Elaine’s Story: My Partner works in Iraq for 8 months of the year (By Elaine Gilmour-Hoy)

 

I’ll start off by introducing myself…I’m Elaine, mum of one, soon to be 2 little boys. I offered up my “knowledge” to Gemma regarding how we cope as a family and how we function as my partner works away for 8 months of the year. He works in Iraq in Close Protection Security and it is much less glamorous than it sounds. It means that he works on a rotation basis. He flies out and works every day for 8 weeks then he comes home for 4 weeks (including travel days) I’ve never really thought too much about our coping mechanisms and what we do day to day to get through as it’s all we’ve ever known but if my perspective on it can help even one mum going through the same or similar then my work here is done!

I think for me the hardest part isn’t actually when he first goes back to work, it’s right in the middle. We normally argue over silly things because we miss each other and we are no closer to him being home than we are him having returned. When he first goes back that tends to be my busiest week. Queue house organising, baby groups galore and as many mum meets as I can manage.

My son is turning 2 and I’ve found in the past couple of years that modern technology has saved us massively. I wish my son didn’t know the word “iPad” but I’ve come to accept he is of that generation and without it my partner wouldn’t really know him. We facetime as much as we can and I am constantly taking pictures to send to him. We as mums take for granted the “boring” things our children do but being 3500 miles away means that his dad has missed out on so much. A simple picture of him in his pj’s ready for bed makes all the difference if he’s had a long hard day.

I’m expecting our second son in a matter of weeks (eek!) and I’ve found him being away harder than normal. I think that being *ahem* particularly rotund, my toddler has figured this out and takes full advantage of me being slower at getting up to chase him. I like to get out of the house at least once a day. Fresh air does us both the world of good and a brisk dog walk is sometimes enough to keep him from going stir crazy. I like to get dressed and make the beds in the morning, and as basic as it sounds it helps me set up for the day. If I have my breakfast in my dressing gown then I know I’m going to be lazy and probably potter about the house in comfy clothes all day and not want to go out and be productive.

I have found myself doubting my mum skills on the days where I don’t particularly want to be productive but then I have to remind myself that I am doing this essentially on my own, well physically at least. My partner is incredibly supportive and is very good at recognising when I’ve had a hard day and will try to cheer me up. I’m allowed to have hard days, and days where the house looks like a bomb site and I remind myself to be ok with these. Mess can always be tidied up and dinner can always be re-made but the time I spend with my son colouring or making up a toot toot track for the hundredth time cannot be replaced.

I think that a good group of mum or like-minded friends is helpful too. Having someone to text or call when your partner is busy has meant that I feel like I have a support network that actually cares. I made myself go to Mum & Baby groups when my son was newborn and I’m really glad I did. They can be so daunting but you’re all in the same boat and someone will extend a friendly smile or a cup of tea and suddenly you’ll feel like super mum and that you can do this!

Having my partner away for so long has made me appreciate him so much more when he’s home and I think this has helped our relationship too. We treasure the time he is home and whilst it’s super busy we make sure we find time for ourselves too. We still have fun, and we enjoy each other’s company and cannot wait until our next adventure arrives to turn our world upside down again!

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