Whether you stay at home with your kids, or work during the day, life is just a BIT more complicated when your spouse travels for work. Suddenly, your parenting partner is unavailable during evening hours, and your kids are missing their daddy (all while YOU are missing your spouse!).
A traveling spouse means you’re IT. You and the kids are on your own for meals, activities, bedtime and emergencies.
Per Murphy’s Law, SOMETHING unplanned will happen. At our house, it’s usually a sick child. I’m not sure how this happens, but literally, the moment my husband’s plane leaves the ground, one of my previously healthy children falls ill.
Almost. Every. Time.
Weeks without daddy can be especially difficult when a child is ill. Now, no one is getting out of the house. This means no adult interaction for the mama, and no alternative entertainment from friends, family, school, or activities.
Whether everything goes as planned, or not, here are some practical tips for thriving when we’re the one on our own with our little ones.
7 Tips For Moms While Your Spouse Travels For Work
1. Practice Gratitude
I know, I know, you’ve seen me write this before. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but for me, it’s crucial. My situation looks mighty different when I look though a lens of gratitude for all the blessings God has provided to our family, and specifically, to me.
When the weeks or days (or HOURS) get long, remember to be grateful that your spouse HAS a job (hopefully one they enjoy and are challenged by). Savor that your kids are amazing, and that you have the chance to see them every day (and acknowledge that your traveling spouse does not get to).
If you’re a stay-at-home mama, be grateful YOU CAN. It is a special privilege not given to many.
2. Be Flexible
When my husband will be gone, activities have two purposes: to entertain the kids and to give me a little break. Our schedule is selective and is sometimes designed specifically to save my sanity. But, even a well planned schedule has pitfalls; illnesses and cancellations happen. I can’t rely on a carefully planned schedule alone to carry me through the week.
It can be disheartening when you can’t go to activities. WHEN it happens, remember that as the parent, YOU are the one who sets the tone. Bad attitudes are particularly infectious.
BRIEFLY acknowledge your own disappointment and theirs. Console. Then, adapt and move on. SHOW your kids how to be flexible. Even if you ‘fake’ a good attitude at the beginning because you are discouraged, as they cheer up, so will you.
3. Soak It Up
When one parent is gone, you’re IT. You are on-demand. You are needed and wanted possibly more than you’d rather.
When daddy is gone, my kids are more attached to me than usual. They have been known to start getting upset when I leave the room for just a second, and suddenly a bathroom break causes chaos. Sometimes all that attention makes me want to just run away and find a closet to hide in. Even for just. ONE. minute.
When I feel smothered, it helps to remind myself that the kids miss their daddy, and that I need to extend extra grace. I intentionally lower my voice and try to speak gently, even when I’m feeling emotionally raw. I do my best to welcome their requests to be close (as in hugging-my-leg-the-entire-time-I-make-dinner ‘close’). The more available I am, the better their behavior, overall.
So, set those dishes down, leave the crumbs on the floor, and let those little ones climb into your lap. Read to them until you’re hoarse. Love them up, and enjoy every second of it. It may sound cliche, but it really WON’T be this way forever. Do whatever you have to do to remind yourself that these moments are fleeting, even if they feel like they’re taking For..ever.
Let their demand for more of you FILL your soul rather than drain it.
4. Check Your Perspective
During a two-week stretch when the kids and I were all sick and stuck inside, I had a moment of intense jealousy of my traveling husband.
Sure, traveling to Bangkok may sound glamorous, but 30+ hours of travel in a MIDDLE seat, then enduring wicked jet-lag, and FULL days of business meetings (with maybe 2 hours of sight-seeing during an entire week) is just NOT enviable…THEN traveling to Amsterdam with full days of meetings, even more jet-lag for another week, (also with little-or-no sightseeing)…THEN coming home to sick kids and a sick wife….taking care of them while enduring MORE jet-lag….IS. NOT. FUN. It just isn’t. Then after one day home (taking care of us), he was back at work, exhausted, and bombarded with people and problems who needed him. NOW.
My jealousy was absurd and unfair. My bad attitude didn’t help me be patient with the kids (which is why one of my first blog posts was about patience), and I felt drained, cranky and tired. If you start to feel this way, and you think life is more pleasant for your traveling spouse, step back and be honest about what traveling for work is REALLY like. Trust me, the grass is NOT greener on the other side and it isn’t as glamorous as you may assume.
Kick that jealousy to the curb and be grateful you endured your week without jet-lag, and that you slept in your own comfy bed.
5. Stay Connected
Whether you are getting out of the house or not, find ways to stay connected with your spouse, friends and family. Set phone and skype dates with your spouse and KEEP THEM (even if just for 5 minutes). Do the same with friends if you can’t get out because your kids are sick. When healthy, accept invites with friends and setup play dates, or meet a friend to go for a walk or to the park. If you have family in the area, quality time with beloved grandparents, aunts and uncles can work miracles with children who miss their daddy and need some extra loving. And, don’t let being BUSY while your spouse is gone deprive you of your quiet time with the Lord. Staying connected there will remedy a whole lot of problems and leave you feeling refreshed in the midst of what may be chaos.
6. Find An Outlet
Regardless of your next ‘break’ out of the house, you need to find something that gives you a ‘mental’ break. FIND an outlet that energizes and restores you. Look for something to learn, read, do, make, exercise or play. Doing something productive is always a bonus and mood booster.
For me, one of the things that came out of my husband’s travel is this blog. The blog was and IS STILL a necessary outlet for me to write down thoughts. It encourages me to DO something productive and stop vegging out on the couch, eating junk food, and watching garbage TV at night. I do hope you enjoy reading this, but in reality, this blog is for ME (Selfish, I know). I’ve also found an outlet doing some part time work from home, and in craft or DIY projects while the kids are asleep.
7. Ask For, and Accept Help
This is not one of my strong suits…but important to acknowledge and DO! We all need help. Admit it. Accept it. Ask family, friends, or hire a baby sitter if you have to. When someone offers, take them up on it. Also check around your community for other forms of help:
- Check into events that can lighten your load: See if your church, (or a local church near you) does a meal any night of the week – they often have children’s programming that the kids can attend for FREE. Everyone benefits.
- Utilize the child care at your gym to give yourself an hour break and to work out: Your body and attitude will thank you.
- Consider identifying a daycare source if you need somewhere for the kids to go in a pinch: There are some pay-by-the hour places, and some companies have backup daycare for children of employees. Get the paperwork in order, so it is available if you need it.
- This might be a good time to take advantage of ECFE, Parks and Recreation, and Community Education programs in your area.
- Check out things like open gym, open swim, or other similar activities that can let your kids play while you watch, sipping a coffee.
At times, the schedule may seem grueling and the days may sometimes feel like they go on forever, but we can still do our job as a mom WELL and enjoy it whether our spouse is in town or not. The trips aren’t stopping for us anytime soon, so I would love to know your best tips. What do you do to make the most of the days when you’re on your own with the kids?