Thursday, June 5, 2014

Left Behind: The pros and cons of having a partner who travels

FIFO, partner travel, academia, conference travel, single parenting

I got to fly away to NSW this past weekend. But that same day that I was having a long lunch with Csikszentmihalyi, Lovely Husband jetted off to Germany for two weeks of back to back conferences and workshops. Somewhere in sunny, downtown Hamburg, he is doodling in a notebook or playing games on his phone while listening to people talk about all manner of interesting (and some not so interesting) things; he's eating pastries for morning tea, exotic sandwiches for lunch and more pastries in the afternoon. Conferences tend to look the same the world over after all.

I could really use a pastry right about now.

While Lovely Husband is eating all manner of wurst and drinking long glasses of beer with his colleagues, I am, in effect, a single parent. It's a rough gig, even knowing there's an end in sight. I cannot imagine just how hard this is for full-time single parents who are the be-all and end-all for their children. The fact of the matter is, I am incredibly lucky that Lovely Husband is coming back. I'm incredibly lucky that Dear Boy is in care four days a week and I get to escape into work for a little while. I'm just incredibly lucky all round.

  • I get to do everything my way - the thing is with this one is that I generally get to do most things my own way because I do most things. And if I'm doing most of the things, then I'm effing well going to do them my effing way.
  • I get to do everything to my own timing - I don't have to wait for something to be done or for someone else to be ready before I can get shit done. 
  • I get to cook whatever I want - mushrooms, beans, lentils, breakfast for dinner, etc. Vegetarian every damn night if I want to.
  • Things stay where I put them - because Lovely Husband has a touch of the OCDs, sometimes things disappear into piles... lots and lots of piles. 
  • I'm in bed early every night, snuggling in to watch episodes of The West Wing.
  • It makes him happy to be off learning new things - this is his idea of holiday.
  • He's getting to do a lot of networking, which is great for his work and research and for future collaborations and travel.
  • I love that he is brave and bold and off exploring the world and having adventures - I love seeing his photos and hearing his stories.

  • I have to do all the childcare - including wake-ups during the night, getting up with him in the morning, feeding him, dressing him changing him, bathing him and putting to sleep again. Repeat ad nauseum. We've gotten to a stage where we share most of these things when both of us are in the house.
  • There is no hope of a time out for me - one of the joys of having a co-parent is being able to walk into the bedroom when I'm able to lose my shit and shut the door, knowing there's a responsible adult left over to make sure Dear Boy doesn't put forks into electrical sockets. 
  • I have to do all the housework - we have a system worked out for the washing up and laundry but it's mine, all mine. Lovely Husband is also the resident bathroom cleaner.
  • I am jealous as all get out that he is a) travelling somewhere interesting and b) essentially having a two-week holiday without us - I'd really like to lay on a tropical beach someplace warm right about now. With a bit fat airport novel. 
  • I am also jealous as all get out that he gets funding to make these trips possible - that's a whole other post ranting about funding for the arts versus funding for science but yeah, he gets to do this a lot. I'm about to go begging for the funds to attend a three-day conference held here in Melbourne. 
  • Skype timing is a pain when he’s on the opposite side of the planet - we say goodnight to him every morning. Dear Boy's getting a bit confused. 
  • I miss the adult presence in the house, having a person with a grasp on logic and social norms and voice volume. A reasonable grasp, anyway.
  • I miss that immediate love and support, the help he offers me when I’m in all kinds of distress or frustration. 
  • I miss him and his smell and his voice and his conversation... and his downloading skills.
Single parents everywhere, past and present, I salute you. 

Are you a single parent or do you have a FIFO partner? Tell me what you love or hate about it.


  1. I cant even imagine how tough it must be carrying the full load when the hubby is away, but I love that you look for the silver linings. My hats gores off to single parents - both full time and work widows, I have the upmost respect for you all. xx

    1. Yeah, I don't know how they do it either. My mum was a single parent of four of us for quite a few years and it makes my mind boggle now - and I just have one.

  2. Great post! My husband is off on a dad's surfing trip next month. You have reminded me of the small pleasures I will incorporate into my 11 days of solo parenting. Lots of yummy omelettes and sex in the city episodes to watch :)

    1. It's the small pleasures getting me through. I'm going to have to wait for him to get back before I get to see the new season of Orange is the New Black, though.


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