Friday, March 6, 2009

Why we still like each other after almost 15 years

As I've mentioned countless times before, the Husband travels for work.

All. the. time.

People are constantly asking me how I do it. There are times when I ask myself the very same thing. It is not an easy task. Today I thought it would be fun to share my secrets and tell you exactly how I survive.

Because some days? It really is just about surviving. Like when you are talking on the phone at the end of a long day where you were puked on, peed on, changed enough diapers to make a landfill, endured the same episode of Barney 17 times, and felt that your life was the equivalent of a non-negotiable hostage situation.

The slight depression you feel on those days can go from bad to worse when you listen as he describes the five-star restaurant he ate at, and the plush accommodations he gets all to himself; all the while, the little people in your home are pummeling you with soggy cheerios for having the audacity to talk on the phone for five whole seconds.

It would be easy to hate him for it.

But because I know he's sparing me the details of his heated, intense meetings with clients, nights spent re-working financial models of young associates who have no clue what they're doing, and the 14-hour days in hospitals, meeting with boards, I don't hate him for it.

I love him even more.

But I have figured out some things through the years that have helped me cope with this lifestyle that we've chosen. I've come up with a series of rules for you to live by, if you ever find yourself in my shoes; be it for a day or forever.

1. Self-pride is paramount to your happiness. Just because your man will not see you every day, does not mean you get to wear sweats all around town and not do your hair or make-up. My hard and fast rule is that I always shower, get ready, and wear actual clothes, even if no one sees me. It makes me feel pretty and gives me a sense of self-worth, which in turn, makes me a nicer mom.

2. Fiercely guard your family time. Our weekends are absolutely sacred to us. We do not schedule play dates or friend time when Dad is home. The kids have missed him all week, and he is ready to play with them on the weekends. He is not one of those guys that needs a few hours by himself to unwind. He wants us, and we are good and ready for him.

We may not have quantity, but we do have quality when it comes to his time.

3. Learn to be an independent do-it-yourselfer. I have taught myself many things over the years about home repair, yard maintenance, and car upkeep. I don't leave those unpleasant jobs for him to do on the weekends, if possible. When I only get to see him two days a week, why would I want to have him sitting at Jiffy Lube with the car half the day? I take care of anything I can, or hire someone to do it for me.

4. Let the little things go. Yes, it annoys me when he slings his pants over the side of a chair instead of hanging them up. But do I really want to spend precious time yelling at him for it? Or, for that matter, would I be receptive to any criticism from him in regards to my own faults and failings?

Not bloody likely, I can promise you that.

So leave him alone. Ignore the small stuff. Be glad he works so hard for your family and make him feel appreciated. You will be surprised at the appreciation and love that flows your way from him, too.

5. Take care of your man -ahem- and his physical needs. This is very, very important to the health and happiness of everyone. (Because my brothers and various male relatives read this, I'll just leave it at that.)

6. Take time for yourself. I am a firm believer in the six o'clock bedtime, and religiously stick to it.

That's right, my friends, I said six o'clock.

My kids have always been early risers, and would wake up at the crack of dawn no matter what time they went to sleep. So, I figured, why not put them to sleep earlier, ensuring they get a good amount of rest? It worked, and they would crash every night at about six, leaving me a few hours to unwind and detox. Even though they are old enough now that they don't fall asleep right at six, I still put them in their rooms at that time.

I know what you're thinking. And I don't care if you judge me.

It has been our routine for years, and they know they are to play quietly in their rooms, read books, or build legos until lights-out at 7:30. It's a little down time for them, and helps me not do a lot of the yelling.

Nobody likes the yelling.

I find myself wholly unable to parent much past six, and definitely take advantage of the 'me' time to recharge.

7. And last, but not least, have realistic expectations. Plan on doing the carpool, the baseball pick-up, the ballet run yourself, and figure out how to make things work on your own. Nothing starts the agitation in a marriage like the expectation that he'll be home in time for dinner. Because when he's not? You're mad as hell and spitting nails by the time he does stroll in. But if you just plan on him not being there, go about your routine, when he happens to sneak away early, you are pleasantly surprised.

