A well-meaning friend recently said to me, “I don’t know how you do everything you do all alone. Your husband is gone so much that you are like a single mom!”
My dear sweet friend, I love you, and I know you were trying to compliment me, but, no, my life is nothing like the life of a single mom.
I am married to a wonderfully hard-working man. His struggles and sacrifices allow me to stay home with our kids while they are small. At the end of a particularly frustrating day, I can call and talk to someone who gets it. A teammate. An equal. He offers me advice, we make decisions together, and we support each other.
Before he goes on short trips, he makes sure the lawn is mowed and the bills are all paid for the month so that I don’t have to worry about them. Before he goes on longer trips, he ensures that my car is in good repair so that I have less likelihood of having problems while he is away, and he fixes any existing problems around the house.
What I want to tell you most about having a husband who is gone a lot is this: It is harder on him than it is on me.
I am here in my beautiful home with my beautiful children. Their small hands are holding mine, touching my face, and their smiles are lighting up my days. We are here together. We all miss my husband, but we still have each other.
My husband, however, is gone.
He is alone and missing not only me, but also our three kids. He goes days, weeks, and months without a hug from someone who loves him.
I am here for every ballet recital, every piano performance, every T-ball practice, every doctor’s visit … every. single. thing. I get to experience it with them and celebrate their accomplishments immediately. I know little details about our kids that my husband doesn’t get a chance to know because they are sometimes lost in our conversations. We have so much to catch up on when we talk that I tell him about how my daughter brought her failing math grade up to a B+, but I forget to mention that our 2-year-old had the funniest prayer intention at dinner and that our middle son has met the girl he wants to marry in his kindergarten class.
Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed.
When a stomach virus hits and I have three kids taking turns throwing up in toilets and bowls and floors, and then I get sick, too — that is not fun nor easy. It is a mess. But still, I am sad that my husband has to miss these moments. When they are adults, they will remember that I was the one smoothing the hair from their face, taking their temperature, making them toast and pouring them watered down Gatorade as they recovered. They’ll remember sleeping curled up next to me watching movies and feeling comfort.
It is the loss of these moments — the good and the bad everyday chances that I get to show my kids that they are loved —that I mourn for him.
I see my husband making the most of the moments he does have at home. He rushes home when he is in town to try to arrive in time dinner. He reads stories and helps with baths. He cuts food in small squares and wrestles with our sons. He listens to our daughter’s stories and worries. I notice that his eyes are exhausted, but I also see that his smile is filled of joy.
Numerous times he has run into the room bursting with excitement to tell me something new that the baby did, but it isn’t really new. The baby has been doing that for weeks. He just hadn’t been able to see it. There is no place he would rather be than here in our home helping with dishes and petting our dog and loving his family, yet sometimes he is simply not here.
I hope that my children know they are lucky to have their father who works tirelessly for them. I hope that when they are adults, each time they think of something fun or memorable we did together without my husband, they also think of his love as the reason it was possible. I am the one who is taking them to the water park, movies with friends, and out for ice cream on Tuesday nights in the summer, but my husband is the reason I am able to make these memories.
So no, I am not like a single mom. Even though you meant it as compliment, it was unfair to my husband.
He may be physically absent for long stretches from our life, but he is always available for emotional support. The truth is that I am here enjoying my children, but he is alone somewhere missing us. He is missing this elusive and slippery yet all important time while our children are small.
To say I am a single mom discredits the hard work he puts in for his job and his country and overlooks the time he spends wishing he was home. Yes, he loves his job. But yes, he misses his family, too. That makes all the difference.