The wrong way to say Goodbye


From the moment we met, we started saying goodbye. It started with small trips to Melbourne and Perth, we had long phone calls, lots of giggling, “what are you wearing?”

I’d drive him to the airport and find a message on my answering machine by the time I arrived home. We quickly became engaged. A few weeks later he had to go to Canada,  he wrote me a 10 page letter while he waited in the departure lounge, we spent a small fortune on long distance calls. Flowers with poetic notes arrived regularly at the office while he was gone.

After marrying we moved cities, he had to fly to Singapore, I drove him to the airport and realized I wasn’t exactly sure how to get home. As the car idled on the side of the road, I sat with the map in my lap sobbing while Macy Gray helped me along with my own pity party “my world crumbles when you are not here”.

Who was that girl?

If I had a time machine I’d go back and find her,  knock on the car window and tell her to go home, have a nice long uninterrupted bath, drink her coffee slowly, read a book and take lots of photos of her yet to breast feed boobs.

The travel continued, I got better at saying goodbye, he always rang as the plane was about to take off, again when he landed. We both ‘drunk dialed’ if we’d had a night out.  It wasn’t until after we had children that I discovered what my girlfriend describes as the “bitch switch”.

He wasn’t going to be there for the first mothers day. On the day of his flight I sulked like a moody fourteen year old for most of the day. I told him what everyone else was going to be doing, the presents, the brunches, “I guess they’ll be no breakfast in bed for me” I sighed out loud melodramatically. I gave him a Grandma kiss as he left and a patronizing pat on that back, I sighed out loud again. It was an Oscar worthy performance.

I’m incredibly embarrassed to admit that I have many of these performances in my repertoire. There’s the monosyllabic goodbye as the taxi arrives to pick him up, the casual mention of everything you will be doing on your own while he is gone. “Are there any questions you’d like me to ask at parent/teacher night?”

The phone will invariably ring when you’re in the middle of the dinner from hell, you’ll be picking spaghetti off the wall and catching a two year old’s vomit in your hands as he tells you he’s had a fantastic dinner with the sales team, you can hear the excitement in his voice. You’re sincerely happy for him but all you can manage is a strained “you’re making it very hard for me to like you right now” before you abruptly hang up.

Three hours later when the children are bathed and drifting off to sleep, you’ve cleaned up the mess, set up breakfast for tomorrow and as you fold the washing, the guilt of your words starts to set in. You ring him at the hotel, with the time difference its two in the morning for him. When he answers the phone he sounds tired, but he’s immediately worried something is wrong “Is everything okay?” he says. And you realize that yes, everything is just fine.

As you run through the days events. How the two year old’s head somehow got caught in the fence, the missing shoe that was only bought three days ago, and the ding you put in the car when making a hasty exit from the mind numbingly boring dance class. You both start to giggle at the ridiculousness of it all. What was originally about to send you in to a fetal position in the corner now has you both laughing together. There’s a pause in the conversation, “So what are you wearing?” he says.

For nostalgia’s sake, here’s a bit of Macy.

So what about you? Do you have a bitch switch? Or do you crave having time apart?

  • Sarah

    At least you do it when there is a justifiable amount of envy about travelling to some of the great cities of the world … my occurs when P is heading away on school camp to only sleep in a sleeping bag under a tarp for two nights next to a mosquito ridden river… I wouldn’t swap him for anything yet I still become wife from hell. It is hard to be the one left behind.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08647596319711811125 cjtato

    I love this post! And yes, I have a bitch switch too. That’s a great name for it!

    It comes out less these days but there are certainly times when it’s warranted. Like, um, maybe when he only managed supermarket flowers and a block of chocolate for anniversary number 10 last month. Yep, still not quite over it. The fact that his very late (not my fault) anniversary present arrived today might have something to do with it though. LOL

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17165208811776097332 Heather

    oh yes, I certainly do. But at the same time I love having time to myself. Can’t win with me at all it seems. lol

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14668401113519655462 melodramatic me

    Really enjoyed reading this. I too have a traveling husband, and I too have a bitch switch that gets flicked at exactly the same times. My kids have sick switches that activate the day after my Busy-And-Important-Husband leaves for his latest business trip. And of course, they miraculously turn off the day he arrives home.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17140909637865426746 Anna Bartlett

    That is a fabulous name for it. It’s almost an out of body experience as I really do know what I’m doing! My husband has gone away with the army a number of times for a long time and I’m embarrassed to say (sort of) that I was not the most supportive wife. It was BLOODY HARD here without him and I missed SHARING the kids. So the “bitch switch” reared it’s ugly head for, oh, years perhaps. Now I’m older and wiser. I have the 4 kids I wanted, and every fight doesn’t mean I have to find another man to get my 4. So I’m much more balanced, and a tiny bit more mature. Loved hearing your story though!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting read. As a TCK who experienced this from the kids’ perspective, I have a LITTLE more sympathy for what my mother went through- Thanks.

