We have this imaginary depository account called “The Marriage Bank”. This idea evolved from one of those poorly written sitcoms with an average looking middle aged husband and a beautiful (and inexplicably younger) wife that were popular in the early 2000s.
The gist of it is this: You make a deposit into the marriage bank by doing something that helps your spouse out, and then, later, you can cash that in by doing something that is a little bit selfish. I understand that most marriage counselors would say this is a tit-for-tat, laundry list type of system that is unhealthy and destructive. I say it works for us. We are two independent people with an accidental family who need some time to ourselves. Frequently. And, this way, we can take that time semi-guilt free.
Let me give you some examples. Riley might take the kids for an afternoon of swimming while I stay home and read and sleep and watch Kimmy Schmidt (side note: Titus Andromedon is, without a doubt, the best supporting character since Karen Walker). Then, that evening, he would cash in that deposit and go have a beer with his friends. Or, I might go ahead and save up. For instance, I could spend a week or two trying to make Riley’s life as easy as possible in exchange for an overnight trip to my old college town getting psychic readings, drinking local beer, and spending a night sleeping without the dread that every parent has: being awaken from REM by a whining child. (Ironically, this dread actually leads to never entering REM because you are too worried about being suddenly torn out of REM. Vicious cycle with the end game being sleep deprivation.)
Currently, I am making the largest deposit into our marriage bank in all of the history of our marriage bank. I am in Minnesota. Living in a lovely three bedroom home with my mother-in-law. That has but ONE bathroom. With our three precious and precocious children. Without a spouse. Riley is settling into our spacious villa, sans children, in Saudi Arabia. He has ample time to get prepared for his new teaching job. There is a pool. There have been fun parties. He is meeting interesting, smart, dedicated people who may turn into lifelong friends. Just need to circle back quickly: I am not there and I have with me 3 lovable and loud children.
And, the kicker? This arrangement has no official end date, plus I will have the joy of flying to the Middle East with these 3 children in tow. Without Riley.
Getting to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a pretty big deal. Visas are not given for travel. We have been told that our parents might be able to get in, but not any other family. Visas, it seems, are also hard to get for children ages five, five, and three. So, Riley flew to Saudi Arabia on August 23, and I kid you not, as we drove to the airport, we noticed a bald eagle soaring gracefully along the interstate in a place where bald eagle sightings are rare. Like America was saying “So long, Riles.” Goosebumps.
Upon arrival, Riley needed to have a medical exam in order to get his iqama (residency). That was approved a day before the Eid holiday. The government office responsible for issuing his card, which is necessary to continue with the next steps in obtaining three visas for three little Lester-Worths, closed a day early for the holiday. Everything is closed for the week, setting us back a week.
Back here in Minnesota, we have endured bats in the house which is why we live in cozy bungalow that has only one bathroom now (and how I know that every single person needs a friend who grew up on a farm and thus is not afraid of nature’s most deplorable creatures), ear infections, a neighbor driving into our front stairs and knocking them down plus all the pleasure that comes with the intricacies of insurance policies, and co-sleeping, four deep, in a double bed.
***I should explain here that I am an introvert. We all know from the carefully researched memes we see on Facebook that introverts need to take breaks from people if they want to preserve their own sanity. I think my sanity is pretty important. Call me selfish. Being without Riley has highlighted how much I depend on him to allow me these breaks (or, in our case, withdrawals from the marriage bank). To get my “recharge the old social battery” time, I stay up late. So, imagine, if you will, my size 16 frame squeezed into that double bed with two five year olds and one three year old splayed about, waiting for them to fall asleep, all the while plotting my escape. I am sure when I leave that bed each night, it looks like a high stakes game of Twister. Or a scene out of a Mission Impossible movie, but without the grace and charisma of Tom Cruise.***
Now, we wait. On September 18, at the end of Eid, Riley can keep on working on those visas for the children. We have no idea how long that will take. Probably another couple weeks. I am hoping to be there by October. Riley is more optimistic and thinks by September 30. Either way, I am consumed with anxiety about making friends among friend groups that already exist and settling into a teaching gig where the students have already been in school for over a month. But, I am also really grateful that I have this extra time with my parents, my in-laws, my friends. I am grateful to be able to enjoy one more midwest autumn rather than a sweltering Saudi September.
But, mostly, I am grateful for our marriage bank. This deposit is going to pay off. Big.