Reentry

We’ve named it reentry. Much like atmospheric reentry there is a certain amount of risk. Now that we are twelve years into marriage and almost eleven years into parenting, we have a solution. I leave the house.

When the kids were tiny his job took him away much more than it does now. There would be several weeks each spring where he’d be gone and then another few weeks following that where the days were so long, that all we’d see of him was his laundry. The locations changed but the scenarios seldom did.

He would leave and the first day I would miss him, the second day I would be tired and trying to keep up with the kids, and the kids would miss him. Somewhere between days three and four we would catch our rhythm, the rules of the house would subtly change, and the kids and I would adapt to a life without Dad. The day before he came back home, we’d anxiously prepare ourselves and our home, and the day he returned we would be awkward, loving and excited.

Then the first full day back we would fight.

My husband and I aren’t fighters, we don’t bicker, we don’t agree on everything, but fighting is unusual. I realized it was me. The dynamic was just not working for us. I’d shift our household rules ever so slightly to allow for the fact that there were two of them and just one of me, and when my husband would return, he’d shift the rules back. I felt like I’d been inadequate, and like they were my kids, not ours.

I’m not really one to cater much to feelings. Though I’m sure a therapist would tell you that they are “valid” feelings, that doesn’t mean they need to be acted upon.

Now, when he returns, in an effort to avoid the destructive nature of reentry I leave. I greet my husband as I typically would, but for that first full day I find errands to do, or tennis matches that must be played. I leave my husband with his children and the trio enjoys one another for a day. I don’t tell him he’s doing it wrong, and I’m not in the room for a day where he’s fairly certain I’ve done it wrong. On day two I rejoin the family, and we are a family again, no fighting, and everyone is happy to be together.

He comes home tomorrow night, Monday is Yom Kippur. There will be reeentry coupled with fasting. This I’m not ready for.

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  1. When I was in third grade my father traveled a lot for work. When he wasn’t traveling he was leaving at 6am and coming home at midnight, so as far as I was concerned he wasn’t there. It was easily one of my worst years behavior-wise. My mom was so much screamier when he wasn’t around, and even though I was petrified of my father, I felt the house was calmer and ran more smoothly when he was home.

  2. I can relate, my hubby is a pilot and leaves every week. You are so much better off to realize your need to get out and away and allow that space. Some may see it as odd, but those of us in the “know” GET IT!

  3. This is very common with military families. We do this over and over and over coupled with the stress of deployment.

    I know of spouses that go on mini-vacations, when there SO comes back from deployment. I assumed it was selfish, just wanting time away from the kids. Maybe some of those are.

    Maybe not. Thanks for a different perspective.

    1. Post
      Author

      If you’re a military spouse nothing is selfish, ever.

      Sorry, but those are some selfless men and women, if you need a day, or a weekend I still think you’re the hardest working family in the country.

  4. When I was a kid my dad worked full time and went to school at night. We mostly saw him only on weekends.(that’s how I remember it anyway). So my mom did most of the child raising. I think getting away for a day is a great idea, It beats the hell out of fighting. I have experience with that too. Good luck on Monday.

  5. I know this isn’t the same, but my husband works long hours and gets home most of the time when the kids and I are asleep.

    Then the days come that he is here and it is like he is the greatest person alive and can do no wrong. I work hard all the time to establish a flow and set rules for our household/kids and he comes in and messes it up being clown daddy. He gets all the “good times” and none of the work.

    I sometimes look at him and think, “Why don’t I enjoy them as much as he does?” Oh, right, because I am the one who does all the actual work involved with having kids. Don’t get me wrong, if I ask him he will do something, but most of the time he is not here to do it.

    This usually leads to bickering, because the balance isn’t there and I feel undervalued and overlooked. It is a daily battle and we are making small changes everyday. I like your idea of getting out though…

    Sorry…I kind of went off!

  6. My sister’s husband is in the army and they go through this a lot because he has training for a week or even a month at a time where he is not home (and of course there’s also deployment). I couldn’t imagine going an entire year without my husband but she manages. It is true though, things are very different when he’s not there. Not good or bad, just different. Although those two do bring out the worst in each other. That adjustment phase is tough.

  7. My husband is set to take a new project that will take him overseas for varying lengths of long time. On the few occasions daughter and I have been left on our own for a few days, we tend to revert to out behavior pre-husband, when it was just she and I. I wonder how things will work when he is gone for weeks/months.

  8. Part of life is compromise and finding ways to work out the difficulties. You certainly have been smart enough to find a way to make it work for you both. Good for you. And a little fasting never hurt anyone.

  9. when T started travleing we were like two people who didn’t remember the other. We had no idea what the other expected and were pissed the other was reading the others mood and mind to figure it out. After about week 5, I said, ‘look, you left. we didn’t. you have to figure out how to reinsert yourself here.’ We had already molded ourselves to fit the bill once, where his life hadn’t changed other than locale. That was all the adjusting I could ask for both myself and the kids. The answer isn’t who is going to do the changing, iut’s figureing how. I would absolutely draw the line with fasting though. All.bets. off.

  10. So funny- I do the exact same thing. You have to, I think. When the children were infants, and he’d been gone for several weeks on tour, he’d come home amazed- “Look at how he rolls over!” and I’d be all blase blase, “Oh, yeah, he’s done that for a like a week now-” and his face would fall, and I could read the thought- a week that he missed, that wouldn’t come back. And as for the small mean part of me that felt somewhat justified, because hadn’t I been doing all the work, dammit? I knew instinctively not to let her get too big for her britches. So I changed the rules.
    When they did something new and he was gone, I wouldn’t tell him on the phone. When he returns, I head out for the day- and let him revel in how they have changed. If he comments on how much stronger or faster or more verbal one is, I just agree, with no knife turning. These things are all new to him, and deserve to be treated as such. Even though they’re big now, I still go- they need to re-engage without me running interference.
    I loved your post, and the thoughtfulness of your writing. R. has a marvelous wife, which I know he knows. Mwah!

  11. As a military family, we totally get reentry.The first few days are lonely and then you get used to eating in bed and watching whatever you want on tv and letting the kids climb into bed with you and then all of a sudden this person comes back and wants his side of the bed and the remote back! How dare he! Usually we miss him enough to give him his side back without too much of a fight. The tv remote is another story though. :)

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  13. You describe this so perfectly. We have the same dynamic when my husband is gone. Honestly, we fight more on weekends just because he’s around all day, and encroaching on all my little systems and routines for handling four small children by myself. I think I should take a cue from you and get out of the house more on Saturday.

  14. I have to leave usually too. Or we attempt to schedule it so he comes home on a school day so that when the kids get home he’s sleeping or they are sleepy. But my husband leaves for six weeks, home for two. For the past 5 years. And I totally get the missing him and the kids missing him part. I spend a week trying to get back to normal and life in a routine. 4 weeks we are in a semi-routine and my rules are back in place. The last week before he gets home is bracing for him to be home etc. But my 3 kids and my husband HAVE to have a day to themselves without me. Otherwise it’s chaos and I stress.

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