So, interpeeps, what are your tricks to surviving a traveling spouse? Anything I'm missing here?



Paige said...

This is 100% my life and the best thing I've ever read. I do most all of it, but the 6 pm thing, which is surprising but also genius, Except dinner at my mom's is 6 and do I look like one to miss a meal?

#7 is pretty much the motto for my marriage.

I also always hire a sitter once a week so my kids get a good bedtime without someone yelling at them. The sitter makes dinner, finishes homework, does prayers teeth stories bed and I make sure to get home after they are asleep. I either take myself to dinner and shop, go the book store, or just hang out at my moms and play games until kids are asleep.

thanks for writing this.

Rebecca said...

Well said. I'm still at the stage of having 3 or 4 kids home all day, so when hubby is gone it's important for me to get a break somehow. So my advice is find a way to get alone time, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Because when you're all sick with the flu and you've managed to wash the bedding from your sick kids but need the beds made so they don't have to sleep on the floor AGAIN, be humble enough to call your VT and her to come make the beds for you. We all need each other sometimes, and it's okay to ask when you need help.

Amanda D said...

I think you should write a book. This is good advice for everyone...even those of us who don't have to deal with traveling husbands.

Jessica said...

This is my life!! I'm married to an airline pilot and my husband comes and goes all of the time. I'm in 100% agreement about the bedtime. Mine is 7pm. I have two small boys and if they aren't in bed by 7 they have a very cranky Mommy!! I think you pretty much summed it up. Oh..I have something else ~ I used to be in the habit of letting my kids eat dinner and then I'd eat after they went to bed (just to have one meal in peace), but I've realized that just because Daddy isn't home that is no excuse to not have a family dinner each night. So, now I sit and eat with the kids (even if its just nibbling on their chicken nuggets) and we have a sit down dinner together each night.
Great Post!!

Nikki said...

Really good marriage advice. Even with a husband in town, sometimes I feel like I do the single parent thing. I wish I could even get dinner on the table by 6 let alone everyone in their room. You are so disciplined!
Maybe you should just move to Grand Rapids though- it's a great city! :)

Hollyween said...

First of all, you look like a total babe in the picture with your husband. And you both still look really in love. You can see it!

My husband doesn't travel too much, but he does work long hours. He leaves at 6 and gets home at 6:30. And, though I know people have it worse, I cherish the time that he is actually HOME. And I started saying no to things that landed on the weekends during 'our' time. And I don't answer the phone a lot at night.

I'm thinking about stealing your 6:00 bedtime routine. That's brilliant. Because ya know what? I really am a worse mother after 6pm. I don't know what it is!

Kari said...

Great post and great advice, for any married couple.

April Van Wagenen said...

Love this! My husband also travels A LOT. I get very jealous of the fancy restaurants also. I try to to take my daughters (12 and 14) out to eat at least once a business trip. I just wish a had a corporate card to put it on.

Annie said...


I knew most of these nuggets of wisdom from you but it's great to have your whole philosophy right there. You are a great example of someone who makes it work without a lot of hand-wringing and poor-me. All of these hints apply to me, too, even though G doesn't travel as much as Josh does.

p.s. I'm so happy to hear that you're still doing the 6:00 bedtime! We've had to move ours a little later but you KNOW I'm a fan of the early bedtime. Gotta have my grown up time.

Rochelleht said...

You look Maaavelous.

This was my life back in the day when my babies were babies. I miscarried in my 2nd trimester and my hub was out of town. Sucked. But, in many ways, I think we got along better in those days because there were no unrealistic expectations. There is nothing worse than expecting your hubby home at 6 and he calls you at 5:50 and he hasn't left yet. When he traveled 100%, I never expected anything, so I was NEVER disappointed. I did the 7 bedtime, cause I was too chicken for the 6. I think that rocks.

Annemarie said...

No judgement here. I think you are a genius. I am ALL about a strict bedtime.

Your husband is lucky to have YOU.

Susy said...

I am such a different kind of woman always long to be like you...But had to finally give it up at fifty..instead of writing it all down here I will post my motherhood and wife world on my own blog for you to read! But Christy I love how your world turns!

