A few weeks ago I read a post from Fritha’s husband Tom, about his decision to work a four day week and it struck me how the choices we make as families as often intriguing to the wider world. Two years ago we made a choice which I’ve struggled to label concisely. I’ve discovered that the official term is “Living Apart Together” but I’m sure there must be some way of describing it which sounds a little less depressing.
Our weeks start like most peoples. On a Monday morning my husband gets up, catches the train and goes to work, but where we differ from most, is that he doesn’t return till the following Friday. When I tell people about his weekly commute many are sympathetic. Some look at me seriously and say “that must be hard.”
Is it hard? It’s not easy, I can tell you that. Sometimes after a long day you need someone to moan at. Sometimes you need a break from parental responsibilities or to just sit in the bath while someone cooks you supper, but I often think about people who live through that seven days a week and I know that is far tougher. Two months after Theo was born, Jim went away for four and a half months and left me living six hundred miles from everything I knew. That my friends, was hard
And let’s be honest here, Living Apart Together is not devoid of perks. I am a workaholic and I love nothing more than sitting at my computer editing photos, typing blog posts or doing something terribly constructive until the small hours of the morning. Jim likes to spend his evenings watching a box set or a film together. So during the week I selfishly and obsessively gorge on my computer time and at weekends I try (and sometimes fail) to take time out for the family. We both eat modestly and economically during the week and then go to town with special meals at weekends and we choose to have more weekend outings, because we know our time together will come to a close and not automatically spill into another week.
Recently it occurred to me that this way of living is probably all that Theo remembers and I felt my heart flutter with panic. What is a chapter in our marriage is a big chunk of his childhood. I found myself examining him closely and watching for signs of anxiety when Jim leaves on a Monday, but there are none. Theo monitors the days of the week with an eye on the next prize, but I honestly couldn’t tell you if “Friday, Daddy come home!” is higher on the list than “Sunday we have croissants” and so for now this is how we will choose to keep living, because I believe every family makes compromises and this is the one that fits for us.