My recent trip to the UK gave my husband and I a unique opportunity to walk in each other's shoes for a week. When he comes back from a trip we're always trying to out-do each other with tales of jet-lag and baby-related exhaustion. He complains about how hard it is to spend so much time on a plane, turn your body clock on its back and then fly back and have to readjust all over again. Meanwhile, after 4 days and nights on my own I'm usually tearing my hair out and ready for a break. Generally speaking we both find it difficult to sympathise with each other.
So, ready to prove him wrong about, well, everything, I arrived in London completely wiped out after 12 hours flying. I didn't even have to work on the flight, but I was still unmoved. When I switched my phone on there were two text messages from home; J had developed a fever after I left and had coughed all night. They were on their way to the doctor. On the one hand I desperately wanted to turn around and come home - it was hard enough to leave as it was - but on the other, I couldn't help but think that it was about time my husband found out that our days weren't all playgroups and cuddles.
J was sick, really sick, the sickest he's ever been according to D. I received updates several times a day and my heart broke a little bit each time my little guy refused to look at me on Skype. Apparently he asked for me constantly and was absolutely miserable. I hated being so far away knowing he was so unwell. I had to concede that my husband had been right about that one.
I did however, think that I had proved him wrong when I managed to adapt to the time zone change almost immediately, and I had as much fun as I imagined him having every time he was away. Once I got into the swing of things, had some time with friends, saw some sights, and shopped up a storm, I realised I'd gone too far to not enjoy myself. I consoled myself and eased my mummy guilt with the thought that J would be just as miserable if I were at home; his father wasn't doing anything that I wouldn't have done myself, and that made being away not nearly as hard as I had imagined. Despite the time zone change and the fact that my hosts had 15 month-old twins, I slept better than I had in 2 years. I didn't have to worry about anyone else, there were no decisions that had to be made about who was going to eat what and where we were going to go or what we were going to do. As I'm writing this my little man is upstairs asleep but the dog is beside me, desperately trying to get some love. At home there's always someone who wants a piece of me, and it was really nice to be away and keep all my pieces to myself. I do not wish to have a job that takes me away all the time, but I do envy my husband for those days he gets to himself. That hasn't changed.
I was, however, desperate to get home and if I could've made that plane fly any faster I would have. When I came back (after a god-awful flight which you can read about here), I was relieved but a little bit disappointed. J and D met me at the airport and my snotty, sweaty little guy didn't run and leap into my arms as I had imagined, he just kind of stared at me and seemed very uncertain about who I was and why I was there. Eventually he wrapped his arms around my neck and didn't let go, but he has made me work hard to earn back his trust ever since. My husband has always complained that it takes at least 2 days for J to love him again when he gets back from a trip, and I've never minded so much, because it usually means that Mummy is his favourite person for that time. But when it was the other way around it was like a knife in my heart. Yes, that definitely sucks.
Then there was the jet-lag. D had warned me that it would harder at this end, something about going east, but I thought that missing a night's sleep on the way back would exhaust me so much I'd sleep like normal. I was so wrong! The first two nights I did pass out at 8pm, but then I'd wake up around 11 and be fully awake for about 4 hours. Then I'd go back to sleep and find it impossible to wake up in the morning. Being the jet-lag veteran, and all-round good guy that he is, my husband had a lot of sympathy and patience for me - far more than I deserved. He took care of a still-sick J, let me sleep when I needed to and dished out melatonin tablets when I was desperate to get back on track. I only ever give him 24 hours grace when he comes back from somewhere and after that he has to get his act together and be a fully-functioning member of the family. I wasn't sure if he was so kind because he knew what I was going through, or whether he was hoping to earn brownie points and more sympathy for the next time he goes away, but either way, he put me to shame.
At the end of it all I had a new perspective on what it's like for my husband to have to travel internationally for a job. It's definitely hard work, and I would hate to not have a choice about it. But, as he succumbed to the same flu that plagued our son, D declared "you win!" He readily admitted that my job is indeed harder. So, while I enjoyed my time away immensely, I'll be leaving the jet setting to the professionals from now on. Because I realised just how much I love my job, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.