Funny things happen when I leave home. For one, the Domestic Operations Control Unit (my spouse) is probably happier, to a certain extent anyways. It’s really tough being married with children and going to sea. It is not realistic to have her work outside the home, as the costs outweigh the benefits. So she ends up being, by necessity, the Alpha in the home.
Of course being a Chief Engineer, you end up being a bit of an Alpha at work, so coming home does then to create some interesting dynamics; two Alpha personalities in one small house.
Being an engineer, I am not the keenest to those “feelings” things either. So it takes me a while to realize the subtle or even not too subtle events that occur around this career we’ve chosen. Whenever I leave home now, certain upsetting things occur that I have learnt to expect when I leave for the ship.
The first thing is usually my wife’s aggression about a week before I sail. This one is always upsetting, but I am learning that there is a certain way people deal with this job. I am not sure why it happens, maybe it’s the realization that she will be stuck “home alone” for six weeks and is more edgy. Maybe it’s a way to hide the fear of being alone. I am not sure, but there is certainly something there.
The kids well, there is no difference there. There is usually a pattern of unusual occurrences when I leave. The eldest, although not as much lately, will of course become defiant. Dad’s not around so he gives mom a tough time for the second week I am away. First week usually seems ok; I always leave, giving him the “you’re the big man around the house” responsibility speech, so maybe that helps defer the angst a bit.
The middle one is more worrisome, because he generally is a happy go lucky little guy. But he’s not able to articulate his feelings. This is not good, as they end up coming out as anger and tears over the smallest things. Funny how that is. After quite some time going to sea, I could see a subtle pattern emerge, however it was really tough to nail down what the cause of it. We’ve been practicing expressing the root cause of his outburst s when I am home, and finally, this last time leaving, I believe we have some kind of breakthrough. He finally admitted that he misses me when I leave.
The youngest one, like his eldest brother also has a predictable reaction to my leaving for sea. However, he has more of a physiological response to my leaving. Usually the first week I leave, or the first week I am back, he will pee the bed at night; probably twice, most likely once. It is unlike him typically to do this, whatever that typical life of a sailor is, but… yeah, it is strange to see such a physical response. The usual response you would expect is more moods and feelings.
Leaving for sea as a professional sailor is not for the faint of heart and it doesn’t just affect the individual. There is a pretty dramatic roller coaster of emotions and physiological responses one can expect during these times from those around them. This challenge, yet another we deal with every day at sea, is another aspect of the job few think about.
Whatever you do, don’t ever, ever, mention anything relating to PMS, when dealing with these challenging situations. That was an easier lesson to learn, one I learned quickly… for once.
Pictures from the interwebs