M has been away with his job for nearly two years now, only home on weekends. It’s the most time we’ve spent apart since having kids.
It’s been hard in some ways. Easier in others. Having no-one to help at bedtime isn’t ideal. The relentlessness is brutal when you’re the only adult around. But then, there is no-one else to judge so maybe the parenting gets a little lax. Maybe it’s freezer food for dinner. Maybe there are no bedtime stories because “I’m all alone and so tired.” Yes, I’ve been laying it on thick. Sometimes it works and sometimes the kids are unmoved by my emotional blackmail and go right on ahead breaking my proverbial’s. Luckily E is such a great reader that she will now read the stories.
What really gets me though is sleeping alone. But I don’t miss the actual body beside me. On the contrary, I love having the bed to myself and not listening to the constant snoring. But I’d enjoy it a whole lot more if I didn’t spend the entire night in a suspended state of terror. Five nights a week for two years, I have ‘heard’ someone breaking into the house and on a number of occasions. In that bizarre space between the worlds of sleep and consciousness, when your eyes are open and you believe you’re really awake, you can ‘see’ exactly what you’ve been dreaming about and it takes a few minutes for the eyes to adjust and the heart to stop pounding. Slowly it dawns on you, it’s not real. For me, it’s always shadows at the doorway, a lurking threat.
M is the kind of guy who could sleep through an explosion and when he does wake, remains in a fog-like state for, I estimate, just long enough for the entire family to be slain is someone broke in.
Myself, I am like a ninja. I will burst out of bed at the merest sound. I can pre-empt a child being sick even in the REM state. But though my senses be sharp, I am very small and very weak. Especially in my pyjamas. I need M for back-up – though foggy and blind, he is still a giant of a man and cuts a scarier figure in the midnight hours.
So I am feeling somewhat bleary-eyed. Two years of adrenaline-spiked evenings has taken its toll. But if I pause and think about it, I have missed M. I’ve missed his help and his presence in a general way but I haven’t specifically longed for him, not all the time anyway. I do however wish that he was here, that we could spend time together. But here at home, the humdrum domesticity of life steals away time and energy so that even if M did walk through the door right now, the best I could manage would be a quick hug before I crawled into bed to sleep the sleep of the utterly unafraid.
Since having kids I do enjoy a bit of solitude. I genuinely enjoy my own company and never find myself bored or without something to do. So when M is away, once the kids are down for the night, as long as I can keep my eyes open, that time is all mine. I have the longest list of books to read, not to mention all the movies and TV series I want to watch and that I know that M wouldn’t want to watch.
So no, I haven’t spent every evening pining for M. I have enjoyed a quiet house to myself. And maybe if our relationship was newer, I would worry about what this meant. About whether it was a telling sign about the state of our relationship.
Having M in my life is a great comfort. He is comfortable. I am comfortable with him. After 10 years together, this is how it goes. I know the value of comfort. But comfort sounds so – boring. Unromantic and definitely unsexy. And sometimes, it is. Life with kids will do that to you.
The important thing is that I don’t feel like the romance is dead. When we get undressed each night for bed, I spot M sucking in his guts and lord knows I’m doing the same. It’s important to me that he still thinks I’m a babe, but when he does spy my non-sucked in post child tummy in an unguarded moment, I don’t freak out. I trust that he loves me anyway.
And this is the beauty of long-term love. M is moving back home in a few week and life will resume as always. I will be glad to see his face. I am looking forward to spending time with him on an evening. I’ll tell him all the annoying things the kids did and all the adorable things, too. We’ll have a glass of wine and he’ll pray I don’t pass out before my head hits the pillow.
You know, real life love. A modified romance that makes way for toilet training and general domestic drudgery. Life with small kids is the antithesis of passion, but I am passionate about our life together. While ever that’s still true, I think we’re okay.
Worn in is not the same thing as worn out.
So come home soon, M. Yes, life has gone on without you, but I only ever sleep when you’re by my side.