This post is pretty timely as my husband, Brian just spent almost a week out of town. This mama is exhausted! Like many families, I have a spouse that travels a good amount for his job. I’m not new to this as he has traveled for almost 10 years now-since my oldest was six months. When the kids were babies, these trips were HARD! Taking a shower was impossible and I was lucky enough if I ate a bowl of cereal for dinner. You get used to whatever the normal is but some of those days felt like years! Now that my kids are getting older (10, 8 & 4), it has gotten easier. But nonetheless, “solo parenting”, as its called these days is no joke!!
Since I’ve been doing this gig for a few years, I’ve realized what has worked for me and how to keep myself from going entirely crazy!
Keep it simple
The kids know that our meals are uncomplicated and simple when dad is gone. I am not trying out new recipes or making anything elaborate when he is away. No one minds! We stick to our favorites and rely on frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets more often than normal. I can also eat more salads and veggies than my husband would care to when he is home!
Find a support system
Form a mom/dad tribe. Get to know your neighbors, moms in the community and school. If you are lucky enough to have family nearby, they will be your saving grace! It is so helpful to have good friends and family that can help you in a pinch. I have gotten over the guilt of having to ask friends to help with car pools and watching one of my kids for a quick appointment. I’ll happily help a friend do the same-we are all in this mom life together!
Seek out good help
Despite what you see on social media and TV, we really can’t do it all! I’ve let go of my own expectations to have a perfectly clean house, all the kids well fed and cared for and take on all the chores my husband might usually do around the house. The reality is, most times no one is coming to my house when my husband is gone. So making sure it is perfectly maintained is not always my priority.
That being said, I have come to know and love my cleaning lady! Yes it is an indulgence and not something everyone can do. But I would gladly give up a new outfit or a daily cup of Starbucks to have some help lighten my load.
Also, I have come to realize that a reliable babysitter is so valuable. When the kids were younger, I would feel so guilty about having to hire a sitter when my husband was gone. But I am realizing that this is just the season of life we are in. I am getting close to the point that I don’t need to hire a sitter if I have to run out for anything. So I know that it is not forever. Babysitting is not cheap these days but sometimes it is so necessary. I don’t always want to drag all my kids out of the house in the evening for the fourth night in a row if one of them has an activity. I’ve had friends that had consistent help a few nights a week to be another set of hands when their spouses are away and I think it’s a great idea!
Schedule something fun
When the kids were smaller, it was a lot more work to get out of the house. The days seemed to go on forever and I craved adult interaction. I found that when I scheduled playdates or met friends out, time went by much faster. Now that my kids are older, we are usually racing around in the evenings with their activities. So my days go much faster! But if the opportunity comes up to meet up with girlfriends in the evening, I do and I don’t feel guilty about it.
Something fun sometimes just meant us getting out to the gym day care! Mamas, the gym day care staff can become some of your favorite people! When my kids were little, they were scared and sad when I would leave them, but the staff at the gym was amazing and helped me get them to LOVE going to the gym. It’s easy to give up on this one if your kids don’t like it once or twice. But I’m telling you that you can get over that hurdle. Some of my kids closest friends are buddies they met there.
I’ve found staying in touch with my husband has helped me not feel alone in this parenting gig. I try to keep him in the loop about what is going on with the kids and my day. I find that if I keep him up to date throughout his trip, he doesn’t feel so out of loop when he gets home. It’s easy to get in a trap of feeling like you are alone in parenting, so I’ve really had to be sure to make sure I’m keeping my husband connected with our lives back at home.
The kids also like to stay in touch with dad as they always miss him a ton! Facetime is a wonderful invention!
Get out for some alone time
Finally, I find it helpful if I am able to get time by myself out of the house after my husband returns. I’m not gonna lie, after an especially long trip, I can be a “bit” grumpy. I feel like the world was falling on my shoulders and I need to decompress and regroup.
This is sometimes as little as a trip to the grocery store unencumbered. Or a walk around the block. But I really need this time to recharge so I don’t take my frustrations out on my husband when he returns.
After we’ve both rested up after his trip, it is always fun to get on a date night! We always need the time to catch up and have some fun.
A traveling spouse is not easy for anyone! I give a lot of credit to my husband for having early morning flights and late evenings. I get both sides of the story!
Would love to hear any comments on how you stay sane if you have a spouse that works long hours or travels!!