- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Sometimes when Inman Floyd returned from a particularly long trip, he wouldn't go home right away.

"I used to stop short of home, instead of going home at 3 o'clock in the morning or 5 o'clock in the morning, being on a different sleep pattern," says Mr. Floyd, who lives in Graniteville, S.C. He is a driver-recruiter and former driver for Interstate Van Lines.

"I would literally shut it down," he says. "I'd park the truck away from home and actually leave and do something for an hour or two just to wind down. When you stay out three to five weeks at a time, sometimes I'd be a different person that I really didn't want my children to see when I got home."

Spouses who travel frequently for their jobs often find it hard to readjust to life at home when they have been gone for weeks or months. Such spouses and the wives or husbands at home say they struggle with breaking established routines in the home and how to get the traveling spouse used to being around the children again and vice versa.

"When I come back home from out of town, I'm a family man," says Michael Hawkins, a driver for Interstate Van Lines who lives in Springdale, Md., and has two children, Michaela, 7, and Michael Jr., 3. "The first thing I do is go hug everybody and give them hugs and kisses, and then we go out and have a good time with the kids."

Janet Ragsdale's husband, Scott, is a submarine sonar technician for the Office of Naval Intelligence and can be deployed for months at a time.

Mrs. Ragsdale says it takes a while for him to readjust to his three sons Christopher, 11, Brandon, 9, and Alex, 7 when he comes home. It can take a few days just to fill him in on everything he has missed, she says, because she is severely limited in what she can communicate to him while he is at sea.

"Sometimes I feel like the kids are growing up without a father, because they've lived a lot of their life without their father," says Mrs. Ragsdale, of Landover. "It's been difficult for them, but they've grown up that way, so they've become used to it as much as they can. They have emotions each time he leaves and each time he comes back, so we're always in a period of adjustment.

"We have pizza night whenever he comes back, but it takes a while to get used to," she says. "We also found we rediscover him, and that's how we keep it together. It's an exciting time for us. It can be a nervous time, too. But the opportunity to rediscover your partner is an eye-opening experience at times. As time goes by, there are changes that we aren't even aware of. We notice things we never noticed before."

Mr. Ragsdale says there is no easy way to readjust to life at home, particularly because he sometimes feels like a visitor in his own home.

"As far as how the house is done, she's in charge," he says. "When I come home, I visit. I hate to say it like that, but you have to have a routine, and you merge into that routine."

Danielle Anderson of Upper Marlboro, whose husband, Garth, is also a sonar technician for Naval Intelligence, says the hardest part of having her husband on shore leave is trying to figure out where they fit into each other's lives.

"There's a whole readjustment period," says Mrs. Anderson, who has a 9-year-old son, Nicholas. The Andersons are expecting their second child in September. "For the most part, you have the house to yourself and your own way of doing things, a system. The daily grind is a certain way, and when they come home, it changes."

One thing Mrs. Anderson says she and her husband have stressed is that Mr. Anderson does his share of disciplining when he is home so Nicholas doesn't develop a warped view of eitsher parent.

"We don't want Nick thinking Daddy is the good parent, and I'm the bad parent," Mrs. Anderson says.

Mr. Anderson says another way he and his wife have maximized his shore-leave time is periodically evaluating their relationship and refocusing on their priorities.

"Sometimes we kind of lose track of that," he says. "I told a friend once we can't do this for so long and keep putting things aside. We have to take time to deal with them once in a while."

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