Short or Long: What's Your Separation Preference?


Two weeks ago my husband handed me a piece of paper. It was a spreadsheet, neatly dated and color-coded with TAD and leave blocks. “Here’s my new schedule for the rest of the summer,” he said.

I scanned the spreadsheet. Home for a week, gone for two and a half. Home for a couple more weeks, gone for two more. Yup, that sounds about right. It’s a pretty typical schedule. Typical and incredibly frustrating.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of lengthy deployments to dangerous faraway places. However, there is one distinct advantage of deployments: predictability. During a deployment, I know my husband is going to be gone for a specified period of time. I can establish my own routine that doesn’t revolve around his erratic schedule. We say goodbye once, then I jump into my new husband-less existence that will be my life until he returns months later.

On the flip side, short trips offer little to no predictability. The frequent "hellos" and "goodbyes" become disruptive. It’s impossible to stick to a routine because his crazy schedule becomes my crazy schedule. I have to explain to my children why their daddy never puts his luggage back in the attic and why he’s sometimes home only long enough to catch up on sleep, unpack, wash his uniforms and pack again. Once I’ve finally adjusted to being alone, he’s back. Once I’ve finally adjusted to him being home, he leaves.

It’s also more difficult to make plans around the short separations, especially when trips are canceled and dates shift. Those concert tickets I bought three months ago as a Father’s Day present? It looks like I’ll be bringing my best friend as a back-up date because the spreadsheet tells me my husband will be missing it. And that out-of-town baby shower I was hoping to attend? Good thing I hadn’t RSVP’ed yet because hubby won’t be home to watch the kids. At least if I had a long deployment to work around, I wouldn’t have to wait for an updated spreadsheet before making plans (and I wouldn’t be disappointed about the plans I have to change).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not complaining about the fact that I have my husband home for about half of every month as opposed to sending him off for months on end. And if I had to choose my method of separation, I’d check none of the above. But sometimes I wonder if it’s easier to be separated for one long stretch of time than to fend off the chaos caused by the intermittent short trips.

Do you think it’s easier to get separations over and done with in one long stretch or do you prefer short, frequent separations despite the chaos?

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