Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
When Daniel began working as a management consultant, we did not fully appreciate the impact that his career would have on our family. We weighed the pros and cons before taking a leap of faith - diving headlong into a new chapter of our lives. What we did know, however, was that our family dynamic and roles would invariably change. We knew that the job came with a lot of travel which would amount to Daniel spending significant time away from the family. We knew that he would be pushed to his limits in terms of the number of hours he would have to commit to his job and the inevitable fatigue he would feel. And, in turn, I too would be pushed to my limits as I myself accepted my own “job offer” within the confines of our own home. We were aware of the risk of potential burnout, possible dislike for the career change, and even the potential to feel that we made the wrong choice altogether.
As we near the 18-month mark of Daniel’s new career, I feel like I’m finally at the point where I can say that I am fully aware of what that means for him, for me, and for our family as a whole. It has taken this long for me to comfortably say that I understand the workload, the finer nuances of Daniel’s job, and the impact it has on us as a team.
Daniel’s career has taught me the importance of communication. When we chose to embark on this new journey, one of my biggest fears was that Daniel would miss major milestones in our kids’ lives. Linden was just born when the interview process began and was barely 5 months old when Daniel officially started. I couldn’t help but think about all that lay ahead in Linden’s life and how Daniel’s frequent absence would affect him. I can now say that although Daniel is missed, the travel hasn’t changed our lives negatively because we refuse to let it. I make sure to tell Daniel all about our day. I film or photograph as many meaningful (and some not so meaningful) moments as possible. Daniel makes it a priority to speak to the kids daily, catch up with them, and stay involved with the ins-and-outs of daily life. When home on the weekends, Daniel is fully invested in spending time with the kids, taking them to classes, and playing as many imaginary games as Maelle can think up.
Daniel’s career has shown me my own strength. Having a husband who works 80+ hours per week and travels often means that relying on him isn’t always an option. Of course, he is always there for emotional support, but I can’t call him if I am sick, or if the kids are being tiny little terrors, or if I forgot to pick up milk for the morning. Instead, I have had to learn the depths of my own capabilities. I have had to set my limits and boundaries and listen to my own needs in order to be the best version of myself for the kids. I have learned to be self-sufficient and prioritize the happenings in my life with greater care. I have learned that I am able to carry a lot more (metaphorically speaking) than I once I thought I could and I have also learned how to put down certain things that aren’t worth being carried; things that have only been weighing me down.
Daniel’s career has shown me his strength. It would be simple for me to say that Daniel has it easier. He gets to go work in a career he loves and then come home to his adoring family for all of the fun. I could sit here and stew in my own bitterness but the reality is that it is equally as difficult for Daniel as it is for me. His side of the fence isn’t all green grass and beautiful flowers. He works long hours, spends precious time in airports and on flights and misses out on many aspects of the kids’ lives. When he is home, he participates in the daily household routine, but still at the end of the day, you will often find him in his home office, working well past midnight, all in the name of this family.
Most importantly, I have learned that being in a marriage is not a simple fifty-fifty partnership. Marriage is about giving all of yourself, one hundred percent of the time. I couldn’t possibly expect Daniel to do the same amount for the kids as I do. He isn’t able to do half of the household duties just as he can’t expect me to bring in half of our household income. We have sacrificed on both ends of the spectrum - his home life and my income earning - so we can support our family as best as possible. No matter what, we are a team and that requires him to trust in the choices I make when it comes to our kids, be it discipline or education. Similarly, I have to trust in the choices he makes at work. Whether it’s the next project he takes on or the importance of him traveling for training or spending time on weekends supporting a pro-bono cause. And even if we don’t always like a choice, we have to back each other up because, in the end, we are both in it for each other and for the success of our family as a whole.
I now know that all of the things that I believed would be the most challenging, the changes that I thought would cause the most turmoil and distress were actually the most straightforward to handle. Being a mom and caring for kids has always come naturally to me - I should never have questioned my ability to take on more work in that realm of life. Staying organized, focusing on what’s important, and keeping on top of household duties was almost effortless; second nature in some respects. In truth, the hardest change hasn’t been the time I am with the kids - those hours are all-consuming and fly by faster than I would like to admit. The biggest struggle comes when I have put the children down to sleep, caught up with the chores, and finally sit down to relax. Not having Daniel to talk to, share a meal with, watch a show in silence beside, make me laugh, or just be present, is difficult. The special companionship, so generously gifted by a happy marriage, is limited by his new career, and this is when I feel the burden of our new life the most. If missing my best friend is the hardest part of the new normal, then I think we are doing something right.