think I should tell her?”

Just in case you have the same burning question (that is, “What does your wife think?”), you’ve come to the right place. The world may never know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, but it can now get to the center of what David’s wife thinks of him being out of the house and country for three months on end. Just remember, you read it here first. (And I’m sorry it’s so long. What can I say? I’m a thinker.)

We did discuss it a lot, even before he started looking into the possibility of his in-depth Molvanian experience. What’s more, we prayed a lot about it, and feel peaceful moving forward. So I don’t really have a great, “You want to do what?!” conversation to retell.

I did – and do – have some misgivings. They come and go, like other moods and dark thoughts. They are usually about his safety, or my sanity. Both issues have been addressed each time he has gone away for a week of training – about once every month since January. He is learning everything he needs to know for any extreme situation he might confront in Molvania, which puts me, and his mother, at more ease.

I won’t pretend that I haven’t contemplated widowhood, or envisioned having to tell his family, namely his mother and our boys, if something were to happen. I’ve thought about that long and hard, and though it’s unfathomable what I really would do or how I would do it, there are two things that make more sense to me than holding him back: 1) something terrible happening to him in Molvania is statistically less likely than something happening to him driving down the Beltway on the way to work every day; and 2) it’s like Dory told Nemo’s dad: if our main purpose is to avoid anything that might happen to us, or to keep things from happening to those we love, then pretty soon, NOTHING happens to us or the people we love.

(Another good question, which, interestingly enough, no one has asked him: “What does your mother think of this?” This is what she says, “Well, he didn’t call for advice on what to do, he just called to inform me of what he was going to do, so my job now is to be supportive.” Good mom. Good thing David’s not dumb enough to try the same tactic with me. I wouldn’t be as gracious.)

Every time he leaves for a few days of the training that makes me feel better for him, I have realized that I’m not so sure about me. I love my kids. I like playing with them and taking them places, but pretty regularly, enough is definitely enough. I’ve learned that I simply can’t be what they need physically, emotionally, or spiritually when I start running on empty.

When David is here, I pretty much live for 6 p.m., or whatever time he will be home. Whether this thought process is conscious or not depends on the day, but it is nonetheless true that just knowing he will be home in 3 hours…1 hour…5 minutes…makes me much more patient and pulled together than when I know he won’t be home for five days. Or 112. So here’s my plan of action to remedy the situation:

I will hire a real-live babysitter (instead of trading with my young-mom co-op friends, because I don’t need to have to watch other people’s kids at a time like this) to come at a specific time two or three days a week for a couple hours in the afternoon, when the boys are at their most “energetic” and I am at the end of my frayed rope. I might stay home while she is here and take a shower or a nap, or pay the bills or blog, or I might go to the movies or for a long walk or shopping. All undisturbed, mind you. I will pay her to play with them and be nice to them so that I can recoup my ability to play with them and be nice to them, then I will feed them a real, home-cooked dinner (that relieves guilt), bathe them and put them to bed.

I will also get a membership at the Y and go there on the days I don’t have a babysitter coming. Membership includes two hours of free childcare every day while I work out, so this will kill two or three birds with one stone – I won’t be a total whale of a woman when David comes back, I will get some me-time, and the boys will enjoy swimming, crafting, and dodge-balling with other kids and other people telling them “no, no!” for the fifty-billionth time. Then we’ll all come home, I’ll make a nutritious dinner for us to enjoy after our exercise, then I will bathe them and put them to bed.

I am also planning some fun outings, a little trip to Colorado to visit the grandmas (I think that’s a great idea as long as I don’t think about the going through security part and down the airplane aisles with two little kids part), and some other little milestones just to mark the time as it passes.

I’m trying to think of a way to make a visual countdown for the boys – a sticker chart or a paper chain for each of the days ‘til Daddy comes home. We have a nice evening routine, and I think that will be the toughest on the boys, when there isn’t the daily bathtime-storytime-prayers that Dad is a big part of. So I need to think of ways to help them with that.

I also vacillate between thinking, “Don’t be a wimp - it’s only three months, not two years or something,” and “But he’s going to be gone the entire summer. He’ll miss Henry’s second birthday and the 4th of July (my favorite) and his birthday and my birthday. It’s going to be a long, long time.” So my plan is to take it five minutes at a time – something I’ve never done my whole life.

It’s not like we won’t be able to communicate, though. He’s just traveling to the other side of the world, not disappearing off the face of the earth, for crying out loud. I started this blog partly so he could look in on home as frequently as he wants. And we’ll talk on the phone (although we had a long-distance romance and engagement and neither of us are phone talkers). He’s even promised me a love letter, maybe.

The other things I keep in mind are that 1) he believes in the project and his purpose in going, and 2) he is getting compensated accordingly for agreeing to work fro three months in a country untouched by modern dentistry. This was a chance to get out of our measly remaining college-stupid credit card debt, buy a couple pieces of furniture and have a nest-egg for when the housing market gets realistic in a year or two. The risk and the sacrifice are substantial, but an opportunity to get financially above water in three short months rarely comes along. It’s like David says, we’re not doing it for the money, but if the money wasn’t in it, we wouldn’t do it. If that makes sense. Somehow, it does to us.

And that’s pretty much everything David’s wife thinks about this. What I really think, though, is that this whole experience is going to be a blessing of appreciation for our marriage, and a tribute to all those single parents in the world, who do this kind of thing, day in, day out, often with no relief and no expectation that there will be someone coming home to bathe the kids and put them to bed in 112 days. I know almost all of them would say, “You just do what you have to do.” And I will, but not with as much finesse, I am sure – I’m an amateur and a temp.

I’m sure there will be some days that I think much more interesting and colorful things than I have recorded here, so look for future posts on my summer as a single mom.

Oh, and I know David isn’t going on a picnic either. But he can start his own blog if he’d like his story represented. I’d consider listing him under “honorary redshirts” on my blog if he does.


Angela said...

Girrrrrrrrl, this blog came at a perfect time huh?! I am looking forward to reading what you come up with on oh, say, day 72, or 84, or 98....they are gonna be good! And I think your coping plan is BRILLIANT. And the offer stands, free ticket...but you don't have to pretend to be a European, I know how nice it is to sleep in your own bed, even if it is alone. And welcome to the world of insanely long posts...I dance here frequently!

the lizness said...

You are so supportive! And your husband definitely should get a blog because that's way more fun than longdistance phone talking for just keeping up with the home gossip, especially with timezone differences.

And I'm an honorary redshirt! woot! you're at my lunch table, did you see?

Anonymous said...

Okay, now all the girls in the office are looking at me strange since I am sitting in my office crying. I mean working, I was not slacking off and reading your blog. You can do this. It is one of the best and hardest things you can do as a family. But, he will always owe you one :)

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Wow. My husband travels a lot, but not more than a few days at a time and is usually home by the weekend. This is going to be a challenge for all of you. Sounds like you've thought it through and have plans in place. Writing about it is going to help you through, too. I'll be praying for you. Really.

Unknown said...

I wasn't "around" Code Yellow Mom when you originally posted this, so I followed the links back today. It's interesting to hear the whole story. I'm glad you have a whole blogworld full of emotional support. Have you hired that babysitter yet? It's a wonderful idea.