This is the first weekend I have spent away from my daughter and it has been tough. Initially, after returning from a long trip to India and spending way too much time with both my husband and daughter, I knew I needed one night off but as I get ready for night number three, I realize more than a night away is really too long. I miss my husband and daughter and our home. I realize that I cannot be away for too long especially when she is this young. Of course, I wonder how my friends have deployed in the military and left their families for months. How can a father go for a year? Will the child, if he or she is an infant, forget the parent? I have been away from my daughter now for exactly 60 hours and it feels like an eternity. It does not help that I work full-time during the work week as well so I feel like I have not spent any time with my daughter in the past six days.
So the question is – how long is too long to be gone when your son or daughter is an infant – a nursing infant at that? Tomorrow, by the time I get home, it will be well over 78 hours. I wonder how she will react when she sees me. Will she go on a nursing strike after just three days? Will she recognize me? I am sure I am overreacting but it has truly got me thinking of whether any job or profession or even a calling is worth the sacrifice families make especially the children.
For example, I recall my friend who deployed with the Air Force telling me the story of how she left her youngest child to deploy (it was mandatory of course). Despite web-camming it daily and talking daily to her 6-month old, when she returned, the infant son, who had learned how to walk in her absence, looked at her on the jetway; she was on her knees as she saw him walking towards her, arms sprawled open-wide; but he quickly realized he did not know this lady and turned and ran away – towards his father and brothers. Wow! I teared up when I heard this story and made a decision at that moment that I needed to separate from the military if I wanted to have a family and truly raise children. That was before I had a child and I was not even married yet! Now, as I make a trek 100 miles south of my home to serve my reserve time once a month, I realize what a sacrifice she made and so many who do it daily. It helps me put into perspective my frustration, my sadness, my anger, and my loneliness. I truly feel like I have no purpose when I do not spend time with my daughter and my husband. So, I focus on the positives of a separation like this which pales in comparion to what so many others do daily. It makes me appreciate the time I do have with them instead of complaining about it.
How long is too long? while being away for 70+ hours is long enough for me, I know it is not bad in the grand scheme of things …. but I still cannot wait to get home.