Usually, Brian's day is not long. He leaves the house at 7:15-ish, comes home for lunch for an hour, and then heads back to his office until around 5:00. Except for on Thursdays...he gets to come home a few hours early. I usually forget that it's Thursday, and am pleasantly surprised when he walks in the door. So really, no long hours for us.
He does, however work atleast one weekend a month. We will usually do school on the Saturdays that he works. We school year round, and take a lot of breaks...so by the time his Saturday rolls around, we could use a few extra hours to complete some assignments. On the Sundays that he works, we don't go to church. I realize that one day when he is deployed again, I will have to learn to get myself and SE7EN children ready for church, but for now...we just watch Adrian Rodgers on Sunday evenings once Brian gets home.
When Brian is actually out of town, I try to keep things as normal as possible.
I repeat, keep things as normal as possible.
When we first moved down here, and Brian would be away at a training conference or the range, I would plan to spend the days (and nights) deep cleaning the house, or organizing closets, etc. I soon learned, that would make me super tired, and I would panic when it was the last day, feeling like it was probably not good to have the contents of everyones closets all over the floor upon his return. Stress. Unnecessary stress. Don't do it.
...I would also let the kids stay up late. Super late. And then we would all be super grumpy the next morning. All day. So now, bedtime is bedtime. I do, however, allow my girls who are 14 and 11 to stay up a little late. We watch a girly movie, and then they 'camp out' on the hide-a-bed sofa. Because it would be scary for me to sleep downstairs all alone, with just Baby Judah for protection. I don't stay on the computer all night, I don't read all night, and I don't cry myself to sleep (Scripture Lullabies on the iPod helps tremendously with this, especially song 6).
...I would also whine and complain to Brian on the phone. "boo hoo army crying" I try very hard not to do that anymore. He doesn't like to be away, I don't like him to be away, the kids don't like him to be away...but he's a Soldier, and sometimes soldiers have to be away. And it does no one any good to whine and cry and complain about it. Instead, I try to be encouraging. Share the good things that happened throughout the day, the cute things the kids did or said.
...I continue to ease the burden on myself by eating simply while Brian is gone. Tuna Casserole always. Brian is NOT a fan, so it's the perfect time for me (I was raised on Tuna Casserole) to make and eat one of my favorites. Pizza, delivered. And popcorn chicken or fish sticks for dinner, not lunch, is the norm. Breakfast and lunch tend to stay the same. As do our meal times.
...We continue to do school. Because it's our routine. And routine keeps everybody sane(like normal bedtimes and meal times). Sane = NO yelling! Yelling is no good. Especially when you're playing 'single parent' for a few days.
...We don't go anywhere. Usually. Home is safe and easy. If Brian will be gone for more than a few days, I've tried to invite some friends (for myself and the kids) over about mid-way through. No Library trips. No appointments. No grocery store runs.
...Speaking of groceries...we make sure we have plenty to get through until Brian's return.
...We make sure to talk on the phone every day. And text often throughout the day. And he will almost always find the time to call when the kids are going off to bed.
Before we know it. The days (sometimes weeks) have gone by, and it's time for Brian's return. And Welcome Home Day is the best day.
There are always signs. All over the house. My kids love to make signs. And Brian has hundreds that say, "Welcome Home Daddy!"
There is a favorite dinner prepared on Welcome Home Day. The house is super cleaned on Welcome Home Day. Our bed clothes are washed on Welcome Home Day. The yard is picked up and the entry way is made 'welcoming' on Welcome Home Day.
Then he pulls in the driveway, or walks through the door, and there are squeals and hugs and endless chatting. And the tightness in my chest melts away, and the heaviness on my shoulders is lifted. I actually feel my heart swelling with love for my Soldier-Husband who just spent days or weeks away from his family, his home, his biggest responsibilities. And I feel proud. Proud that the kids and I did it. Proud that Brian serves. Proud that we can continue to be the family that we are, even through the hard times.
So breathe. Just keep swimming. Take care of your home, take care of your children...it will all be over soon.
And find comfort in the old saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder," because it's true. So true.