We are finally on the brink of what would appear to be “normal” for most families – having all members of our household finally living together, under the same roof, Monday through Sunday. It hasn’t really begun since today is Saturday, but it is on the horizon when we wake up on Monday morning and realize that Daddy will be home again that night after work, not Friday evening when he flies home from New York.
I seriously did not realize the toll it might take on our marriage, on our kids and on my sanity when I had suggested this option as a solution to our moving dilemma a year ago. It sounded simple, almost too easy, to me at the time. I would move with the kids to our new home of Chicago while my husband finished out his assignment in New York and he would commute on the weekends to be with us. What’s the big deal? Lots of people do this – and they do it for YEARS from examples that I am aware of – and they make it work and raise their families and stay happily married. Right?
We lived in Germany for six years and during that time I realized that this arrangement was quite common in Europe. If the husband (presuming that he was the main bread winner, which in my circle of acquaintances was usually the norm) was to accept a new assignment and it was in another town or state, or even country, the wife and children would remain in the original home while he commuted on weekends. This was easier, I was told, than moving to a completely new place and having to find a new school, a new grocery store or, heaven forbid, a new bakery! (remember these were German acquaintances of mine and finding a good bakery was a main life-line for them) The look of horror that came over their faces at the mere suggestion that they might also move with their husband was almost comical.
The idea sprouted from the frustration we were feeling from not finding the “house of our dreams” in Connecticut. After searching, and viewing, so many houses within our parameters over the course of a full year (just ask our realtor, I’m sure her feelings of frustration were just as deep as ours) we were at our wits end and realizing that we would have to make a few too many concessions just to stay there. Plus, the “haunting of houses past” from the Chicago area when we had looked previous to our move to the East Coast was ever present – thanks to the internet – and that lead us to be even more disenchanted with what we were finding in our Connecticut area. Amazing how different housing markets can be!
Spoiled as we may have sounded, we really didn’t want to move back to the U.S. after a 10 year hiatus to “settle” for anything. We wanted to have the house that we felt we had “earned” in a sense. We didn’t live large while we lived abroad – just ask our friends and family – and we had saved a lot to put towards a new home when we returned. We had been renting for 10 years and were ready to put down roots and stay put finally. The dream was fading with each house viewing that I found myself not even wanting to walk through the door. I already knew that I didn’t want it and I would never pay that price for it in the first place, so why am I wasting my time?? Ugh.
As I remember it, it was little more than a year ago and my husband was trying (in vain) to convince me that we should just all stay in Connecticut until his assignment was done…in March of 2011. Then we would move together and put the boys into a new school at that time. Our oldest was in middle school, the middle son was going into 5th grade and our youngest would just be starting kindergarten in the fall. Wouldn’t that be great? They’ll be the “new kids” and be so interesting to everyone that they’ll make friends fast and before you know it, it will be summer! Kids are so resilient, they bounce back…not. We’d been down that road before, and believe me, it’s a very bumpy road for us.
While I sat there at the computer with him, looking at still more houses (but now some in Chicago for our eventual move), I finally turned to him and said, “no.” No, what? Over the course of our travels and moves we have all had to make sacrifices – giving up friends and neighbors, changing schools, learning new languages and customs, trying to make a “normal” life all while he went to an office and did basically the same thing everyday. It really didn’t affect his everyday life for the most part, if he was to be honest. It was just a new big building to go to every morning and a few new people to work with (who usually spoke English) and the challenge of finding a few new restaurants in the area to have lunch in each day. His world hadn’t really been rocked the way that mine and the boys had with each move. But we had done it, and taken it on with excitement and hope. Very little grousing or whining usually before a move. I was, after all, a pioneer woman of the new century (in my mind) and our boys were willing to go wherever they were asked because that is who we are as a family.
This time, no. It’s time for someone else to make a sacrifice for the sake of the family. To “take one for the team” (I think I actually said that to him, believe it or not) and it was HIS turn. He was a bit taken aback at this suggestion and even tried to suggest that his sacrifices were just as many as ours, but he didn’t try for long. Then came the reaction of a cornered dog – is he supposed to live ALONE for eight months? Do I think that there are just apartments available in the city for him to rent at a whim?? And what makes me think that the company will ALLOW us to do this?!
Again, living for someone else to make our decisions for us? …no. Yes, I did believe that he could manage an eight month stint living on his own in an apartment , yes I did believe there were many apartments to choose from in this down-turned economy (which turned out to be a stunning one bedroom in Manhattan on Park Avenue) and yes I believe that his company had better understand that this is the best fit for our family and will make him a better employee. (because if you look at it realistically, if the momma ain’t happy ain’t nobody gonna be happy…and that includes the papa!)
So, begrudgingly, he asked at work and they agreed that it made “perfect sense” and even assigned a relocation assistant to him to help him find this lovely apartment. I know that he hated to admit it, but this was the best idea for the situation and we would manage to make it work. We’ve done a lot more to test ourselves and our relationship, one more hurdle to get to our “American dream” wasn’t so much to ask, was it?
The beginning is the honeymoon period, it’s all new and exciting and so “jet-setting” like…then came the winter. We mustered through knowing that the holidays would break up the monotony of the weekly commute and give us some semblance of real family time. After the holidays was the real testing point (in my opinion), cold ugly weather and flight delays did not help our moods at all. The boys started asking when he would be home for good. I started withdrawing in so many ways I couldn’t remember ever enjoying anything before. He was grumpy and irritable…I was grumpy and irritable.
Did I mention that we were also finishing the unfinished basement of our new home during this entire time? That was my other job, when I wasn’t taking care of kids, volunteering at the school or attending to other domestic duties. I was the foreman of my own construction project on a daily basis with a parade of strange men going through my house. A new home, a new neighborhood, new schools and an absent husband/father…not enough of a challenge I guess.
This was perfection, right?
Finally, the light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel, we came to March! The last couple of weeks were tinged with hope. There was a lightness in the air and we all started smiling a little bit more. Counting down the days until the last flight from New York…are we there yet?? Yes!
Of course, this won’t be perfect either but it will seem somewhat normal. More normal than I’ve had in a very long time. We are finally a family in the house together. We are living “back home” for the first time in over 10 years, so we have the larger family expectations to get used to again. It will have it’s challenges, but I know that we can handle them if we have managed this latest chapter of adjustment. We may have gone into it somewhat blind and stupid, but we came out on the other side still holding hands, still a family. We made it.