Today, my best friend for the last 21 years has agreed to share her story. Angi and I have been through everything together - the awkward days of junior high, show choir camp and acting in the community theatre during our high school days, rooming together in college - yep, all four years and we're still BFFs - navigating the big city of Chicago and the new independence of a career. I got married first and I had babies first, so I've been able to give Angi lots of advice, sometimes unsolicited, but there's one thing that I can't help get her ready for...
Being a corporate traveler's wife has a million pros and cons, and in today's economy with jobs scarce, I'm guessing husbands and partners are willing, more than ever, to travel far and wide for that perfect job opportunity (or, at least one that will pay the mortgage, right?). At the same time, there are a number of us who've been living this way for quite some time. Often, our friends don't understand how we are able to make it work, and sometimes we don't either.
In my case, Michael has been traveling since we moved in together - about 5 1/2 years ago. For the most part, I was okay with it in the beginning...until we started contemplating marriage and children. Due to the economy, Michael is still traveling three and a half years into our marriage.
And now, the baby that was a "hypothetical" years ago is on her way.
I don't know what I was thinking. I mean, for some reason this entire facet of my life completely escaped me once we became pregnant. I was skating blissfully along for about four months, imagining what our baby would look like, pondering cool names, and reading all of the on-line articles that came my way, but then I started reading "the book."
Though she wished me no ill will, one of my dearest girlfriends lent me "the book," exclaiming how true-to-life it is, as it describes the laughable animosity that often arises between stressed out, sleep-deprived, new parents battling over the responsibilities of raising their infant. However, rather than giggle and turn down the corners of pages to share with Michael, I burrowed deeper into the couch and pulled the blanket higher up around my chin.
Each word in "the book" was like a sledgehammer, pounding me deeper and deeper into reality. As each page described battles over butt wiping and fights over feeding, I realized none of them would apply to me - not a single word. Why? Because Michael won't be here. I will be the one getting up at night to feed and change the baby - alone. I will be the one soothing the baby when s/he cries - alone. I will be the one taking the baby to the doctor's office if something should go awry - alone.
Will I alone be the only one bonding with the baby?
It really hit me: essentially, I'll be doing a two-person job by myself. Husband and wife teams go nuts from the lack of sleep in those early months. What will happen when it's just me? And how will Michael build a connection with the baby he sees only three days a week?
Now, I'm not trying to start a pity party here. It's just that "the book" invoked a revelation -- just not the one that was intended. It's been eating away at me, this reality that's suddenly mine.
This isn't like the other challenges I've learned to handle on my own as a corporate traveler's wife, like changing a flat tire, managing home improvement contractors, or flying back from Europe solo. It seems so much more scary, so much more important. How can we make this work? How can we parent this child together when, well, when we're seldom together?