My husband has been traveling a lot for work over the past two years. And it’s interesting, especially when you have a kid. It would be interesting if we didn’t have a kid, but of course in that case, I wouldn’t be nearly so homebound. (It’s also a real reminder to all of us who usually have a co-parent how hard single parents work EVERY DAMN DAY.)
So, yeah, I’m psyched for my partner and the helpful opportunities his work travel brings and the intellectually stimulating times he gets to have in other cities around the country and the uninterrupted nights of sleep in hotel rooms and the uninterrupted meals with other writers and the long quiet plane flights during which he can read an entire New Yorker or just watch “Moana” (again) on the free TV.
On the other hand, see everything in the previous sentence. He was gone last summer for five weeks and I know it wasn’t easy for him – the job he was doing was tough and he missed us – but it definitely felt less easy for the person back at home, (me!) But work puts food on the table and travel is often inevitable, so, in that spirit, I give you some of the upsides, if, like me, you need a little help spinning it:
You can watch whatever TV you want at night.
After the requisite 75 minute toddler bedtime routine/relay-for-one, involving demands for water, admonishments about how there will be no more water, an explanation of why sleep is necessary, ten additional hugs, a long silence during which sleep seems imminent, followed immediately by the declaration that someone has been cutting up a storybook and just wants to let you know, then it’s time to PARTY ALONE IN YOUR SILENT APARTMENT.
You can watch whatever you want, if you still have the fortitude and interest in staying awake. I sometimes make it through half of the Season 2 Pie episode of the Great British Baking Show before collapsing on top of a heap of unfolded laundry. It’s really liberating.
Dinner is a snap.
So is breakfast and lunch, if your partner happens to travel on weekends and you’ve got no babysitter or childcare provider to help with a meal or two. Instead of trying to provide a big wholesome meal for two adults and however many children, you can simply eat the remains of your children’s noodles with butter and peas and feel superb about your carbon footprint.
Who hasn’t let ease beat nutrition for 24 hours or 48 or however many hours one’s blood sugar stays stable enough to make decisions for? Who doesn’t love to eat all of the olives and spinach and broccoli off someone’s slice of pizza because they otherwise will not consume it? Who doesn’t love making a breakfast smoothie out of frozen strawberries, a lot of ice, and a little ice cream because someone forgot to go to the grocery store in advance?
You get to showcase your super-parent skills during meltdowns.
No matter how many family members, friends, and neighbors offer and provide help during your partner’s trips away, a meltdown can often only be handled by the parent who has not left town: you. This serves as a fun opportunity to show yourself and the whole world and the whole block or the whole coffee shop or the whole YMCA how great you are at being patient but firm in times of minor crisis.
Perhaps he’ll beg desperately for a cookie immediately after he’s eaten a chocolate croissant. Perhaps, when you refuse to give him quarters for those toy machines outside the bodega, he will fall to the pavement and then call out to a stranger on the street, “Can you help me?” Perhaps, if you’re especially lucky, your kid will go totally limp and scream for the parent who isn’t there. No matter what fun he has in store, you will handle it because you have to because, as you know, no one else can do it for you.
You and your kid might actually have a good time together.
If your partner travels enough, this will happen for sure. Cool things will happen, like your kid will devour half of your spinach omelet without asking you to remove the spinach and it will endear you so much, you’ll forget how hungry you were. You will get stuck in a thunderstorm together and your kid will grab onto your soaked legs and look up at you with so much hope and desperation, you will think, yes, I can protect you from absolutely anything and I will.
Maybe in the middle of the night, your kid will climb into your bed and, uncharacteristically, sleep until after 8, and when he wakes up, his first words will be, “Mommy, I saw a bird,” because there is a bird right outside your window. The world will feel quiet and fine, and, for a moment, simple – and yours and his for the enjoying.