This is not our first shot an unaccompanied tour. Last time Husband was in Iraq, Boy and I in India. That set-up had its own challenges, not least of which that was after, er, R&R number two, I was pregnant, working full time, parenting a toddler solo and, oh yeah, in India.
This UT is completely different, and more akin to those faced by most Foreign Service families. One spouse is employed in a warzone, the other is managing the rest of life divorced from OpenNet and any other resources that keep you connected to the Department. As an employee, I've watched my bidding season come and go, and unless someone can churn up a FS position at the closest passport agency (which I'd happily take), I'll likely watch the next come and go as well. We have no idea what resources Boy will need in school next year, so we are in no position to say whether we can go overseas again or whether we can both work full-time in Washington. There are a lot of question marks still, a theme of recent times.
So, three months in, with the first R&R halfway over, where are we? I am still on LWOP, Husband is still assigned to Afghanistan. His professional life is in flux, due to the crossroads of drawdown and tragedy, and therefore has some unanticipated stressors. I miss my work and colleagues. I miss seeing adults. I don't miss the panicked rush to find childcare or the always marriage-enhancing game of Who Is More Important at Work Today? when the kids are suddenly sick. I don't miss the chaos of getting two kids to separate schools for their ten hour days, then taking separate cars to pick them up so we can get both of them in the narrow window between the end of the work day and the end of their school hours. I don't miss taking phone calls from Washington while trying to dress a screaming, exhausted toddler for bedtime. I don't miss the guilt when we explain that no, both of us can't be at a 6:00 a.m. event because someone has to feed our children, dress them, and get them to school.
On the flip side, at home I'm on all the time. No adult comes to rescue me (except for some awesome aunts*). No one takes duty calls. Boy wakes up by 5:30 (before 5:00 for the past week), and because Girl sleeps later and naps, she doesn't go down until 7:30 or even 8:00 some nights. I put in 14 hour days of full-on parenting more often than not, and follow them up with dishes and laundry. The extent of my adult interaction is some local family members (oh thank Jeebus*) and the great people at the gym. Coincidentally, I'm at the gym A LOT. Well, a lot for me. They have a daycare there and I lose weight. Everyone wins.
I've mastered ___________ to the extent it will ever be mastered. [Choices: Grocery shopping with two kids; Cleaning the house with two kids; Mowing the lawn with two kids; All of the above.]
I quickly learned that the only way to slow the inevitable losing of my mind was to insist that the children help with everything they can. Boy helps with laundry. Girl helps unload the dishwasher. Both dust. Boy cleans up his Legos every night. Girl helps put away toys in the playroom. Boy buckles himself into his carseat. They can both feed the pets. Boy lets the dog in and out. These are little things, but they make me feel like it is slightly less all on me.
I fill out paperwork and add Boy to waitlist after waitlist. Socialization groups, behavioral therapy, IEPs. We're waiting.
Denver was the right choice for us, and a blog post is evolving in my mind reviewing Denver for families. That said, this is the first time I've lived in America, but not in DC or New York, so my friends seem so close and far at the same time. Luckily I jet to my college reunion in a few days. Thanks to Husband for holding down the fort. I want to see my people.
Oh, and I pierced my nose. Sorry, Dad! It won't stay in forever, just for LWOP. Promise.
*When we made the decision not to go to Washington, we flirted with the idea of Portland or Austin. Thankfully flirting was all it was, because without the family that's here I would have been up a sad, frustrating creek. And all our stuff would still be in boxes.