When my worn-down husband comes back from the city fray, I think we struggle to adjust - all five of us. Men come home from war and business breakfasts and think their aproned, lipsticked wives should ticker tape their return, break out the brass band vinyl records and shout: "Huzzah!Huzzah! The hero has returned. Huzzah for him!" Last time my husband came back, my four-year-old pointed out: "The baby is looking at Daddy like he's just some old bloke." This time, at the railway station, as he hoisted her into his arms, she looked as if to say: "I know the face. I just can't place the name."
Today, he took my chair at the dining table and I said: "You're in my chair" and he said: "No, I sit here." "No," I said it slowly so he could understand, "you have not been here. Remember. I sit there. If I sit somewhere else, I can't feed the baby." He moved but hogs the phone for work and I have to wait to make a call, eats herrings in the study, assumes he will drive and I will sit beside him. When I do go out alone, the car keys are not where I left them; the jangling keys fewer and more silent than they were. "Where are the other keys?" I ask. "I took them off. The bunch is too big for my pocket."
While he was gone, I took my long-handled sable brush, my titanium white and painted him out of our daily life. We managed. We got through. We were OK - the kids and I. The picture still looked good. Daddy rang and there would be a silence. I watched my six-year-old with the phone pressed tight to his ear: "I'm standing, looking at the wall and the train engines on the floor". A silence, then: "I'm fine". Another, then: "Yes, good. Bye Daddy. Love you" all in a rush and that was that.
Now though, when I should cheer, I growl at his shadow. I am the irritated prompt as my husband tries to remember his lines back in the centre-stage of our family life. Family is a subtle, complex thing; petalled with strong emotions, hopes and history. I hear my six-year-old rage on the stairs when checked by his papa: "I don't want him here," and sympathise. Yet that same night, I see his father kiss a torn finger to better mend the tender spot and think: "He's home. That's good."
WITN,I would just love to know what is going on inside your husband's head. What are his long term intentions with this move to Northumberland? I know many families that have to deal with prolonged absences: weekly commuters or husbands away serving in the forces. Forces wives are stoical because they know it comes with the job, but even so it is a terrible strain on their marriages. Your husband, for reasons that are still unclear, has foisted this life upon you seemingly just because he can. Does he think you'll function better as a family without him? Is this what you are now finding out? I do hope not.
It's all to do with habit - without him you get into various habits and when he comes back they are irrupted.My sister in law says the same about her Naval husband, who is away for much longer at a stretch is than yours, I guess
A family's relational structure works much like a baby's mobile. When a change occurs at even just one point, the whole mobile goes into motion until it finds a new equilibrium. Constant changes keep the mobile in constant motion, making it difficult if not impossible to achieve equilibrium.
As one who traveled much in a previous life, I came to understand that the one causing any change in a family's relational structure also has the responsibility to minimize the effects of that change as much as possible. This keeps the family more stable and secure.
That said, I have to commend Mr. WIFN for his openness to all you reveal in this blog. It says much about his trust in you and your relationship.
At least he doesn't eat cormorant as well.
Reading this is like listening to a vocalisation of the look on my mother's face, whenever my father decides to grace the family with his presence! She dutifully sits elsewhere, while glowering at his grand assumptions of superiority. But then at least he actually speaks to your kids! Be thankful for small mercies!
My dad worked away from home from the time I was about 12 on. It was *very* difficult to incorporate him back into our lives each weekend. The advantage was that my mother actually *fed* us on weekends, which she didn't bother with during the week. The disadvantages were much like those you mention. My cousin in Alaska has a husband who works on the North Slope so he is gone for several weeks at a time. She said the reason her marriage has lasted while others have failed is that as soon as he comes home, she lets him take over. Yes, she's been taking care of the kids, the home, the bills, the crises while he was gone--but as soon as he comes home, those jobs are his as much as he wants them. When she told me that, I thought, "Wow. I'm not that good at compromise."
Spot on, it's the daily/weekly/monthly/yearly treadmill we all trudge around. Wouldn't have it any other way, would we? I think I rather like your husband, but then I would considering I'm another husband in another place, with more lovely but snotty kids and another tired wife. At least we live in the south. Near beaches, but they aren't very misty.
Northumberland is the most wonderful,dramatic,vast and empty county in England serving to remind you of the glory of nature. If you are an incomer with broad horizons but without your accustomed professional position and colleagues it is also one of the loneliest places in the world. We have lattes, we have art and theatre but educated conversation combined with a knowledge of popular culture and dry wit is not a cocktail known in Northumberland. But take to drink. It's cheaper up here.
Rilly Super - If you are reading this, poppet, I am having a job and a half finding your blog on Google today. Any idea why this is ?
I've tried searching for you, 'Rilly Super' and 'Strife in the North', but the latter brought up details of some articles about the Beslan school crisis...not quite as hysterical as your articles.
Can you assist ? I am suffering from withdrawal symptoms here.
I love your four-year-old's remark - that Daddy looks "like some old bloke" - no mincing of words, there!
There's definitely a tension between your partner being away and everyone acclimatising, and then the readjustment period when they come back. My other half used to go away a lot for work trips abroad when our eldest was a baby, and I used to hate it when she and I came back from wherever we'd been that afternoon and I'd go into the flat, knowing I wouldn't see another adult until the next day. I'd feel almost angry with my partner when he did come back - angry that he'd deserted me in the first place (especially deserted me with a small non-sleeping infant to look after single-handedly).
Hope your husband's back for a while, so that you can get through this tricky time and things can settle down again, anyway.
Re Ladys: I thought the Northumbrian knocking had finished for a while.