Robyn said...

That was great advice, even for those with husbands who DON'T travel all the time. I used to get SO MAD at mine for not being home when I expected him to be. I finally sort of understand that he'd WAY rather be home than stuck at work longer than he'd planned. It doesn't help to come home to a monster wife! Thanks for that!

Kristin said...

Sounds pretty much like my rules as a resident wife. I've learned to do so much on my own, my dad is always impressed.

Rosie said...

My thoughts exactly. I LOVE these rules. I, too, follow the strict bedtime, i'm a firm believer in taking pride in my appearance whether hubs is around or not, I try to do all the annoying little things on my own that could rob our time with him and I've become better at biting my tongue about the way he dresses the kids or loads the dishwasher. #5, yeah, um, your family is my family, so I won't go into details, but hooray for #5!

Way to eloquently express your great advice on a happy marriage, Christie.

♥Shally said...

I love this post.


The only thing I would add is that you get away just the two of you at least 2 times a year. It is so important to spend couple time together.

Zach knows better than to tell me he is going to be home early! I get SO MAD. I just plan on him being gone all the time, then, like you said-- i am happy to see him! (And he isn't scared to come home!! ) :)

girlymama said...

i TOTALLY agree. my husband travels a ton and rules like yours are KEY to survival! i try my very best to have the house cleaned, kids bathed and jammied and everything done when he gets home on friday. i want him to walk in to a peaceful haven, the place he wants to be more than anywhere else. not utter chaos. (which it sometimes is during the week :-)

Christy said...

This is a wonderful post. It is obvious that your tips are working judging by your feelings for your husband. I can add my agreement to your last tip. Although my husband does not travel often, he gets home late, and I have found that I am much happier when I do not expect him, then on those rare occasions that he is home, it is a nice surprise.

Ilene said...

And I thought getting them into bed before 7:30 was awesome.

I have so much to work up to.

Yeah, I stopped asking my husband about what he has for dinner because I just get depressed as I eat the leftover spaghettios straight out of the can. Nice and tinny.

calibosmom said...

Very insightful! I however have a self employed always home man. I'll have to post about the flipside-having your husband home ALL OF THE TIME and surviving. This was great!

D-dawg said...

Awesome post. I am a firm early bedtime believer too. 7 is the time for us and they are in bed no matter what. I love it so much. The few times they've stayed up for whatever reason I feel like I am jipped and didn't get any down time. These are all great tips- thanks for sharing!

Jenibelle said...

I got nothing but admiration for your studliness.

queenieweenie said...

I'm living the same life girl! My husband is gone A LOT...but I've learned to love a few things about it-like eating candy while reading in bed with nobody looking at you funny!

Lauren in GA said...

Firstly, I must say that the, "non-negotiable hostage situation" had me laughing out loud and nodding my head knowingly at the same time. So, so, brilliant, Stie.

This was a fantastic post in every single way...even for wives that don't have traveling husbands. #4 was so wise and well said...well, all of this was well said and wise.

There is talk that Mike might be offered a regional position as opposed to managing one dental lab. This will mean a lot more travel. I am gripped with fear at the thought of that but I want to support him if that is what he wants to do. This post truly helped me feel more at ease. Thank you.

TravelinOma said...

I am in awe of the wives of the traveling husbands! I'm embarrassed to admit that I was jealous that my husband got to drive to work alone; he was always home by 5, and he came to every kid program, game and activity. I definitely was not grown up enough to handle all the things you do on your own.

I don't think I realized the burden he carried, supporting a big family. I was pretty wrapped up in my own life, and I figured since he wasn't there, he must be having more fun. It seemed unfair. I was pretty immature I know. I just didn't get it as a young wife. I thought having a job was just a way he got out of the work at home. I'm very lucky I married a guy who patiently let me grow into my role.

Great post, Stie! You are great!

jenjen said...

Great post! My husband has traveled at least half of the time, sometimes 3/4 of the time for work for the past 13 years. I think I am just used to it. I agree with all that you said!

My kids don't go to be at 6 though - but great idea!!! I think it's too late for me on that one... I loved how you describe how you feel sometimes as hostage negotiations! Exactly!!!

