Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What is "normal" anyway?

Looking back over my posts here I realize there are times when I do little more than write about the happenings of the day or try to put a humorous twist on misbehaving children or sometimes just transfer the random thoughts from my brain to the computer screen. When I started this blog my intent was to not only keep family and friends posted on the goings-on of our family, but also to share some of the trials and frustrations - and really great moments! - of this lifestyle with other families in the same boat. Being a family with one spouse/parent at home and one on the road is hard and just knowing that others are out there struggling - and celebrating! - with the same issues can be a huge comfort. We've been living this lifestyle on and off for years, but when we first started I didn't really have any source of inspiration or a place to commiserate with like-minded people.

So I look at those random posts and I think "gee, I didn't really offer up any sort of wisdom there" but then I remember that the everyday-blah-blah-normal stuff is just what we do. Just like everyone else, we wake up in the morning and we go to school or work and we live our lives. We just happen to do it a little differently than others. But everybody has something they work around or deal with every day. People tell me how they couldn't imagine living like we do, but to us it's normal. I look at people with severely disabled adult children that need 24/7 care and I think it takes a special kind of person to live that way and feel "normal". I think of military wives who give birth to children while their husbands are in a combat zone, or people who live in hurricane country where it's "normal" to have a 72-hour grab-and-go emergency kit in the front closet and I think wow, these people are tough. Not me. I have a pretty cushy life.

Steve told me recently that while the wife of one of his coworkers was there visiting one evening the guys asked her to give some perspective on being the one left at home. (Hey, what a great idea for a blog!) She said what I think a lot of us would agree with and I've said before: It's hard being the one holding down the fort and not really knowing what the guys are doing out there.

Oftentimes we don't understand the logistics of the job so when our guys tell us (literally) what they did at work today, all we can do is listen. When they say they're going out to grab a bite to eat with the guys, we can't picture who they're with because we don't know their coworkers. When they complain because they had to go all the way across town to pick up something for the job, we can't picture where they're going or what they're driving through. The guys, on the other hand, know exactly what home looks like. They know we're here cooking dinner (or ordering pizza) for their kids every night. They know what our basic schedule is every day, and for a lot of us, they know there are people around to keep us safe, sane, and honest.

The guys asked Steve "what about you?" I imagine he had to look up from sending me a message to tell them that we communicate regularly. We send texts to each other throughout the day - sometimes a lot, sometimes once or twice. We chat on-line, we post updates on Facebook, he reads my blog, we talk on the phone. He sends e-mails to the kids and talks to them on the phone. He comes home as often as he can and we put off doing other things with our budget so that the kids and I can go visit him, too. Those are some of the things we do to make this work. And while it works for us, it might not work for other families.

We've been through those years when I felt insecure about my husband being out in the world by himself with lots of opportunity to stray. We've had those fights about where all the money goes when I'm here trying to pay bills and he's there trying to focus on work so the bills can get paid. We've done that back-and-forth comparison about who has the harder job - him, being away from home and family and working his butt off day after day, or me, being pretty much a single parent and covering all the school activities, all the discipline, all the household stuff and making sure he has a soft place to land when he gets home. None of the arguments very productive at the time, but all of it necessary to get us to where we are today, having learned how important it is to communicate our frustrations and worries to each other and talk things through before either one of us blows up. We laugh about it now, but the cliche is true: communication, communication, communication. It's also important to offer up encouragement, positive reinforcement, and remember to tell each other often how much we appreciate what the other is doing.

Well. That's a whole lot of rambling to say a couple of very simple things: 1) This is normal for us, and sometimes our lives are just as boring as anyone else's and my posts here on the blog will reflect that. I apologize in advance and hope you'll stick with me. I promise I'll make you laugh again soon. And 2) If your family is faced with the same kind of situation with one spouse/parent having to travel for work, take some time to find your own normal. Do what you need to do to make things as comfortable as possible for all of you. If that means the non-traveling spouse/parent keeping the home fires burning, do it. If it means packing everyone into an RV and homeschooling the kids, so be it. Whatever works. I'll be here rambling about our normal and hopefully providing a source of strength for others along the way. And if you'd like to leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail I'll gladly commiserate with you.

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