Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When he's away....

I just received a lovely email from a reader (I'm not telling who unless she says I can) about how her husband is away, and wondering how I cope with all Mr A's coming and goings.

I started to reply with an essay, but then I thought other people might be wondering too, and perhaps might find what I was going to say useful. So I'm posting it here, in no particular order:


I have two routines. One for when Mr Accident is away, and one for when he is home.

I used to procrastinate on "his" household jobs, refusing to empty the bins or clean the floor until they were in dire need of attention, then finally doing them with a sooky attitude, a massive grudge against his work, and usually spiced with delightful profanity.

Every time I looked at the filthy floors or almost overflowing bin, (both kind of hard to ignore) I would be reminded about his absence. It wasn't making life happy.

Mr A and Peanut in 2009, just before he deployed for 8 months
But now I have an absent-Mr-A routine that means the chores get done before they really need doing, so it's a quicker and easier job, and I sook less.

Keep busy

Keeping occupied is vital. Find something that excites you and keeps your hands and mind busy. This is why I bought chickens, why I took up knitting, why I made hair clips, why I began to bake bread, and why I started the Saturday playgroup (do I need to go on? I could...)

They are all hobbies that interest me and keep my mind occupied ticking over with plans and improvements, especially during the evening when I would normally be pining for Mr A.

I still have difficulties on the weekend. It tends to drag on horrendously. I try to plan a special event every weekend so I have something to look forward to, even if it's a trip to a new park for a picnic lunch, or a visit to my grandpa for morning tea. When all else fails, I throw myself on the mercy of my friends and beg to come over. Classy.

Look after yourself.

I am a MESS when I don't eat properly. An absolute mess. Almost certifiable. It's easy to let the business of food slide when you're cooking for just one or two (or even three, in my case!) So I make an effort to eat three square, healthy meals a day, and plenty of snacks too. I try to keep that blood sugar stable. Unfortunately this keeps my waist stable too, but thems the breaks.

Exercise is a lifesaver. I'm a big fan of walking. It's cheap and easy to do with young kids, you won't tire yourself out too badly and be incapacitated for the rest of the day (ugh, pump classes), and if you put on a couple of bursts of speed you get a lovely punch of endorphins with your change of scenery.

mmmm, sweaty....
Also, sleep. I find it challenging to sleep when Mr A is away, he is my comforter, and I also struggle to get to bed on time without him. His role in our relationship includes gently prompting me when to go to bed. I am night owl, but the toddlers are certainly not. So I set an alarm to go to bed on my phone, so I have the rest I need to have a clear and coping head the next day.


Keeping Daddy in the mind of the kids, especially when they young, can be very tricky. Before Mr A deployed, when Peanut was four months old, I plied him with wine and had him read her favourite books on video. They are HILARIOUS. Tipsy daddy is even funnier and more witty than sober daddy. We would watch a story together a couple of times a week. Skype is also a winner, if that's available.

Daddy-in-the-computer. Pants optional.
I also printed out a life sized colour photo of Mr A's head, and stuck it on a stick. I made Peanut kiss it good night. (Yep, Peanut-in-ten-years-time, I really did. I promise to help fund your therapy.) I am happy to say she recognized him at the airport, so I count that as a solid win.

Paper daddy, laminated to protect against enthusiastic smooching
I tell the girls plenty of stories about Daddy, we talk about him every day, and keep him in our hearts and minds. I also try and give the girls (Peanut especially, as she's a bit older) the words they need to describe the feelings they have about Mr A leaving and coming back. It helps us understand each other and I can respond to their moods and feelings more effectively. We use words like sad, worried, I miss him, my heart has a hole, confused, lonely, excited, happy, shy and joyful. Not too complex, but Peanut's still only three.

Guard your thoughts

When your other half is away, and you are stuck at home with the daily grind, it's easy to get thinking about what fun they might be having (and with who?) and how tough it all is on you.

Just don't. Don't.

It's your brain, you get to think what you want. Choose to think positive thoughts. Watch positive TV shows. Listen to positive music.

But don't be too hard on yourself if you happen to spend the evening of your first wedding anniversary sobbing in the corner on the kitchen floor. Hey, we've all done it at some time... right?

Find someone to talk to

Having someone to listen makes a big difference. Everyone needs to feel validated - to feel like the things they do actually matter to someone! That's normally a role that a husband would fill, but when he's away it can get difficult to find someone to fill that gap. Suitable friends can be hard to find, (and can get tired of the daily minutiae I would normally foist on my husband!) so a diary or a blog is a good substitute.

When all else fails, I call my mum and make her listen.

I also like having people in the same boat as me. I made one of my best friends when our husbands deployed at the same time, leaving us both home with new babies (hi Kate!) These people don't necessarily need to be geographically co located, just someone who understands what you are on about when you vent. You know, like a random woman on the internet who you can email with questions and receive a whole essay in reply. *ahem*

My lovely corespondent also asked, does it get better? Well, yes and no (helpful, aren't I?)

You get used to it.

But I'm not going to pretend it's easy.

And every deployment is different.

I think everyone just does the best they can on the day they have, and then wakes up and does it all again tomorrow.