I do love our weekends together and people think it's weird that we spend so much time doing things together when he's home. I think we try to make up for the time he's away. So we will go grocery shopping together or whatever. I think date night is key. As is going out of town together - just the two of us. We are trying to do that at least once a year now.



Michelle said...

I think those are great things to live by whether your man travels or not. Of course #3 may not be an option if your man is home every night ;).

Good job on the six o'clock bed time. You need to do whatever keeps you sane! For us, everything gets turned off @6:30. They head for baths and we have quite time where they can read, color or play quietly till bed time 8:00.

gab said...

Cute photo! Great post! You KNOW how I feel about early bedtime. It is why I am cursing all these afterschool activities and the time change.

March is Brad's big travel month, so I appreciate this reminder. You are much much better than I at doing things yourself. Someday you'll have to come and teach me to paint!

Kimberly said...

I love that picture of you adorable! I feel so lucky that my hubby has never had a schedule of traveling like that...I hate being alone at night! AND, the 6pm bedtime thing is awesome...if I could train my kids to do it, I totally would!

Bridget said...

It was you my friend who taught me the early bed time and for that I am eternally grateful. As you know this is my life as well. Nathan travels. I am just so happy that he has a job and is willing to do this that I am content doing it all too. Welll said. ANd you look so beautiful in that picture.

brooke said...

You wrote the Bible on dealing with a traveling husband. I love it. It is all such good advice. My husband works LONG hours at a law firm and travels some as well. I think I need to stop resenting him for it and concentrate on making the time he's at home fun rather than dumping stuff on him because I need a break. Now I just need to learn how to sleep well when he's gone--I'm a fraidy cat. I sleep holding pepper spray.

danandcindy said...

I am really amazed that anyone has liked you for 15 years... Quite a feat.

Melain said...

I do not have a traveling spouse, but I think this is amazing advice for any couple under any circumstances. I have similar policies regarding the treatment of my husband, and I learned most of them the hard way. It's no mystery you're a happily married woman.

Beckie Steele said...
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Beckie Steele said...
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Diane said...

Bob has done a good amount of traveling over the years, but never weekly. THAT would be a real challenge!! Great advice!!

Emily said...

Hey Stie, I think about you all the time while I spend evenings on my own. You shared the 'realistic expectations' rule with me when we first took this McKinsey job and I since tell it to most everyone with a traveling hubby I know. It's brilliant.
Chris has been back and forth to Paris the past 6 weeks or so and as much as I like to romanticize his trip in my head the reality is he was spending 30 hours a week traveling, jumping between time zones with a 6 hour difference, and getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis. So I know it really was no picnic.
Thanks for the reminder/pep talk. Yet another reason it's good to have you in my life!

Stacy Holmes said...

hello from Snow- ok so that was a long time ago..but I sure remember you!
This is an amazing post- I found it from Joy's blog
I can't believe you have 37 comments! You have a ton of friends!
You look great and that smile is still smiling :)
Thanks for the reminder to be thankful for how hard dads work- good advice!
How do you do sports, scouts etc with such an early bedtime- it seems everything is at 7pm!
Good to spy on you-I am at
Stacy (carling)

Kris said...

Wow- such a great read today. Thank you!!! You and your husband make a stunning couple!

Julie From Inmates said...

I can totally relate to every. bit. of. this. post. My hubby travels extenively with his company and is currently in the midst of a 6-month deployment. It's not easy and it would not work for some. We use the web-cam nightly and eat an M&M for everyday he is gone. We are currently on Day 46 of 120 days. UGHHHH...

marta said...

stie, i loved this post. and even read all the comments that went along. way to be such a great wifey. we're all trying to fill your shoes.

Cara said...

I haven't checked in for months but am so glad you are still you! You put a smile on my face when I read your cute posts! I love them. And about the Mom rules and 6pm bedtime? My rule? I don't have to be nice after 8pm. If you aren't in bed asleep by 8pm too bad. You are on your own and I don't have to help you (unless I want to). You put it much nicer but the fact is....we need our own time. I'm rethinking 8pm - I like your 6pm much better!