“When Is Daddy Coming Home?”

“When Is Daddy Coming Home?”
February 01, 2018

“When is Daddy coming home?” This is such a seemingly simple question in many families with a variety of token answers...”He’ll be home at dinner time.” or “He’ll be home to read you a story at bedtime.” or “He’ll be home to take you to..(insert sport or activity here).”

In our family when a child asks when Daddy is going to be home, it’s more like, “He’ll be home in a few months.” or “He’ll be home by the time (insert season or holiday here) comes.” 

My husband, Ryan, works as a Chief Engineer on a heavy-lift cargo ship in the United States Merchant Marine. His schedule is a bit different than a military schedule, but his particular rotation is 3-4 months working on the ship and then 3-4 months at home. He has been doing this since we began dating, so it’s all we’ve ever known in our life together. It has always been a lifestyle filled with positives and negatives, but now that our children are old enough to fully understand what it means when Daddy leaves, it gets tougher and tougher with each trip. Our four children are becoming little people now at the ages of 4 and 6. They have a greater awareness of things and they all have a different way of processing their feelings and emotions when Daddy leaves.

This last time my husband left, I noticed that each child handled the news in very different ways and I realized that no amount of prepping them for Daddy’s departure helps to soften the blow. The day Ryan was to leave this last time, my son Liam got off the bus and instantly dissolved into tears knowing that in just a few short hours, he would be saying “good-bye” to Daddy once again. It was as if he knew he had to keep it together at school that day, but then just let his guard down once he was at home. It was gut wrenching to witness him melting down over absolutely everything that day—knowing that though the meltdowns were over seemingly small things, it went much deeper than that.

Liam’s twin, Jack, on the other hand was more reserved, but made sure to tell us that he wrote about Daddy going back to the ship in his journal that day. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks in that Jack cried at bedtime one night asking over and over again how much longer Daddy would be gone.

Lillian was teary at school the day Ryan left and kept hugging her teacher. Her twin, Mallory, much like Jack, gets emotional after a few days later and will say she misses Daddy a lot. The other day she saw Ryan’s bathrobe hanging on the closet door and said, “It’s Dadda’s robe. When will he wear it again?” 

As their mom, my heart aches when I see them upset and missing Daddy. But I know I must remain strong for them and figure out ways to help them work through their sadness. When Ryan first leaves, it’s almost as though they are experiencing a loss. 

One night at bedtime, I was tucking Jack in and he looked up with tear eyes and asked, “How much longer until Daddy comes home?” I had to look away for a minute and gather myself before answering him. I thought quickly about how best to help him in the moment. I encouraged him to lay down and close his eyes and make a list in his head of all the fun things he wants to do with Daddy when he is back with us in the summer—fishing, beach, camping and more. It seemed to calm him, but it is heart breaking to watch.

This lifestyle takes its toll—not only on the kids and me, but on my husband as well. But as I say to people who ask me how we can endure this lifestyle, my token response is that no lifestyle or situation is perfect. My husband does an amazing job providing for our family and when he is home, he is home full-time. As for me, I have learned a lot about myself living this life—namely that I am way stronger now than I ever thought I could be. As the saying goes, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

Sarah W Follow

Sarah is a proud stay-at-home mom of two sets of twins, Jack and Liam, 6, and Lillian and Mallory, 4. She is originally from Tolland, CT, but has resided in the Boston area since 2001. Prior to becoming a mom, Sarah was an elementary school teacher in Newton, MA for seven years. She and her husband, Ryan currently live in Whitman, MA and Ryan serves as a Chief Engineer in the U.S. Merchant Marine. In addition to being a mom of 4, Sarah enjoys blogging and performing in local theater productions. She's also an avid member of her mothers of multiples group, Keeping Pace with Multiple Miracles based in West Bridgewater, MA.

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