  • http://www.twitchycorner.com/ Twitchy

    Relate, relate, relate. It started way back when I got my first positive pregnancy test. He’d left *that morning* for Perth for 3 weeks! Thoughtless. Bastard.:) Never imagined I’d have to deliver news of that magnitude OVER THE PHONE. 11 years later I have it down: I quiet during the packing and stand in silent martyrdom by the door as he kisses me and hops into the cab to singular freedom.

    But now we have Skype. So when he calls after a restaurant meal, from his luxurious King bed room to say goodnight to the kids and can SEE they are going full pelt berserk, fighting eachother for pole position and shouting over one another, I hear this sheepish sign-off: “Love you Babe…sorry.” Darn right. And don’t forget my 2L’s duty free vodka 😉

  • http://www.livelifenowcoaching.com/ Nicola

    LOL….yes bitchswitch on off on off….oh well I decided to do this as saw the version of bitchswitch at home with my mother and my never present always away on business father -thought it would be better being with my traveller.

    Mine sat on far side of the room when at our first baby scan….only flown in for 4 hours then had to head back to airport – think he was little shocked that there was a baby actually happening too….

    Mine texted me to tell me he was heading up the Amazon and it was amazing just I’d crept back into bed after 2nd’ full bed / clothing change of self and child at 2 am…..(poo incidents) and couldn’t cope with why I just wasn’t excited as him….

    the man who is not as qualified or as work mad as I was once – still I’m either a sinner, a hypocrite or a masochist – my choice then and now – as he is when he’s around a loving man and great father if not into household tasks and doing it as it needs doing!

    I once dressed up to take him to and from the airport – would meet him back with great style and show of love and kisses….now its the grunt of recognition if there really has been no other option other than for me to pick him up…..

    Great blog!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08666523444451347960 Misfit Mommy

    What a great phrase! So simple, so precise, so TRUE!

    My husband works almost every Saturday – nothing compared to yours – but it’s still difficult getting kids in the car, and out of the car, running errands, going to practices (getting the times and locations right,) etc. When D walks through the door at the end of the day and claims he’s ‘tired’ and ‘what’s for dinner,’ I wan to stab him in the eye, but instead, I turn on my ‘bitch switch’ and he backs off!

    Love it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01684592487829151479 Baby Buggy Boat

    Brilliant blog and one with which I completely identify. We even do the “what are you wearing” joke!

    The goodbye’s can be so tough (and yes, the bitch switch, of which I am guilty, makes them even tougher) but don’t the hello’s make it worth it?!

    I am going to recommend all of my friends that are yet to have babies go and photograph their boobs – I wish I had 🙁

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03440234602399886097 Philipa

    Doesn’t sound like you are craving some time apart. Seems to me you are craving some time together. Time in which you are not ‘mummy’ or ‘wife’ or anything but the gorgeous woman who loves this man, and he is the man you fell in love with, who desires you and loves you back.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    I’ve loved reading these comments, I’m so glad I’m not the only one that gets a little edgy when it comes to being the one left behind!

    I have to say to Anna, I think Army wives win the prize, those long stints and constant worry along with keeping things afloat at home require superhuman strength (and lots of alcohol)

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve had a really good giggle.

    Kxx

  • http://www.ourbigexpatadventure.wordpress.com/ KJ

    My “bitch switch” usually does not kick in until he gets home. I’m (usually) fine when he leaves, OK when he calls whilst away (although telling me last week that Marlborough NZ is the most beautiful place he’s ever seen almost flicked that switch) but when he gets home all the resentment and bitterness bubbles to the surface and I have the urge to hurt him. I can barely talk, and when I do it’s through gritted teeth. If jetlag is not too bad he will gather the kids up and take them somewhere. Anywhere, just away from me.

    When he returns the bitch switch has been flicked back and all is mostly well.

    But he must never, ever tell me about all the truly wonderful places he has been and seen. I. do. Not. Want. To. Know.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11803356774463998436 ejorpin

    I’m only a part-time fake (step) mum so perhaps I shouldn’t be adding my two cents but I LOVE having a traveling husband. I crave time to myself, and even when I am looking after his two sons I am perfectly happy if he has to go away for a night or two. I love those quiet hours after the boys have gone to bed where I can focus on whatever I want, with no demands!

    My husband has always travelled for work, but he is most definitely not a workaholic, if he had the choice he would always choose staying home. Traveling for work isn’t all luxury hotel suites and fancy dinners, it’s constant socializing, constant demands on your time, it’s hours at airports and jet lag and security checks and queues and more queues.

    I love to travel and I join him when I’m in the mood but I also love being able to stay in one place if I want to – it means the chance to work on longer term projects, it means a sense of stability/routine/community. And I also love the benefits that come from being a stay-at-home ex-pat spouse and the opportunities it’s opened up for both of us. In our relationship we are equals but with different roles and responsibilities, so it works.

