This week my kids start school, and I won't be there.
This isn't new territory for them. My husband, a commercial pilot and Air Force Reserves officer, travels frequently, and when he leaves for work, they expect that he’ll be gone for much longer than another parent's typical eight-hour day.
This time, though, it's me who’s leaving them. And as a work-at-home mom and the usually home-bound parent, my absence is much more disconcerting to them anytime I leave.
But with such a big milestone like the first day of school, my heart is heavy as well.
My work-related absence was originally coordinated with their second week of school, but when their new school's start date was changed, it coincided with the week that I would be away.
With a father who's gone half the month, it’s not that my four kids aren’t used to having only one parent around, even during special events. He missed the first birthday of one of our daughters when he was deployed to Afghanistan. And he's been gone for countless dance recitals, soccer games and various first-time rituals of their childhood. None of this is by choice, but because it's the hand he’s been dealt: working two jobs that don’t necessarily allow him to pick the days he works, much less allow him weekends off.
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Plus, because we have so many kids, we rarely attend large events as a family. My husband and I agreed long ago that we had technology for a reason, and that reason was so that both of us did not need to sit through a two-hour-long dance recital or blazing hot soccer matches with three noisy kids under 5.
And we couldn’t swallow the money it would cost us to get a babysitter and leave the smaller kids at home.
Through all of this, I imagine he's just as sad as I am that I'm missing one of the quintessential childhood milestones—even though he doesn’t talk about it much—because, unfortunately, it’s more typical for a dad to be gone than a mom.
At least he doesn’t have to endure the “Aren’t you sad you’re going to be away?” questions.