Which is why, when I was sick with a stomach bug last week, at the same time that our baby son had a temperature that would not go away, he refused to let my husband take a day off or even leave work before he had completed his usual 14-hour day.
On one particular day last week, when both my son and I were particularly ill, Sam repeatedly asked the captain if he could leave early to care for us. He had finished everything on his desk for the day, and had arrived at work by 4am that morning. Come 5 o'clock, Sam approached the captain for the last time and said, as he had several times before that day, "Is it okay if I leave early? My wife and son are really doing poorly." And the captain replied, "Yes, you can go. As soon as you do x, y, and z." Which kept Sam on the boat until after six o'clock.
Meanwhile, I was hugging the toilet bowl. My feverish baby boy was crying because he was eating alone and could hear me being sick in the next room. And given that we just moved to the area and know nobody, there was nobody but my over-compromised husband to help. The rage and the anguish become too much sometimes.
What gets me the most is this: Sam has no entitlements for sick days or paid family leave. Whether he gets to leave the boat at all lies entirely at the discretion of his higher ups. The Family Medical Leave Act is yet another national regulation from which the military is exempt. The unspoken assumption is that spouses - wives, really - are the ones who will shoulder the burden of caring for their families. This is not only impossible, but it is so deeply unfair.
And to top it all off, today - one of our last Saturdays together in a long while - Sam had to spend the entire day on the boat filling in for the captain, who needs to care for a sick relative. I think that next time I see him, I won't even say anything, not even hello, to avoid even giving him the dignity of being acknowledged.