The Foreign Service Journal, May 2011

F OCUS ON F ORE IGN S ERV ICE W ORK -L I FE B ALANCE N AVIGATING L IFE ’ S U NEXPECTED R EALITIES 44 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / M A Y 2 0 1 1 ix months ago, nearly to the day, our family embarked upon the adventure of a life- time: an unaccompanied tour. We had known for several years that a UT was in the offing, and finally decided dur- ing the summer 2009 bidding cycle that it was our turn for one. So my husband, Peter, with my blessing, set off on a yearlong tour in Iraq with nothing more than a bit of heavy-duty work gear, a fancy-pants laptop and a heavy heart. Not long after he arrived in Baghdad, I realized that even though we conversed regularly via Skype and our landline, we weren’t always connecting . It didn’t take me long to figure out that date nights could be arranged — they just wouldn’t nec- essarily involve a babysit- ter, Open Table reserva- tions and a gamble that we could snag good seats be- fore the movie started. Instead, those occa- sions would involve setting aside time that would be just for the two of us. We agreed we would not discuss work or home issues, and one of us might even enjoy a glass of wine during the conversation. Despite the fact that it was my idea, I bailed on the first attempt. How could I do it? How could it possibly work? We were 6,213 miles apart. Was I a complete moron for thinking I could pull off the creativity and outside-the-box thinking needed? We texted back and forth, but the date died before it started. He didn’t really have the time, and I didn’t have the guts to admit I was disappointed that I couldn’t live up to the new reality of our lives. After a restless night’s sleep, I realized that I was too busy comparing our new life to our old one. The problem was not the lack of his presence, but the lack of my un- derstanding that it could work — just not the same way. N O MATTER HOW CAREFULLY A FAMILY PREPARES FOR AN UNACCOMPANIED TOUR , LIFE HAS A WAY OF THROWING CURVES AT THEM . B Y J EN D INOIA S Jen Dinoia is the spouse of Peter Dinoia, a special agent with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, whom she has ac- companied to domestic postings in Virginia and Califor- nia and overseas postings in Caracas and Reykjavik. In addition to having worked overseas for the U.S. embassy in Caracas and at the International School of Iceland, she is a long-time volunteer with Associates of the Foreign Serv- ice Worldwide. She is the founder and moderator of the DS Spouse Yahoo group, and also moderates the Livelines listserv. The couple has three children. In her spare time, she can be found blogging at www.dinoiafamily.type