I love my husband. I really do.

But sometimes I like that he has a job that takes him away for a few days now and then.

I’ve never known a time when he didn’t travel for work. When we were dating or young newlyweds, I could join him for long weekends or quick trips across the country.

After having three daughters, however, I chose to work part-time from home, while my husband continued his career path, which often included several business trips a year and a commute that did not allow him to walk through the door most nights before 7 p.m. 

In the beginning, solo parenting challenged me as a person and in our marriage. Trying to get three kids under two in bed each night is enough to break even the strongest of moms. Eventually my girls and I found a groove though, and I learned how capable I could be when needed. I learned to scale back on commitments and ask for help. I became more organized. It worked for us.

Don’t get me wrong. When my husband is around, my life is better. We watch Top Chef and share a glass of wine. He picks up my daughter from her late-night practice or finishes bed time. He’ll get up  to change the battery when the fire alarm starts beeping at 2 a.m. He grills perfect steaks and helps with the dishes. He always makes our life more fun.

And I know how lucky I am to have a husband like mine or even a husband at all. My heart goes out to single moms and dads, and to any parent who has a loved one deployed or in harm’s way.

The problem is, however, not with my husband. It’s that when he is around, I want to give him my A-game.

I worry about making sure he has food to eat. I feel bad when the house is a bit of a mess because my day was a train wreck. I feel the need to ensure we spend quality time together. I wonder what he thinks when I’m still in my pajamas although my kids left for school at 7:20 a.m. I want to be a great wife to him, just as he works hard to be a great spouse for me.

It’s not that my husband says anything or gives me disapproving glances. He knows how hard it is to be the primary parent and thanks me for it quite often.

But when Dad is gone, it’s cereal for dinner—or maybe even ice cream—without any remorse. It’s three Gilmore Girls shows in a row without even blinking. It’s getting in bed at 8 p.m. without any expectations. 

It’s moving the kids’ bedtimes up a little earlier. Browsing the internet for shoes I will never buy. Leaving my pajamas on the floor and makeup on the counter. Working on my own projects without guilt.

It is like I have permission to slack off a bit on my own personal expectations. 

And that is a gift I immensely appreciate.

While I always am thrilled when my husband walks through the door, the break his travel provides is something I think we both benefit from and enjoy.

In our case, absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, and our marriage even stronger.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.