I am not Sybil but I do have (at least) two identities. My husband’s new job takes him out of the country weekly and this traveling has changed the family dynamic a great deal. When he is here, we (typically) share the load of the kids, household chores and enjoy lots of enriching family time together. I try to be the (feminist-watered-down version of the) doting wife, cook more hot meals, and restrict my night-time writing and internet use. We spend time late at night perched atop the bed, flip-flopping between television programs and wind down together, after a long, fulfilling day.
He needs “noise” to fall asleep. I need quiet. He doesn’t mind the light. I prefer the room pitch black. The fan set offs his allergies. I love the fan. To compromise, he muffles the volume and reads lips or activates closed captioning. I blanket my eyes with a mask and stick a thick, foamy plug in my sole hearing ear and press it hard against the pillow to silence any remaining television clamor. And to adapt to the lack of air circulation, I agree to wrap less covers around my weary body.
However, when he is gone, my second identity emerges. I go into manic-soldier-mode. Fighting my natural tendency to never get out of bed before 8am, I am showered and dressed by 6:15am and rouse the children earlier than usual. I get them to school long before the first bell and strive to balance each day between the household work, my work, appointments and various after-school activities. Most of the time, I can pull it off.
When I’m the “single mom,” the kids are down earlier, too. No bedtime-extension-bargaining is tolerated. And once they’re tucked in, and my on-hand duties begin to wind down, I put on my “secretarial hat” and prepare for the next day’s agenda making lists and affixing more and more notes to the fridge’s already crammed exterior. By 9:30 or so, I’ve got my book open or can be found writing and nibbling a snack at the desktop. And when I can no longer keep my eyelids from closing, I make a beeline for the bed. No television. No lights. No noise. And the fan on high.
Interestingly, I accomplish a lot more and am more efficient. I learn on-the-spot how to repair broken items normally left for my husband. (Please don’t tell him.)
However, my two identities do not belong in each other’s world. They cannot function successfully. So upon hub’s arrival, my “married one” surfaces almost immediately, lest I come off as an aloof, raging independent. And my tired, jet-lagged traveler needs and deserves to come home to a wife.
The truth is: I don’t want to be a single mom. (And boy do I have respect for those women that are!) And the kids miss their loving father. Yes, it’s good to know that I can survive if heaven-forbid, I had no choice, but having a partner with whom to share the good and not-so-good of this life is more important to me than being a highly-resourceful, independent soldier.
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