Like so many in our corner of the world, my husband works offshore.
He’s one of the lucky ones who didn’t lose their oilfield job at some point in the last seven years. But there are so many who have, and my heart aches for those families. We have spent the restless nights wondering what new budget cuts will affect his salary and when the company man will finally decide to give him the axe … but he’s still there. He’s smart and hard-working and inventive, and those things have helped him survive round after round of cuts. These cuts have meant that the lion’s share of the work has fallen onto the shoulders of the few who are left. Such is the case with my husband.
There is no schedule to his offshore life.
There’s no fourteen and fourteen, no twenty-one and seven. It’s a phone call that comes in at any time of the day or night, and he’s on the next available helicopter. And when he’s not offshore, he still heads to the office every weekday. We joke that every time we stock up on groceries for the week, he gets the call. We joke. But it’s really not funny.
So far in 2017, he has missed New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter, my birthday, Rascal’s birthday party, (he was here on her actual birthday), Mother’s Day, and his own birthday. In a decent year, he averages 75 days offshore, and by the end of May, he had already been gone 68 days. Most recently, he was gone for 32 days in a row. He came home on a Saturday for 36 hours, only to be called out on Monday morning. He was gone for 3 days and didn’t quite make it home for a full 48 hours before there was another phone call and another fire for him to put out. Confused yet? I’m still trying to keep up.
And poor Rascal – she just doesn’t know how to handle it. Kids thrive on routine, and it just isn’t our life right now. The worst part is that she doesn’t know how to voice her frustrations yet, so she lashes out and misbehaves, which only makes things more challenging.
Now, don’t get me wrong … I am beyond lucky.
He works hard so we can have a wonderful life. I am by no means comparing myself to a single parent who is literally doing it all. To you, I raise my glass, because you are the real superheroes. I’m just pretending to be one.
But this is my reality. This is feeling his support from miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, but being the only one here to clean and bandage the boo-boos. This is playing Tetris with my schedule so that maybe I can get a workout in while Rascal is at music class, because I don’t want to call my mom AGAIN for help. This is scrounging up dinner for one and a half, and eating way too many hot dogs because they’re easy and Rascal will actually eat them. This is chatting on Facebook messenger in between shifts and really, really wishing he were here to help me figure out how to be a decent parent after Rascal’s latest spectacle. This is me wishing our life had some semblance of a routine.
With so little consistency, the days bleed into each other.
I keep our schedule so jam-packed, there’s little downtime to miss Daddo. We go and go and go and go until we just can’t go anymore … and the meltdown is inevitable.
The hardest part of the day is bath time. I guess it’s the feeling of being trapped. I can’t leave her alone in the bathroom, can I? She’s still only four. She’s still so little, and it falls to me to keep her safe. Because I’m the only parent here. And I’m getting increasingly tired of it as the days go by.
A wave of water sloshes out of the tub, and my anger sloshes inside of me. I can feel it – it’s hot and acidic and in danger of boiling over.
“Okay. Bath time is OVER.”
“… because I said so.”
“Five more minutes!”
“No. You’re done. I’M done.”
Another wave crests, breaks, and spills onto the floor. I bite back the tears that threaten to spill out.
Thirty minutes of wrestling, soaping, rinsing, screaming, brushing, drying, and crying crawl by when I remember that I have another thirty plus minutes of tucking in and story reading and lullaby singing and prayers before I am finally free. Free to wash dishes, pack lunches, tidy up, and finally fall into bed alone.
So how do we cope? We make paper chains, counting down the days till Daddo finally comes home to us. We stay busy. We bake cookies and go to the movies and peruse the samples at Costco. We have wonderful friends and family who take us in and feed us. Mostly, we try to fill the Daddo-shaped hole left behind when he drives away in that white company truck.