My husband works what is known in the oil industry as "a rotation". More specifically, it is known as "an even rotation", meaning that he works a certain number of days, and then goes on an identical number of "days off" (oil-speak for days of separation from work, or what normal people call the weekend or a vacation). The only way to experience the magic of an even rotation is to work somewhere that is considered a "hardship location" (oil-speak for places shitty and largely inaccessible to casual visitors or interested parties). When we met, he was working an even rotation (two weeks on, two weeks off) on the North Slope of Alaska. Currently he works an even rotation (four weeks on, four weeks off), in Luanda, the capital city of Angola. Some people actually do not consider Angola a shitty place to live, and expats are apparently flocking there. Even so, since it is nearly impossible to get a visitor visa, all food has to be imported, the civil war hasn't been over for that long, and possibly other reasons, it is still more commonly a rotation location than a transfer location.
The upshot of all of this is that for twenty-eight days in a row, I am not only home alone with a baby, but I am also separated by a seven-hour time difference for twenty-eight days from his dad, who is also my husband and my best friend. We depend on a strong internet connection for voice and video communication, and catching a flight for a quick visit is not an option. After those twenty-eight days pass, we are reunited as a family for what feels like twenty-eight days of weekend.
I've started to leave the house a lot during that time, so he can see how it feels to be a single parent.
You can't think like that if you choose to do life this way, even though I have been tempted to do so on the rough days. I imagine thinking like that is trouble and can only lead to bad blood and hurt feelings. I said that I would give this an honest try for a year, and I am doing my best to support our choice.
Rotation life is tricky, and I'm still not totally sold on it. It scares me to think of what could happen to our son if I got sick, and it's a bummer to not have a co-parent to check in with during a bout of screaming or a suspicious unidentified inflammation. At times it feels that we are living two entirely different lives, which in my opinion is not conducive the team-building vibe that marriage requires. Additionally, we have not yet figured out how to balance our needs for couple-time, family-time, friend-time, extended family time and maybe a non-family related vacation once and a while, all in exactly fifty percent of his days. As a result, I find myself clingy and cantankerous prior to his departures, which is not at all my way when times are normal. Also, it's just considerably less fun for twenty-eight days, plus a few awkward transition days on either end of the rotation.
I often wonder what others would do if they were in our shoes. If they reviewed the same math, weighed the pros and cons, and considered the true impact of the circumstances of their work lives, would they be tempted to try this, as we have been? What is their price? Everyone must have a price. We have weighed options, numbers, and calendars, and on some level we must have determined that his particular day rate was worth the pain of the separation, at least temporarily. We have considered his schedule and concluded that having approximately 180 days off a year together without other obligations is worth living in separate countries for the other 180ish days. We have reflected on the fact that a full-time job for him in Houston would give him more frequent and regular time with our son (i.e. most evenings and weekends), but not necessarily more quality time with him since mornings and days are when the baby is the happiest and most interactive.
However, in spite of my doubt, I can report that some of the rumored perks of rotation life have surfaced now that I am emerging from my newborn-care cave. My husband has been home for a few weeks and many of the days have felt like a nice long weekend days with all of us spending time together and with him being a full-time dad, while giving me some breaks from my daily grind activities. We enjoy breakfasts out on weekdays and we share parenting duties very equitably. He gives me breaks to be crafty and get back in shape, I give him breaks to study for his master's degree. The other fifty percent of the time, we both have full-time jobs: his job is to support us financially and my job is to sustain the home and family operations. I'm still not convinced that I want this for the long term, but I hate it less this "hitch" than I did last time around, so who knows what our conclusion will be.
I'm curious who else out there who would try it.