"educated conversation combined with a knowledge of popular culture and dry wit is not a cocktail known in Northumberland".
Really? Perhaps you need to listen more closely.
Northumberland, like London, is a place of many parts.
My husband is a commuter so although we do see each other everyday, his long working hours mean we feel the same as you have described here.
Husband had a weeks 'holiday' at home last year. I think we argued for the first two days about all sorts of apparently banal things. What was actually going on was an 'adjustment' to him being in situ. Being aware of this meant I was a bit more prepared for his being at home for 2wks over Christmas. I made more effort to stand back and be involved, it was easier than fighting it!!
That said, my husband said to me last night "Do I irritate you all the time?". What to say? It came out as "No darling, just the usual bloke stuff that irritates me." It was placatory but now I am full of guilt for how I have made him feel - huh, how did he manage that too?!
As a mom of young ones with a travelling husband, I'm really enjoying your blog....you very eloquently express the challenges of reconstituting the family when dad comes home.
Perhaps if you haven't already invested Video Conferencing via webcams would be an idea for the kids it might help them maintain a connection whilst Papa is absent.
Hello, thank you so much for again giving eloquent voice to the most essential. I'm reminded of my own experiances.
It can sometimes feel strange to share such an intense situation as children 100% with someone else, but it's a biological fact!
Your booze is cheaper than where? Nothing like a bit of moonshine, that'll save you from Gordon's taxes.....
I've got a recipe somewhere. A traditional Norfolk mix.
I think that the bears that were growling in the darkness when you first started blogging, are coming from an unexpected source.
Note to Daddy: Whoever sits in the "feeding" chair position, does the feeding. You don't want to feed? Then find another chair.
The author of 'Raising Boys' (Steve Biddulph?) advocates in one of his books, a daily '10 minutes to save your marriage'. This consists of sitting down with your partner daily (ha! or whenever they are there), sharing a snack and a drink, wine i suggest, and 'catching up'. My husband worked away in the week for a few years and now just works. And works. But whenever he does pop in, we do have that 10 minutes. And I am strict...I set a timer. I'm very busy, I can only spare 10 minutes, but actually, I think it may work! I quite like him most of the time! Bon courage!
Hello WITN, I've been reading you for a while now, you often make me laugh so I wanted to point you at this http://troubled-diva.com/labels/rednoseday.html and ask you to submit a post from your archive. It's aimed at UK bloggers and is in support of Comic Relief (so there isn't much time as that's next Friday).
dear wife in the north,
i just wanted to let you know your story inspired me to start my blog.
i love your blog. i have no idea why it appeals to a 29yr old city dwelling guy, but it just does. it feels like a bbc drama.
if you get a minute away from your children then take a look at my blog to find someone on a similar path - www.manifestingjack.blogspot.com.
keep up the awesome work.
anonymous dearest, not sure what's happened there. have I moved up or down from page one million and something on gogle? Hope you find me, whatever remote bit of cyberspace I may be drifting in, and thanks wifey for helping out one of your readers.
Mutterings and meanderings, I fear that ladys is right and in fact you can't get any decent cocktail up north at all. I dread to think what was in the last bloody mary I ordered. This northern lack of lounge bar sophistication is quite ironic considering I only found wifey's blog the first time by googling 'sex on the beach'
I'm off to try and get a drink without brown ale in it, have a good weekend wifey won't you
[Yet that same night, I see his father kiss a torn finger to better mend the tender spot and think: "He's home. That's good."]
What a complete load of tripe! I saw that one in a movie just the other day. I can't believe people are falling for this...
You've gained recognition in the South for slagging off the North - That's bad enough, and now this manufactured crap? Sorry wifey, but this is just taking the p*ss
Hmm.. this article has made me think twice about getting married. If it means getting 10 minutes a day of 'quality time', then I could just carry on having girl friends and meeting up with them for lunch every couple of days.
It does somehow make me think we have lost the plot in life when 'career' with its totally illusory mirage of satisfaction is more important than our nearest and dearest.
But then I can only say that since I've taken a sabbatical from the hamster wheel - I dare say I will soon be back on it, and won't have the time to even consider what it is I'm missing out on.
re. the meanderings vs ladys thing earlier. I don't think in this case anyone is 'knocking' Northumberland - growing up in Wales it is possible to find art, nice coffee, good conversation - I guess the point being made is that in the countryside you have to go and find it, whereas in the city it is 'on tap'. Finding it ain't quite as easy if one has children, I guess.
Sorry to be a bit thick, but earlier it was mentioned that one had to get a 'timer' to make sure that 10 mins. [and no more, folks] were spent in chatting to one's hubby. What on earth do you do in the 10 minutes after rumpy-pumpy for heaven's sake ?
Couldn't you use your famous multi tasking skills do have a daily chat then ? You wouldn't even need a timer and you would kill two birds with one stone. Everyone's a winner, or have I missed something really obvious ?
That's interesting Andy. Maybe you could show us how you could do it better? That is, write a poignant paragraph or two about your life that would resonate deeply with people going through similar times, make them laugh, feel less alone and make them come back every day for more.
rose - maybe andy is just superior intellectually ?
what a lovely lovely blog and you write beautifully. Can I put you on a link list on my blog??? aminah
anonymous#6, my turn to be thick. What is rumpy-pumpy?
pig in the kitchen - leave your address and I will pop round and give you...a demonstration...
aminah - Your blog is completely blank ? Is this what you had in mind?
Resentment poisons the soul. How on earth are you two supposed to cope if the pair of you consistently battle for power?
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