When my husband was traveling all the time, I would get into a groove while he was gone. And although I missed him (the first few days), by the time we’d been a Papa-less family for several weeks I was torn.
I wanted him home. But I didn’t want my life and our routine messed up.
It was hard to remember that my life was actually ‘our’ life. It’s hard to remember to be a ‘we’ when it’s always just ‘me’.
Getting ready for my husband to arrive
Here is what getting ready has sometimes looked like for me.
- Oh good. I’m getting tired of being on the clock without a break.
- And that’s about the time the expectations start growing.
- I dream about getting my hair done, a little shopping in, perhaps an evening of scrapbooking, or hanging out with my girlfriends – sans kids.
- I think about meal time around the table, and sitting back while hubby offers to clean up the dishes.
- But then reality hits and I remember what’s happened the last umpteen times he came home , so instead I try to gear up to be the supportive wife.
- This looks like me talking to myself a lot – usually about things like not getting grumpy that he gets to play with the kids while I clean up dinner, and why he gets to ‘destress’ on the computer when my next destress session will probably be in a hospital bed during my next surgery. (If you are sensing attitude, then I’ve communicated well.)
- I start to prepare.
- I clean and tidy. Not because it’s a big deal to him (it’s not) but so that I would feel free if, on the off chance, he would suggest a date, or to have friends over, or anything fun at all.
- I prepare, in advance, some baking and nice meals in hopes of some good, memory-making, family meals.
- My husband was on the road for weeks at a time, so he wasn’t always keen on going out to eat. Meanwhile I was ready to quit the kitchen for some fine dining. If I had meals prepared, at least I could feel like I hadn’t slaved in the kitchen all day if we ended up eating at home. And I really did want those nice family meals.
- About this time the emotions would wage war within me. I wanted him home… but I didn’t want all the work. I wanted a break. Shouldn’t I demand a break? Is it my RIGHT to get a break?
- But I didn’t usually have time to let this war continue too long, because I’d get distracted by the long list of things we had to discuss and deal with before he was off again. Things like the car needs a tune-up so he’d need to take a taxi to the airport next time, or the yard irrigation system broke down, or the kids have swollen brain stems so we’ll need to figure out the medical insurance, etc. (And yes… two kids did have swollen brain stems…).
- And of course, I’d start remembering all those other things we hadn’t talked about in a long time, the ones we kept pushing under the rug waiting for that right time that never arrives.
- So I’d start dreaming, thinking and planning. Maybe this time would be the right time to bring up the issue of over-spending, or how much sex we are or are not getting, or how we are going to deal with family (in-laws or otherwise) that are coming to stay, or the collectors that keep calling, or the way he offended me or the kids last time… and so on.
- I’d run through possible scenarios in my mind. I’d concoct the perfect sentences, so I could say what I needed to say ever so gently and with so much love.
- Then remembering how well that didn’t go last time – regardless of how well prepared I was – would raise my anxiety until I could hardly sleep at night.
So you see, just knowing my husband was coming home was enough to wear me out! So much emotional energy went into his return. And often by the time he actually got home I was completely exhausted. And by the time he left again none of my expectations or plans would be realized.
Learning the hard way
For a while, we made welcome home signs for Papa every time he came home. Then we started reusing them. Eventually we didn’t have any signs at all.
We started out making his favorite meals when he was home. Then only one favorite meal. And eventually he just ate whatever I pulled out of the fridge.
One of the struggles with being in a marriage separated by distance and schedule is that you (I should say I) tend to treat your spouse as a guest when they arrived home.
Actually the stress for my husband coming home was greater than when special guests came for a visit. But my husband was not a guest!! Why did I treat him like one?
I wanted him to feel special. I wanted him to know we missed him. I wanted him to love it so much that maybe, just maybe… he’d stay home next time, or at least try to find someone else to make that trip for him.
What a waste of effort all that planning and preparing was! What I should have done (and did do on a few occasions) was call a friend and said, “Hey! My husband is coming home. Can you take the kids for the day today and I’ll pick them up after breakfast tomorrow?” I know there was always at least one in the groups of friends I had that would be able to help out, knowing I’d do the same for them when they called.
Then, instead of getting the house and meals ready, I’d take a nap. Yes, I’d take a nap.
I needed to be rested to handle the changes and excitement. I also wanted to be ready and have enough energy for some bedroom romance and intimacy. If I was dead tired and the kids were fighting for his attention (and maybe asking to sleep in our bed with us) I knew nothing steamy would ever get started.
The best way to prepare
I think the best thing a mom can do when her husband is coming home is prepare to be married.
Being married means sharing life together. It means letting him see what life is like when he’s gone. It means giving him room to parent, to help with the dishes, to run errands, to fix the car and cut the grass.
It means having those discussions even if they are hard.
And it means loving each other in every way – physically (unless there’s a health reason, be sure to make love when he’s home), spiritually (make sure he has time for devotions), emotionally (listen to him and tell him how proud you are), and mentally (have good discussions with him, tell him what you’ve been thinking about).
Will every time home be marvelous? Uh… no.
But it doesn’t have to be stressed out and full of anxiety.
Relax. Rest. Rejuvenate. That’s one of the best ways you can prepare.