Thursday, June 26, 2014

How to Survive When Your Spouse Travels (and you've got the kids)

When Adam took his new position this past October one of the unexpected aspects of his job has been increased travel time. As the "natural gas expert" for his company, he is expected to oversee many of the projects in this relatively new area of development within his company which means traveling every so often. Add on attending conventions and other events where he gains more knowledge and networks within his field and we've got a frequent flyer on our hands. I traveled every so often for my job when we were pre-kids and although it was sometimes difficult to be away from each other for short periods of time, nothing prepared us for how children would make the separation more challenging. Coordinating bed times, meal preparation and just plain getting support and a bit of a break are all affected when he has to travel for work. So how does one cope? Here are a few of my learned lessons and input from Pierogie Mama readers too!

1. Reconnect a few times per day. This can be via a phone call, face time, Skype, or even exchanging a few wordless picture texts. This helps the traveller know that you miss them, keeps them in the loop of your day and connects your kids with the parent that they miss.

2. Jenne says "adjust your expectations. It is not practical or healthy to expect to be able to do everything with only one person running the show." We all try to be strong when our spouse is gone, right? I know I certainly try to fill in all the roles I can when he's away. What I quickly learned is just how burned out and cranky I became with my kids and that there simply is no way that I could continue to run our lives as it is when both parents are home. So cut back, even for a short period of time, and give yourself some slack. So the laundry sits for a few extra days or meals aren't up to par. It'll be back to normal in a few days :)

3. Help the kids understand what the separation means within their development level. Penny recently watched the Pixar movie "Planes" and is very much enamored with Dusty. When we were dropping Adam off at the airport we told her that he's going on a ride on Dusty and that Dusty will bring him home soon. I also pulled out a large map and put a sticky note with a drawing of our home where we are, and a cartoon of Daddy at his destination. We'd also sit in the room where the map is when we call, and we'd talk about where we are and where Daddy is.

4. Sneak a few goodies into the traveler's bag. Their favorite snack, a note stuffed into a sock, a new magazine, or even have your children send off a prized possession knowing that it'll be home soon. Gretchen suggests "We prepare by sending notes and surprises with daddy and he tries to leave behind the same."

4. Find helping hands. I take myself and the kids down to my parents house during my husband's travel. The extra hands are great, and it gives the kids some grandparent time. I always make sure that I sneak in a late afternoon nap while both girls are distracted by Babcia and Vovo ;) If family isn't available for a visit, think about scheduling play dates where you meet at your house and your girlfriend watches the kids while you chat and catch up on chores or asking if you can drop the kids off with her for an hour or two while you give yourself a break.

5. Start a tradition. This can be going out for ice cream half way through the travel, a trip to the zoo, read a special book or end each evening with a light hearted movie. This helps give yourself and the kids something to look forward to during the period of separation. We're not looking to throw a party once your spouse walks out the door, but it does help ease a bit of the loneliness by giving yourself something fun and rewarding for all the extra responsibilities on your plate for this time. At the start and end of each nap and bedtime I tell Penny how many sleeps are left until Daddy comes home, and by the end of the trip she'll be asking me before I'd even mention it!

6. Maintain traditions and routines too; Amy says "My husband does the whole bedtime routine each night so we try to call him around then and my son will read my husband a story on face time." Adam typically reads Penny her bed time stories, so when he is away I pull out our special recordable book that plays him reading a special story to her.

Travel for work is not easy for families; whether it's deployment, consistent or inconsistent travel. Each scenario has it's own set of issues that the parent staying behind and the travelling parent have to navigate through - but the important thing is to recognize where the difficulty lies and how you two can work together as a team to solve the problem.

How do you make it through a business trip when your spouse is away? 

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