And now, finally, I am going to direct you over to my friend Posie's blog, to read her lovely posts about her husband coming home. Because every cloud has a silver lining!

Has anyone had to cope with an occasionally absent husband? Especially one who is gone for long periods? If I've missed any advice, share it below...


  1. My husband used to be in the Army Reserve, so I have an inclining of what you are talking about, but that was pre-children so a totally different situation, but you still miss them when they are gone for 2-3 weeks.

    My husband is a shift worker now, and he works 12 hour shifts, he is gone by the time the kids get up in the morning, and he doesn't return until after tea at night, he also does night shift, which means he needs an afternoon nap before work, and a sleep day the next day, this can get very draining on family life, as I'm constantly trying to keep the kids quiet when daddy is sleeping. Also even on his 12 hour day shift, he is on call at night, so it is not uncommon for him to get home, and have to leave again. We are in the fortunate position that this is only 4 days on followed by 5 days off, but in those 4 work days me and the kids barely see him. I'm well used to it now, but you are right, keeping busy helps a lot.

    Yet again another great post.

    1. Wow, regular shift work is a whole different kettle of fish. Trying to keep the kids quite would be quite a challenge! I think almost every family has their own situations and differing ways of rising to meet them. I suspect, if my family were in your situation, Mr A would end up having naps in his swag on the front lawn...

  2. I have been there before in my past marriage, and you have such good advice. At first blogging seemed a bit strange (so many "friends" that I don't really know) but I can imagine that blogging would be very helpful. Being able to communicate with others going through the same stuff is so important. You are doing a great job, and love hearing the stories of your life with your gorgeous kids.

    1. It's cathartic, absolutely. When I blog I just pretend I am talking to myself or my husband, but the more comments I get the harder it is to maintain the illusion! It's a wonderful way to feel connected.

      Thanks for the kind comments, I really appreciate them.

  3. Thanks for this post - wonderful practical tips, loved it.

  4. Awesome post Mrs A. Love the idea of Tipsy Daddy reading stories on video! And ... is it just the little ones who occasionally kiss the life-size Daddy on a stick? Or does Mummy sometimes give him a quick peck on the cheek too? Cute!

  5. This was a fantastic post. Paper Daddy made me a bit teary, that's a wonderful, sweet idea. What great advice.

  6. I guess I'm very lucky to have a partner who doesn't work away from home, but I really enjoyed your post. I have a close friend who's husband does work off-shore for weeks at a time, and although I know it's hard, I'd never really considered what the daily grind without him means for her. Thanks for your insights and practical tips.

    1. A good friend really can make all the difference. I suggest long talks and plenty of cake ;)

  7. I remember you talking about an insistance that daddy lived in the computer.. that broke my heart a little. I've been very fortunate that my mister has rarely been away with work for more than 2 nights at a time. The only times we've ever been properly apart are when I've been in hospital having the kids, and when he had to go back to the USA to visit his father, who'd had a stroke. In that instance, I found having something of his with me was handy - a t-shirt on the pillow so I could still fall asleep because I could smell him, and a chain he wore that I could keep in my pocket or wear to bed, so I still felt like he was around. Its not the same, I know, but at that point, we had only been apart for more than 12 hours once since we started dating so it was incredible difficult.

    And if you ever feel like a roadtrip when theres lack-of-man in the hosue, we live next to a LAKE with CRABS and FISH and PELICANS and SWANS :D

    1. You and your amazing memory!

      Yep, Daddy in the computer was an unfortunate side effect, but when he arrived it was like having on of her favourite tv stars to visit permanently.

      I like to have something that smells of him too, but I find that eventually the smell wears off if I hold it too much. Now I just stick my head in his wardrobe and have a big sniff instead. It lasts better.

    2. Oh, and a visit to your crabs? Sounds lovely.

    3. Oh that sounds wrong.....

  8. I love this post, just love it. My hubby is often away from us for long periods and it was so hard at first (especially the tendency to blame everything on them and their absence). I'm actually more used to it now - to the point where I get quite tetchy about sharing the remote lol

    1. See, I find his absence resets my blame meter. I tend to blame everything on him when he's home, and when he's away I have no one but myself to scold when I lose the scissors.

      I do agree about the remote. I'm watching Poirot right now - Mr A would probably agree to watch it with me if he were home, but it would be under duress!

  9. I have been living sans Internet for the past week and it's lovely to come back and read your blog. This is such a poignant post and a reminder not to take the every day things with my husband for granted. You're doing an amazing job solo and how brilliant that Peanut recognised her daddy at the airport from your photo cut-out.

    1. I was wondering where you had disappeared to! Glad to have you back :)

  10. So, do your posts dry up when he comes back? ;)

    1. Surprisingly not! I tend to write while the girls nap, when he's at work, so that routine stays static...

  11. Great advice!
    We are embarking on a 9-5 FIFO travel on company time roster, so I'm coming to terms with being a part-time working part-time solo mum! Luckily my hubby's rostered days line up with mine so it's awesome when he's home but exhausting when he's not! One of the hardest things I find istrine to do thingsI love especially sewing. I'm often too exhausted by the time my boy naps or goes to bed so haven't found a balance yet! But it's early days...