One of the benefits of being married to a first-year professor is this: He may come home late, but he comes home, usually. He's so wrapped up in course preparation and academic writing that he doesn't have time to travel, and he's not yet connected enough to have a lot of things to travel to. I see my husband almost every night.
A lot of women I know are not that lucky. It's something I remind myself about when the paycheck barely makes it to the end of the month and I feel a little envy for families whose primary breadwinner's profession of choice took less sacrifice and preparation and/or pays more money. ("Why did I become a professor?" Dr. G asked one day recently. "Well, it wasn't for the money!" replied cranky I.)
But this week he is paying dues with a solid networking-type connection, delivering a talk at the workplace of a grad school buddy. Staying in a hotel and eating in restaurants, working out when he chooses without worrying about childcare, receiving adulation for the work he does, and enjoying some California sunshine. All alone.
I am mothering four children in a Montana springtime; each day we seem to get some sun, some bitter and nasty wind, and some blowsy, non-sticking snow. I am schlepping A, who has pneumonia, to the doctor every day for lung-listening checks and oxygen checks and antibiotics shots. (Thank heavens the doctor is trying to keep him out of the hospital and so far succeeding as he begins to recover.) I am greeting the efficient and smiling women at my favorite pharmacy, yet again. I am administering oxygen and inhalers and nebulizer treatments and prednisone and Zithromax. I am hounding kids to do the dishes. I am breaking up fights. I am worrying about walking the dog and not walking the dog. I am hanging tough through my final few weeks of homeschooling S. I am trying hard to stay on top of parent-teacher communications. I am folding pile after pile after pile of laundry. I am refusing to get anxious about all the crap that certain people have piled up in the yard and certain dogs have piled up in the back. I am preparing to trek to Missoula for neurofeedback tomorrow with not two but three kids in tow, because pneumonia boy is not cleared for school attendance yet. Getting ready to spend my birthday money on gas for the trip, and hoping the van doesn't have any problems, because it is overdue for scheduled maintenance but seriously, when would it be ok for me to have a carless day?
Am I envying the good doctor? Well, duh. Missing the days when I traveled for work and having fond memories of exploring Chicago, Las Vegas, San Antonio, L.A. on my own? Yes.
But unhappy? Surprisingly, not really. Because you know what, I am rocking this. I am actually getting this done. I am not breaking down. Did you hear me? I have not yet lost it!
And I am remembering all the time that if my husband were not so awesome at taking on his share and often more than his share of the work when he is home, I wouldn't notice it so much when he is gone. I am in fact very lucky.
I remember talking in some English-major type class in college about elements that are so glaringly absent - in this case, from a novel - that they become presences in that novel. The absent presence. Maybe that is what I will call Dr. G when he is traveling.