Sisterhood of the Traveling Spouse

Article by: Heidi Smith Luedtke, Air Force Spouse

As a military spouse, I sometimes feel like the only person in my neighborhood whose
partner travels all the time. In reality, many non-military couples put up with work-related
separations-sometimes for months at a time. Just like us, they try their best to make the
most of it. I asked four women with travelling husbands to share their experiences with longdistance love. Here’s what they said about making marriage work, reunion transitions, and the upside of alone-time.

Jan Schile1Jan Karuza Schile of Bellingham, WA
Author of ‘Captain of Her Crew: The Commercial Fishing Mom’s Guide to Life at Home’

Married to: George, a fishing captain who spends eight months per year in remote Alaskan waters.

Biggest Stress: “Being responsible for each and every item at home, by myself, day after day. It’s hard to keep going knowing there won’t be any help for a long time to come.”

Points of Connection: Because her spouse is so far out to sea, Schile doesn’t get phone calls or e-mail, just like many military spouses. “Sometimes I call just to hear his voice on voicemail,” she admits.

Personal Perks: “I am a stronger and more capable person that I knew. I like to pursue my interests and I enjoy all the time with my kids.”

Marriage Matters: “We don’t want to be ships passing in the night, but you have to make
an effort to make sure that doesn’t happen. We recently went out for our 10th anniversary and I thought, ‘Wow! I really like being with you. We need to hang out more often!””

Silver Lining: When times are tough “I remember how much George loves us and think about all we have in common: our goals, our loyalty to each other, and our loyalty to each other, and our family. I am very proud of him.”

Emily Mc GeeEmily McGee of Atlanta, GA
Author of the blog “One Trailing Spouse”

Married to: Ryan, an operations manager for international HIV/AIDS programs. The McGees are currently cohabitating in Nairobi, Kenya.

Biggest Stress: “I consider myself lucky that my spouse is usually only gone for short trips-one week per month. But we rarely talk while he is away, due to long work hours and the big time difference.”

Personal Perks: “I get a lot of work done when we’re apart. Frequent moves (five moves in five years) have also pushed me to make friends quickly.”

Marriage Matters: “Ryan’s job has a prominent role in our lives. I quit my job so I could come to Kenya with him for five months. He has been really supportive of me while I transition to a work from-home job as a freelance writer.”

Transition Petpeeve: “I get frustrated when he comes home and his suitcase explodes and he has two loads of dirty laundry and some sort of food-borne illness. I’m always
slightly shocked into accommodating another person’s needs again.”

Silver Lining: Because Ryan travels on weekends, he gets compensatory vacation days. “We never have to stress about taking time off,” McGee says.

Tamy ButcherTami Butcher of Chandler, AZ

Married to: Mike, pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels. He’s on the road every year from April through October.

Biggest Stress: “The hardest part is finding ways to let my kids know – on a daily basis – that their dad is always there for them. It takes a lot of effort to stay connected when you have a million other things to take care of.”

Points of Connection: The baseball game is always on in the background at the Butcher home. “We also keep a daily journal of the little things that happen, so we can share what’s going on when we do get a chance to talk.”

Personal Perks: “When you are in charge of three little people on your own, you have to just suck it up. I’m not afraid to ask for help anymore. No one wants to put other people out. But when you ask for help, you find out people want to contribute.”

Marriage Matters: “Out-of-sight, out-of-mind can happen in a marriage,” Butcher says, but spending so much time apart “has strengthened our love for each other. I don’t take our time together for granted. It’s precious!

Tracy BobbitTracy Bobbitt of Los Angeles, CA
Editor of the “Hollywood Mom Blog”

Married to: Russell, whose work on feature films like “Iron Man,” “Thor” and “The Hangover” requires frequent, lengthy trips to far-f lung locations.

Biggest Stress: “Raising kids is a challenge, because I’m often a single parent. It’s not fun to always be the disciplinarian. It’s also tough being the house handy-man.”

Points of Connection: “Skype is one of the best tools we’ve found for staying in touch,” Bobbitt says. She even brought the laptop to the kitchen table so Russell could Skype in for holiday dinner.

Personal Perks: “My daughter and I make a point of traveling to see Russell during summer break. We’ve been on location every summer since 2005.” Taking the dog along is sometimes trickier.

Marriage Matters: “I am fortunate that I’m not jealous by nature. In the film industry, there is no shortage of gorgeous, available people…you have to believe in your partner and your relationship in a way others might take for granted.”

Silver Lining: “I’m grateful and appreciative that my husband has a steady job and that he’s in-demand to work on the biggest movies in Hollywood.”

We asked these sometimes-solo spouses for thoughts on raising kids with one parent frequently away. Here’s what they suggest:

1) Stick to a schedule so kids know what to expect.
2) Display family pictures so kids remember their
absent parent is part of the team.
3) Take the kids to watch Dad leave and see him return. Don’t shelter them.
4) Seek spiritual support from a church or temple.
5) Keep teachers and school administrators in the loop.
6) Encourage kids to reach out to your spouse with small
tokens like texts, email or hand-written letters.

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