Sometimes I like to read what everyone else is reading, even if it's months past when everyone else is talking about it. I put a digital copy of What Alice Forgot on hold at the library and the other night when there was absolutely nothing to watch on TV I thought, fine, I'll start reading a book.
It wasn't the best book I've ever read and it certainly wasn't the worst, so when I was all done I was confused (again!) by how STRESSED OUT and IRRITATED I was. How AFFECTED I was. "What's your DEAL, Self?" I asked myself. "CHILLAX."
But I thought about it most of the day and I realized: oh. That's why. So you see, due to a head injury, Alice has forgotten the last 10 years of her life. (WAIT! SPOILER! DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOU WANT TO READ THE BOOK! I HAVE WARNED YOU!) Ten years ago she was young, pregnant, blissfully happily married, excited for the future. But the Alice of the Ten Years Into The Future, the REAL Alice, she's a half-psychotic supermom with three kids and a fancy house and a husband who works all the time... and travels... and takes a lot of phone calls... and she sort of emotionally divests herself from him... and then they SEPARATE. ACK.
Hey did you like how I said "emotionally divests"? And I've never even taken a psych class.
Anyway, this gnaws at me. Clearly I am still processing The Year Of Too Much Business Travel. I am beyond thrilled that Phillip is at a new place doing new stuff, he feels like there's potential, and the environment, the expectations, the "culture" seems so different. He hasn't been there long enough to know and it's not like he'll never get on a plane for work again, but it's a huge [and good, I think] change. But I don't think I have fully switched over from Single Parenting Every Other Week to Daddy Is Home At Five Every Day.
I feel terrible, because it's not like Phillip was DEPLOYED. It's not like his job WAS in Atlanta and he only came home on the weekends. (I know people who have arrangements like this and do it for years.) He got so much better at communicating vague travel plans and I never felt jerked around by his work. And even though he was consistently traveling once a month for a year, the excessive travel, the several weeks per month only started happening in September. That was only three months. When we knew there was an end point. Halfway through we knew it wasn't just the end of crazy travel but an entirely new JOB waiting at the end. When he made sure to be around on the weekends and made it possible for ME to go on a FUN trip by myself for five days.
It seems like such a short term thing - why does it feel like a big deal still? Why does it feel like something to process at all?
I think it's the way I coped with it all. In the beginning, when he first started these 4 and 5-day-long business trips, I would silently freak out about them for weeks ahead of time. (If I KNEW about it weeks ahead of time, I suppose!) The anticipation was always harder than the actual event. I think I got used to it, sort of, then we went and had EJ and I got terrified all over again. EJ was only about two months old the first time he left me at home with three. She was a horrible sleeper, the whole thing WAS horrible, I had to plan to spend almost the whole week with my parents when he went away again the next month. (That was better.)
By September and October of this year, I didn't even bat an eye. It's not like I was HAPPY about it or anything, but I felt resigned. It wasn't Phillip's fault, after all. He didn't seem to be as affected by work travel as I was, but this was still his job, the way I got to stay home with my kids, the way we paid the mortgage. And I was capable. I could do all the school stuff by myself. I could do all the meals and bedtime. I could do a wet bed and a bloody nose and an awake-for-no-reason baby all in one night. I made embarrassingly easy dinners, I put the kids to bed as early as possible, we made plans with friends and family, and I savored that alone time at the end of the day when I was finally done and there was no one else around to take care of except myself. Single parenting wasn't so bad. I could handle it just fine.
What's weird now, I think, is that even though I don't HAVE to single parent anymore, it's still sort of my first plan of attack. How do I take care of this thing? How do I manage all of these people? I forget to factor Phillip into all of that.
So when he comes back and decides that he's going to try a new discipline approach with Jack, or suggests I do something differently with Emma, or points out something I forgot or ignored I'm RATHER TOUCHY. I'm like this anyway (don't you try to tell me I'm wrong!) but I feel even more sensitive. Like, "HEY, WE WERE JUST FINE WITHOUT YOU."
And that's... horrible. Horrible! I don't want that!
I didn't really know how else to deal with the business travel, and now I see it affecting things afterward. I need to get out of this mindset where I am only and forever in charge, where parenting WITH someone is better for everyone. And I don't have to tell myself it's not important just so I can manage to do it alone.
Phillip feels differently... I'm not exactly sure how it all lines up, but from what he says, it seems that he feels he was fully present when he was home and it wasn't like he was gone ALL the time and he was still a part of things. And he WAS... but I think when he was here, especially the last few months, I was just preparing for him to leave again. I never got comfortable. I made sure to spend plenty of time alone, without kids AND my husband. I didn't want to be angry and resentful all the time, and it seemed like the only way to do that was to act/feel/think like I was just fine doing this on my own, I didn't need him anyway.
So I wasn't angry and resentful. Honestly. I was many things, but I was not angry or blaming him. Whatever I did, it worked. It's just that now that it's over, it's proving hard to go back.