My new job this summer has given me a new appreciation for the folks in the world who make the sacrifice of being away from home to support their family. I have traveled before for jobs I have held previously. In my most traveled position, I traveled only about 20% of the time. This job puts me away from home three nights a week. Being on the road this much has made me realize how much time so many people sacrifice to make it in life.
We have a friend who is a salesman for a company and covers everything west of the Mississippi. He has spent about 30+ weeks on the road for as long as I have know him (nearly 30 years now). He has two great adult children with families of their own. He and his wife have the kind of marriage we try to have as well, where each is there for the other and figure out ways to be there when it is critical. (There have been some pretty critical life moments for this family). I never before realized how amazing they were to make it all work with all his time away from home. When you think about all the divorce rates and kids who turn out in something less than their potential and then blame their family life. This family has weathered it all and not just survived, they have prospered. Their love, support and values have made the time that took the father/husband away so much a contributing factor to what they achieved, not a detriment or excuse for what they did not achieve.
My brother was in the Navy. He worked hard to be with his family as much as possible, but like the military people of past and present that isn’t always possible. There are big and small moments missed that can never be gotten back. I never thought about what it must be like to be a single parent for so long and then suddenly have someone show up and have the whole family dynamic change in a day. One day you get to make almost all decisions unilaterally and then the next there is someone there who wants to be a part of it all. One day the kids only deal with you and suddenly there is someone else who can say yes or no. It is a complete adjustment for the family, and rules are shifted in the space of a few hours. Yet the military people continue to make those sacrifices for their country and to support their family.
In both of these cases I have highlighted the person being away, but the trailing/at-home spouse and the kids make sacrifices as well. They quickly learn that this is their normal. That the parent is away because it is how must be for this family. There is nothing that can be accomplished by wanting a parental presence that can not be. They learn to appreciate the times they have and adjust with the changes that come with a moving set of how a family looks and functions. The “keep the home fires burning” parent often has a job as well. The only difference is that they get to sleep in their own bed at night. They often have to juggle their job, children and home with no one their to help. Kids may have to step up and grow up a little faster to help. It is a balancing act and a collaborative effort.
I had thought of this occasionally before. This job has given me a new appreciation for what one misses out on when you are gone, how they adjust when you blow in to town and that they will adjust again when you hit the road again. I know at the end of the summer my job will end, and I will be home every night again, but there are thousands of men and women that this is part of who they are and how they support their family. My hat is off to you because most of us can never imagine what that job costs you and your family. You are making under what can be very challenging conditions.