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The Offshore Wife
by Suzette Camacho
In Social Studies, we learn about the types of families. The Nuclear Family, The Extended Family, The Single Parent Family. Then there is one type that is not labeled by many but is most common in Trinidad’s society. The Offshore/Long Distance Family. Many husbands choose a career in the oil and gas industry to better support their families financially and which requires them to be away for long periods of time, leaving their wife to take control of parenting, managing household and finances. I call them the “Offshore Wives”. I am one of them and humbly agree that this role is quite similar to that of a Single Parent.
Does Life Stop When They Are Gone?
We have to ensure that once the husband is away, we must maintain continuity for the children as well as for us as wives. The same traditions, same routines, outings, events and everything else in between should always go on as planned. We must always participate with our children in all events, represent our husbands proudly in their absence and be a driving force in our household. This way the children have a sense of normalcy to their daily lives. Be a strong multi-tasker, always be strong for our kids and represent a father’s strength when dealing with our children. Let’s not deprive them from participation and involvement when their dad is offshore. Do not keep them away from the limelight on account of his absence. Do everything with them as if he were home! It’s difficult to manage it all, but it’s an adjustment that women must make to maintain stability. This may require some extra strength and stamina, but it’s all a sacrifice for a better standard of living and being a good support for your husband.
How Do We Keep The Communication Regular?
Today’s technology allows us the convenience to communicate with our loved ones from basically any part of the world. Offshore communication is no exception. Ensure that once your hubby arrives at destination that you determine the time difference between Trinidad and where he is. Discuss with him reasonable call times based on his work schedule and work out a routine of calling whether it is every day, once per week or in between. Try to clear a spot out of your day to facilitate this and ofcourse this should be conducive to the kids’ availability as well. Nothing is more effective than video calling via Skype, Gmail, Facetime to name a few. Having the children see their father regular via video chat and exchange affection as well as conversations about their day/week is so important to help the children cope emotionally with their dad being away. Other forms of communication such as emailing letters, pictures, recording special moments via video cam and sending via email all help with keeping that bond strong. Another great way to save memories/moments missed by dad is for the kids to keep a video journal or a written journal of every special moment that occurs and present it to dad when he returns. There is also Facebook which is great way of sharing photos, and everything else you wish for your husband to see whilst he is offshore, he can just a “Facebook tag” away!
Are We Single Moms in our Own Right?
We function similarly to a single parent when our husband is gone. Meaning our tasks are operated solely by us and we cope with parenting on our own when he is away. But our children know that Dad is away for work and that he will be back home. The emotional mindset is very different for an offshore wife and her kids compared to a Single Mom and her kids.
What Happens when Dad returns home?
Here’s what we don’t do as wives. We do not lay a list of things to do on Dad as soon as he walks through the door. We do not complain about everything negative that happened in his absence. We do not make him feel any less of a father/husband by telling him that he missed this and missed that. He already knows what he missed! What we should do is always have a welcome home meal for Dad with a nice dessert and even a homemade poster from the kids saying “Welcome Home”. We must have quality family time with Dad through some easy and restful movie nights and some chill time at home. Dad is also tired from a long stint offshore, and he misses home a lot, so we should allow him time to rest and relax. Once a few days passes and Dad gets over the jetlag and exhaustion, we can then get into a healthy family routine of daily tasks, outings and other family commitments that Dad would be a part of. Dad should also catch up on the kids with their schoolwork, extra curricular and everything else that needs his attention as a parent.
Keeping the Romance Alive
Always remember to keep that flame burning in these types of relationships! Have date nights as often as babysitting permits. Do something fun together that you both enjoy like going out dancing or for nature walks, or having a romantic trip to the beach alone. Cook meals together. Spend quality alone time talking, cuddling and catching up on what was missed. Be spontaneous and spark up the passion by creating little surprises for him.
Lost Birthdays and Christmases
If hubby is not here for special days such as Birthdays and Christmases, celebrate it before he leaves or after he comes home depending on the dates. Create the atmosphere with birthday cake or Christmas presents opening. Who doesn’t love many birthday celebrations or opening presents more than once for Christmas? Save some memories for dad and also celebrate with the kids on the actual days as well with some help from video chat so Dad can also be a part of it from offshore.
Giving Dad The Credit He Deserves
We women tend to be a bit selfish and emotional at times when the going gets tough and we have to cope with everything when our hubbies are offshore. We may vent to others, vent to hubby himself and sometimes even take out frustration on the kids as well. It can be a crazy rollercoaster of highs and lows, but we must always remember:
- He is sacrificing a lot being away from his family and losing time
- He is living a large amount of time away from the comforts of his home
- He is working in a hazardous industry and is taking many risks for his family
- He is alone out there whilst we are at home with the company of the kids.
- He stays focused on his job and is very hardworking
- He is an expert at what he does and is respected in the industry
We should always be proud of our husbands and stay positive for them, giving them the support they need.
We aim to create awareness via a network and share info with all parents on what Trinidad has to offer regarding raising your children in this beautiful country. And believe me there's lots we don't know of!