The Rockwood Files: When the Spouse is Away…

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Tom just walked out the door heading for the airport. In a few hours, he’ll be in sunny California on a three-day business trip and I’ll be here shuttling kids back and forth to school in the April rain. But it’s okay. Because while he’s gone… I’ve got plans.

Not sinister plans, mind you. Just the kind of harmless plans you make when your significant other is not in the same zip code – the things you do when the house is all yours for a few days.

Tonight, after the kids are fed and in bed, I’m making a noodle dish with Cheez Whiz – which Tom claims is not a member of any real food group and therefore highly questionable. He hates this dish, which is exactly why I’m making it tonight. Nobody will turn up their nose at it, and there’ll be plenty just for me.

With my steaming hot plate of cheesy noodles, I’ll settle into Tom’s recliner and assume rightful ownership of the remote control. It’ll be mine, mine, mine. And I won’t have to tolerate any mindless channel flipping or monotone documentaries about submarines or famous shipwrecks on the History channel. I will watch every chick flick movie I happen to find on cable – even if I’ve already seen that movie at least five times. But wait, there’s more.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to use up all the hot water.

And I’m going to leave my curling iron on his side of the bathroom counter. Ha, ha!

Granted, they’re small thrills but thrills nonetheless. If the plane ticket was on the other foot, you can bet he’d also be up to no good while I was away. He’d make the stinkiest batch of tuna fish in the world – since that stench is strictly forbidden when I’m within smelling distance. Then he’d probably stretch out in his recliner and watch the first half of a submarine documentary until it put him into a prime-time coma – one of his favorite ways to fall asleep.

He’d never put a new roll of toilet paper on the holder, and he’d “do the dishes” by stacking dirty plates and cups into the sink.

The truth is, even the lovey-doviest of couples need a little down time now and then. Particularly when your kids are small, having some time alone to do what you want exactly the way you want is a true luxury. I don’t mind saying that the first night of “me time” when Tom is on a trip is nearly as delicious as my Cheez Whiz noodle dish. On the second night, things are quiet but the novelty has worn off by then. By the third night, I’m realizing that the “me time” has hit its expiration date and is starting to stink as bad as tuna fish.

There’s no one here to share clever commentary about American Idol. There’s no one here to tell me about his day and let me tell him about mine. There’s no one here to help me wrangle three kids in and out of the tub, read picture books and say prayers.

By the third night, I’m remembering that old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder. But that’s not exactly what it does. What absence does is make the heart take stock of what it already has. It makes the heart thankful, appreciative. And it reminds the heart that love – in any form – is such a tremendous blessing.

By the time this column reaches print, Tom will be home again. We’ll be bathing kids, deliberating on what’s for dinner and sparring over the remote control – just as it should be. I’m looking forward to it already.

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