I did three deployments before my husband and I had kids, and the most recent two deployments were while I was a stay-at-home wife. One was indeed the loneliest number. I missed my husband so much. When he was deployed to a safe locale with easy access to communication, I sat eagerly by the computer just waiting for him to pop up. When he didn't have access to email or webcams, I wrote him handwritten letters and begged him to do the same for me. My life was consumed by his absence.
But once you add one more to the mix, everything changes.
Two is definitely not lonely.
Now, two is many things: exhausting, maddening, repetitive...but it's definitely not lonely. Oh what I'd give to feel lonely again, instead of being clung to for twelve hours a day by a whining, nonsense-jabbering critter.
And I've discovered that I don't really have time to miss my husband.
Granted, TDY is quite different from deployment, and we do get to see him most weekends. I am sure that makes a difference. But I no longer feel all-consumed by his absence. I rarely think about it, except when our daughter is being especially whiny before bedtime and I'd give anything to have someone to share the joy.
And the webcam? The webcam is now used exclusively for "Daddy, please entertain Baby via computer to help me kill 20 minutes of time before she goes to bed. Because I am all out of ideas and patience."
Once she's in bed, I have alone time. Precious alone time. A mere three hours a day, instead of the entire day like I used to have during deployments. And most nights the last thing I want to do is sit and IM. I love my husband. I miss him. But I'd rather be alone with my hobbies and my mindless action movies than online.
All of a sudden, I think I get how my husband felt on deployment. Here I sat all day long just waiting for him to show up online. I could do my hobbies or clean the house or watch a CSI marathon all day, and be all filled up on me-time before it came time to IM with him. Meanwhile, he was working and hot and tired, and I am sure there were days when he just felt like being alone with a book or movie. He probably didn't always want to talk to me. And I'm sure that he didn't think it was a big deal to run grab a cheeseburger instead of IMing me, especially since it was midnight for him. If you need a cheeseburger at midnight, you've probably had a long day.
I feel bad now because I realize our lives were far more lopsided than I ever gave him credit for, and I wanted him to put me ahead of his me-time, even though I never had to do that.
I knew doing a geographical separation once we had a kid would be different, and I expected it to be harder. It is. But in some ways it's emotionally easier. Life isn't all about me anymore, and what I want, and how much I miss my husband, and when I want to talk to him, and how mad I was that he got that cheeseburger instead of putting me first. It seems almost silly to me now.
I totally don't blame him for wanting a minute of peace and quiet while he went to get that burger anymore. Because now I'm exactly the same. Except "off duty" means the child is asleep. And "cheeseburger" means bourbon.
Photo from US Army Photostream