Wednesday, 2 February 2011

working away

I have been over to Red Neck Mommy's blog and she has written a great post about parents who work away from home to make a living. I love the fact that she mentions that parents who are away miss the 'quick and dirty' of family life. It's a great way of explaining it. A couple we know are divorcing and they have four kids of different ages. The husband explained that what he misses is exactly that: ' the quick and dirty'. The mundane, the magic unexpected moments, the not magic difficult moments. The kids stay with him but they don't live with him. It is just different.
I am no stranger to this situation which is why it resonates so much with me. My mum and dad were never really away for me. I can't remember them being away other than once when my mum looked after my cousin. I remember being calmed and excited that I had dad and he was promising treats and a change of routine to distract me, but I felt an emptiness and distractedness. I just wasn't used to it. Full stop.
However, things have been different for the teenager. When we first got married I was a training consultant used to working away in hotels in different venues most of the week. Once I had the baby boy ( pretty much nine months after we got married- honeymoon baby) I knew my routine had to stop. However, I was the main earner at that time ( other half worked and also helped me with back up in the business) and we had a lot of bills to pay. We had given up our jobs to start a new life in the Lake District. Now we had a baby. Self employed and not maternity leave. I worked until the day before he was born ( he was early by two weeks) and I went back four weeks after he was born. It was hell. But needs must. First time I had to go away I cried for two and a half hours en route.
But we made it work. I only stayed away two nights a week. I got sleep. Heh Heh. Other half did all the nappies and night feeds when I was away and developed a bond with the little fellow which is stronger than steel. Two peas in a pod. Teenager worships his dad. I am sure it has so much to do with those early years. My mum and dad who lived in the North East at the time had us to stay lots when I was working with my main North East customer. They developed a strong and loving bond with teenager, they loved looking after him, and it left other half free to work. Then they sold up and moved over, and my problems dissolved. We now had a brilliant childminder, and mum and dad as back up. They had him a lot and he loved it. And I was calm.

For quite a few years this arrangement stayed in place. I would still travel but kept to my two night rule except in very exceptional circumstances. I had good back up when I did go and I am forever grateful for that. I was confident in his carers and I could concentrate on my work. I found it tiring to drive so far, but sometimes I got a lovely rest and some time out on my own. Was I guilty. Oh yes- as hell. I am over it now. I see we did a good job. But at the time it was so hard and other people's opinions weren't always helpful. A woman travelling away to earn a living when she had a child? Shocking. But needs must and life goes on.

In January 2007 I was diagnosed with cancer and went off sick for ten months. It was really tough. Other half had to move into position and run the business including front of house work. By then he worked full time for our business which was really well established. He trained hard to get qualifications and experience. He just got out there and did it. He developed a team to support our work. When I came back things were different and my own life was less pressurised but I went back to being away. By now though my spirit and body were weak. I was finding the pace tough. In March 2010 I was diagnosed with a re-occurance of the cancer. I immediately went off sick and have been off ever since. I nearly lost my life- and now at the grand old age of forty six I have retired. No more work or travelling for me. Enough is enough. The career girl has hung up her driving gloves.

As a result I am here at home all the time except when I go for hospital checks. I see teenager every day. I am here to sort him out. He is as needy now as when he was a little boy but differently. It's now to do with food and getting kit ready and encouraging him with the much loathed English ( Northanger Abbey at the moment). It's about being here and listening. I love it and see how precious it is. It is a real luxury. It makes up for early years and I still can steal lots of hugs.

And now- other half travels away. Sometimes too much. In fact recently I have given him a red card and asked him to have a few weeks just in the office and near home. I want him around for me, and for teenager. Last year proved how important it is to stay connected. You do what you do and sometimes it is hard. The key is to notice and manage the impact. It is odd as the roles have reversed and I am happy to be just a mum who sometimes goes out to coffee with other mums to chew over the latest gossip.

Great post Red Neck Mom, and I amazed to see how many folk are in the same boat.


Bernie said...

So many of us had to do the same thing just to pay the bills. I am so happy you have this time now to give to yourself as well as your family. You sound like you are feeling well my friend, many prayers from Canada....:-)Hugs

Expat mum said...

Great post Jo. One minute with Pete would tell anyone that you and Paul have done a fantastic job, and whatever you did certainly worked.

karen gerstenberger said...

Jo, thank you for your honest appraisal of what is a very frequent situation in the world nowadays. I loved this part: " Last year proved how important it is to stay connected. You do what you do and sometimes it is hard. The key is to notice and manage the impact." That is so true of hard times. We have had to work to stay connected in those hard times, but I thank God we did (and do). A strong and enduring family/friendship/marriage is a fabulous reward - the greatest gift on earth, to my mind. God bless your beautiful family!

organicharp said...

I hope Northanger's coming along ok! Honestly, it is truly inspiring how you have come to view this necessary down time as a treat- seeing the positive everywhere it lurks. Brilliant. I have tried to do that with unemployment and haven't always succeeded- but about to turn the corner now. Glad to see you back online, sounds as though today went well xx

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is a great post Jo, and I loved reading about your history prior to knowing you.
I think it is hard being a parent when you are at home, and when you are away. Right?
I worked for the first year of Lo's was such a challenge with the commute, child care and taking care of the home.
I was so pleased when we were able to go to a ONE income home.
There have been many many times that I felt guilty FOR NOT WORKING outside the home. {we can't win, can we?}
I am so glad that you are where you are, and you are happy. You have raised a beautiful young man....he is your reward for all the hard work!

l'optimiste said...

great post you too. Until December last year I worked away too - for 10 years, every 2 or 3 weeks I would be working in Portugal for 1 or 2 weeks at a time. For me it wasn't that unusual, as my Dad travelled for work all my life.

But it was exhausting and only down to the fact I have such a supportive and wonderful husband that it worked at all. Of course, as usual it was down to the money. Then I got cancer, had to have scans blah, which disrupted the travelling. The contract was not renewed.

This last year has been hard, but I have been HERE which is great. So even though I don't have kids, I know what you mean about the special things of being at home. I would never have appreciated them if I hadn't been away so much though - plus obviously having had cancer [or any horrible life threatening disease] must make one more aware of how wonderful life is :)
Yay us for having such great lives and great husbands! Long may it continue!

PixieMum said...

Briefly cos I've to rush but great sympathy for the teenager with Northanger Abbey. Had to study it for GCE English lit. and that put me off reading any more Jane Austen.

Hope same doesn't happen for your son!

BW, Madeleine

Gill - That British Woman said...

that is a super post. We have been lucky and never in a position where we had to work away from home, although dh has worked away once for two weeks in the States and he hated it......

Gill in Canada

Loopin said...

A very insightful post - most of the time we don't take stock of the impact of the decisions we take, for good or bad. It is a testament to you and OH wisdom that you have managed to get so much that is positive from circumstances, and as a result have such rock-solid bonds of love and support within your family.

What stars you are!

Snowdrop said...

It just goes to show how adaptable we can be when circumstances dictate it, in some ways its a shame many of us find it hard to make those changes voluntarily and are often too tied to work to notice.

We should savour every moment.