My husband’s job keeps him on the road at least half the year. This is a reality that I’ve come to embrace, both because we can only tolerate so much “togetherness” and because, every once in a while, the boys and I tag along. His busy and far-reaching schedule keeps our family afloat, but it also keeps daddy away for days on end. It’s hard for everybody, but I know it hits him the hardest.
After he has enjoyed his perfectly grilled steak dinner and full night’s sleep snuggled atop 14 pillows and fresh sheets smelling of roses and lavender, he awakes refreshed and ready to start his day, but he misses those babies. I wouldn’t want to do what he does. I mean, the eating hot food and sleeping part, yes, but missing those babies over half the year, nope.
And so, when his schedule allows, my husband packs his briefcase and his family into the car and heads off to work. I hesitate to call these vacations, as they feel like a whole lot of work – work for my husband as he ends up tapping at his keyboard into the early hours of the morning when the kids are finally quiet, and work for me because keeping kids entertained in empty hotel rooms and parked cars should pay time and a half plus benefits.
If it’s so much work, you might wonder, “Why bother?” Why not just wait until the kids are a little older and better able to control their bodily functions and emotions? For starters, I’m 34 and still struggle with both of these things, so we might be waiting awhile. Secondly, because we are guaranteed nothing. I can schedule out the next 10 years, but things happen and plans come undone. Maybe someday my husband’s job will change to a more traditional 9-5 with no travel and exactly one week of allotted vacation, maybe someday I’ll strike it rich on a book deal and we can wander to our heart’s content. Maybe we only have so many somedays left.
I’m banking on the fact that I don’t know what the future holds because that is my only sure bet; I will milk every minute of these days with my children and my husband for all that they’re worth. Would the Grand Canyon be easier to enjoy with kids who don’t have to be leashed or strapped to my body, probably, but who knows what our life looks like five years from now? If I can finagle a way to take that trip now, I will take that trip now.
Others wonder, “Why waste the money and time while the kids are young on things they won’t remember?” – I say, “but I will remember.” We do not shape our entire lives around our children. My husband and I existed before they did, and we are a stronger family because the two people who started this family are strong together. I leave many of our “working vacations” feeling more confident in us as a team and that takeaway is huge. We need these mini marriage victories because we have just as many marriage failures. We also spend a lot of time apart, so being intentional in our time together becomes that much more important.
Aside from the memories my husband and I hold on to when our relationship hits the rocks, it is amazing to see the things our kids recall from these trips. For the past year, our three-year-old has asked almost daily when we can go back to the “cactus hotel,” a Holiday Inn we stayed at last spring in Scottsdale. He was two. My five-year-old still gabs about his first trip to Dollywood when he was three. It made such an impression we bought season tickets two years later and spent this past Christmas break in the Smokey Mountains. The kids just remember the fun stuff which makes the ugly stuff easier to swallow.
So when the gentleman at the reception desk asks, “Are you joining us for business or pleasure?” I never really know how to respond. It depends on who you ask. For my husband, who compartmentalizes in a way I’ve never been able to, it’s business between the hours of 8 and 5 and then again from midnight to 2 a.m. with a few hours around dinner for playtime. For my kids, the answer is obvious. For me, it feels like a whole lot of work, but nobody’s cutting me a check, so I’d have to answer “pleasure.” Then again, how loosely do you define pleasure?
There are moments that undoubtedly feel like a vacation. These times are sprinkled in between the packing and unpacking, diapering and whining, spills and spews. These moments are fleeting, but they are everything. They are what make me pack us up again whenever I see an opening in our calendar.
The work counts for something, too. Without the work, where is the win? My husband and I are surviving our kids’ early years (sometimes by the very thinnest thread) because we have learned, the hard way, to see each other as teammates. He thinks he’s the MVP; I, of course, think the whole game collapses without me, and we certainly don’t always get equal playing time – another point of contention. Maybe it will even out next season. Maybe we won’t get another season, and I don’t want to feel like we left minutes on the clock that could have been better spent. We will make the most of our time while we have it, business or pleasure, usually a bit of both.