10 Things NOT to Say to an Oilfield Wife
1. “Oh. He works in oil …?” This is usually followed by unsolicited environmental or political opinions. Sooo, lemme just stop you right there. Unless I ask you for your opinion, please don’t give it. Personally, I love a good debate, and (surprise!) I may actually agree with a lot of what you have to say, but if you don’t know me well? Don’t start. Chances are, I told you because you asked why my husband is gone so much. Let’s leave it at that. Oh, and if the names Al Gore or Michael Moore leave your lips, I’m leaving.
2. “Isn’t that dangerous?” Yes, it is. Yes, it can be scary to think about. In the back of every oilfield wife’s mind is an incident, an accident, an explosion. Please, please don’t bring it to the front for me to obsess over for the rest of the day.
3. “What about sex?” Um, what about it? Not that it’s any of your business, but if that’s the backbone of your relationship, you’ve got other problems. A successful oilfield marriage depends on about a zillion things other than sex. Could your relationship go weeks or months without sex? No? Then maybe you should be congratulating me, or asking me for advice, instead of sticking your nose in our bedroom. And when he’s home? Ladybugs. Lots and lots of ladybugs. (If you don’t get the reference, go watch Under the Tuscan Sun with a box of tissue and a pint of your favorite ice cream.)
4. “Will he be home for Christmas / your anniversary / a birthday / the birth of a baby?” Two weeks on, two weeks off. If that date falls during his days off, yes, he’ll be home. If not? No, he won’t be home. I know this question is asked with love and good intentions, but it sucks. Please stop asking.
5. “You chose this, so you can’t complain about it.” Yes, we did choose this. Every single day he’s on hitch, my husband risks his life when he goes to work, to drill for the stuff that makes you comfortable. Oh, you don’t drive a car? Well, your bike tires, your phone, your insulated coffee cup, the soles of your shoes, your refrigerator … Guess what? They’re made with oil. My husband works hard to provide for his family, and that’s why he does what he does; that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
6. “What do you do while he’s gone?” In a nutshell? Try to stay sane. I’m sure there are a handful of oilfield wives out there who wonder what to do when their husbands are away, but I don’t know any! As for me, I have to be two people: Mama and Dada. Cook and handyman. Boo-boo kisser and boogeyman chaser. Trust me, I stay busy. Maybe too busy. Do I get lonely? Yes. Do I get bored? No.
7. “You must really miss him.” DUH.
8. “Well, I’m sure you’re used to him being gone all the time by now.” Yes, in the 7 years my husband has been roughnecking, I’ve learned to deal with certain things a bit better. And as a mama, I know that there are activities and routines that will help a hitch go by more quickly, but you never get used to weeks away from the love of your life.
9. “One time, my husband had to go away for a weekend business trip. I understand!” No, you don’t. This is our life. A business trip here and there isn’t the same. Did your husband work 12+ hours a day, with no weekends? Could he call you pretty much anytime he wanted? Did he sleep in a comfortable bed? Aaaand, he probably hardly had to pay for any of that. So, I’m sorry … whatever sense of camaraderie you’re trying to forge between us isn’t going to happen that way, because I’m shooting invisible needles out my eyes at you right now.
10. “I don’t know how you do it; I couldn’t.” This is supposed to be a compliment. And maybe it is. But the reason it also bothers me a bit is because it’s almost always that, and nothing more. Don’t just remind me how hard I have it, offer to help! We oilfield wives have no built-in support. No bases or posts. No family readiness groups. No official spouse’s clubs. What we do have are challenges. Lots of ’em. A freezer meal, a few hours of free babysitting, a care package for my husband, a coffee or play date. Heck, give me a hug and tell me I can call you anytime, day or night. The smallest gesture of support and friendship can mean the world.
So now that you’re stressing, because you’ve said one, four, all of the above things to an oilfield wife in your life — don’t. We still love you. And now you know.
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Katie lives in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where she raises her sweet daughter, Maile, who will be 2 in the spring! Katie has been married to the love of her life for going on 6 years; every one of those years as a roughneck wife. The family also includes two spaniels, and a very persnickety old cat. Katie spends most of her time reading books with her little one, going down the slide at the park 10,000 times, painting and playing pretend, and dreaming of growing all her own food. You can also find her at her family lifestyle blog, Standpipe and Sprinkles.