Home family life Living Apart Together

Living Apart Together

by Clare Mansell

Father and son
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

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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.

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8 comments

Lynn Goring-Crook January 14, 2015 - 11:12 pm

What a beautifully written and honest piece. Very few people’s home set up is perfect now-a-days in a 24 hours society where both parents often work. We have to make the most of what we have and be grateful. Our home life sees my husband working or away a lot especially at the weekends. I often feel like a single mum going to events on my own with the children but like you we have lots of family days outs and in the summer when he is not working so hard we travel, holiday and do as much as we can. The experiences we have had have more than out weighed what I suspect would be a more mundane routine if he worked 9-5pm each day.

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Dawn January 15, 2015 - 9:41 am

Great post Clare. Everyone chooses to live differently and it’s just what works best for everyone in the end. Perhaps it’s better than Theo moving every few years but for some that works too. I moved a lot when I was younger and i have to say I don’t want that for my child, but that’s a personal choice and not to say that should an amazing opportunity for my husband and our family arise I wouldn’t take it.

Yesterday my husband was out of the house from 5am until 10pm, I’m not sure what’s better. Him coming home completely knackered or having him stay over in a hotel somewhere. It’s all swings and roundabouts.

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angela hamilton January 15, 2015 - 4:09 pm

Brilliant post. So open and honest. My husband was a chef and was hardly home. When he was it was late at night when the kids were in bed and he was away out before they woke up. I think it was harder on me being honest. Our son took great pride in telling everyone his daddy was working hard to make pennies for him and his sister.

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Nancy January 15, 2015 - 10:06 pm

Great post Clare. I have spent so much time moving around – the kids managed but the last posting to Halifax meant moving teenagers in High School. So I stayed put and Ian went to Ethiopia for a year, 3 years in Ottawa and then Djibouti for 8 months. I think the key is avoiding resentment – I found the years he was in Ottawa hard – he would come home every 6 weeks or so for a “holiday” while I still looked after the kids, their activities and worked full time. So after year 3 I told him that was enough. He doesn’t like his job now but at 32 years he can retire and I think that will happen soon. I much prefer having him home but you have to manage. I also think the key is to look after yourself.

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claremansell@mac.com January 18, 2015 - 9:09 am

I thought their would be a post you would empathise with Nancy! I think more than anything I am still feeling grateful I’m not in a military quarter and I don’t have to move, so at the moment it doesn’t feel like too much of a sacrifice. 🙂

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Katie @mummydaddyme January 18, 2015 - 12:48 am

I really enjoyed reading this post- I can’t imagine my husband going away for the week, but I guess what is someone else’s normal isn’t your own. I get a lot of help from mine as he only works a 10 minute cycle ride from our house, so nine times out of ten he is home for dinner, bath and bedtime. When he goes away I often find myself thinking gosh this is hard work, when a lot of my friends do it on their own far more frequently. It sounds like you have a great balance though.

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claremansell@mac.com January 18, 2015 - 9:11 am

You made me feel quite whistful. We have also lived like that and both been a 10 minute cycle ride from home. It was rather good!

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A game-changer… » Maybush Studio May 15, 2015 - 7:21 am

[…] into our own home. I have written before about how that meant choosing a life where we live “apart together” and the compromises this has meant. This time around the news would mean one of three […]

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