    Having said that…if he’s been away for more than 4 nights and doesn’t show an appropriate level of joy at being home, yeah, I get a bit emotional and crazy!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09543258551991778888 mamabook

    After 6 years of work at home husband it was both a relief and shock to have fly away husband. I did love the complete independence. I did not love 2 months of FT single parenthood. When we finally landed I loved that he was so genuinely excited to see us all. This Sat when he mentioned again how he had missed his gym class twice since we arrived the bitch switch was switching. But I have grown up a little since the early years of marriage – and I did permit a gym visit this saturday so long as I got my time alone cafe visit.
    Michelle

  • Noodlechett

    I certainly do!! But I’m getting better, I realise I don’t have to cook elaborately just for me and the kids, we get into bed early, there are no arguements with the teens…..but, when he’s having rack of lamb & I’m having eggs, I get a bit testy!!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09941148825683125075 Torkona

    that was very well written! you tell your story very well.. and the Macy Gray reminds me song reminds me on my times gone by too 🙂 so thanks for reminding me!

    fyi – I have this award that you might be interested in: The Torkona Award. Your First Born Birth Story. Sounds like it might be right up your alley! hope you give it a go 🙂

    im following you now, so I look forward to what you;ve got next hehe

    – tork

  • http://barelynoticeable.com/ Jody

    I used to feel that way when he travelled and the kids were little. Now, having lived overseas for 12 years with maybe 2 weeks apart from one another, I love any old time apart.

    Just heading to the airport now to pick him up from the airport after his being away a week (that’s now 3 weeks in 12 years). Though I love him dearly and we have grown somewhat accustomed to each other’s company over the past 23 years, I cherish having some of my own space once in a while.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16287035125904907763 Mel

    Ohhhhh…so that’s what it’s called!
    Great post. 🙂

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06519163424062626658 lucychili

    Big hug Kirsty.
    Perhaps those little people
    will soon be less splashy
    with the noms =)

  • http://www.vacationremix.com/ Vacation Remix

    Enjoyed the blog post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06519163424062626658 lucychili

    Big hug Kirsty.
    Perhaps those little people
    will soon be less splashy
    with the noms =)

  • Noodlechett

    I certainly do!! But I’m getting better, I realise I don’t have to cook elaborately just for me and the kids, we get into bed early, there are no arguements with the teens…..but, when he’s having rack of lamb & I’m having eggs, I get a bit testy!!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03440234602399886097 Philipa

    Doesn’t sound like you are craving some time apart. Seems to me you are craving some time together. Time in which you are not ‘mummy’ or ‘wife’ or anything but the gorgeous woman who loves this man, and he is the man you fell in love with, who desires you and loves you back.

  • http://www.livelifenowcoaching.com/ Nicola

    LOL….yes bitchswitch on off on off….oh well I decided to do this as saw the version of bitchswitch at home with my mother and my never present always away on business father -thought it would be better being with my traveller.

    Mine sat on far side of the room when at our first baby scan….only flown in for 4 hours then had to head back to airport – think he was little shocked that there was a baby actually happening too….

    Mine texted me to tell me he was heading up the Amazon and it was amazing just I’d crept back into bed after 2nd’ full bed / clothing change of self and child at 2 am…..(poo incidents) and couldn’t cope with why I just wasn’t excited as him….

    the man who is not as qualified or as work mad as I was once – still I’m either a sinner, a hypocrite or a masochist – my choice then and now – as he is when he’s around a loving man and great father if not into household tasks and doing it as it needs doing!

    I once dressed up to take him to and from the airport – would meet him back with great style and show of love and kisses….now its the grunt of recognition if there really has been no other option other than for me to pick him up…..

    Great blog!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14668401113519655462 melodramatic me

    Really enjoyed reading this. I too have a traveling husband, and I too have a bitch switch that gets flicked at exactly the same times. My kids have sick switches that activate the day after my Busy-And-Important-Husband leaves for his latest business trip. And of course, they miraculously turn off the day he arrives home.

  • Fiona

    I know I am very let but have just discovered your fabulous blog 🙂

    I too have a traveling husband. In the last month he has been to Brisbane (we live in Auckland), Mexico, LA and is now in Hong Kong. He has been home for weekends – thank god! – but as he’s knackered from the traveling and the time zone changes, sometimes I think it ighht be easier if he stayed away!

    My bitch switch often is turned on when he tells me “sorry babe, I have to go to somewherethatsnothere.” Great, I think, there goes my plans for the week. It all sucks so much but it’s his job and he does love it so much but gees, it sucks!!

  • Kris

    Longest run of the bitch switch: receiving the 40ft high container full of our goods, 7 1/2 months pregnant in the pouring rain by.my.self. For 1 & 1/2 days. Hubby in country where the container originated. He calls to tell me he is sorry & make sure I keep an eye on the movers (10 of them) so they don’t steal anything. Told him F off and not to call for at least 3 days unless he wanted a divorce. Moral of the story….I no longer move w that much stuff & he always brings me home chocolate & a stack of magazine every time he travels. Peaks & valleys….but love in the end.