When a spouse travels for work, much of the parenting falls on the partner left behind. This can be challenging for both parents and confusing for the children. Ease the stress with mindful planning and communication.
Have a family calendar displayed prominently in the house where your children see it every day. As soon as dad books his travel, put it on the calendar. Give your children a tour of the calendar and encourage them to look at it daily. Using a globe or a map is also a fun way to show them where daddy is going.
Try to ensure that the last meal he eats before leaving is also a family sit-down meal, whether it’s breakfast at 7 a.m. or dinner at 4 p.m. Remind your children of daddy’s departure. As a family, talk about where he’s going, what he’s doing, and how you will celebrate when he returns. Also, figure out a time each day that your husband and children can video chat. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day, but consistency does help to keep everyone from forgetting.
Make it fun
Invite your girlfriends (with or without children) over for dinner. Take your children on more “dates” such as the zoo or your favorite cafe. Eat the foods your husband doesn’t like. Take a day trip if your children like the car, and if they are the kind who fall asleep easily in the car, plan to come home around bedtime so you can skip the whole routine!
Keep it simple
Are you familiar with the acronym KISS? It stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don’t forget to KISS! Prepare simple meals such as grass-fed hot dogs and cherry tomatoes, fried eggs and orange slices or roasted chicken and sautéed greens. Kids like simple foods anyways, and your waistline may thank you. Plan to do less than usual and give yourself double the time for just about everything. If your husband usually helps with the bedtime routine, and if your kids are anything like mine, expect it to take twice as long.
Take care of yourself
In order to parent by yourself and stay healthy and sane, you will probably need an earlier bedtime and more “me time.” Instead of folding laundry or paying bills after the children fall asleep, take a bubble bath and read a book or watch a movie. You need downtime in order to function the next day. Happy mom = happy kids. Put off as many of your responsibilities as you can until your husband returns and then schedule time on the weekend to take care of these tasks while he makes up for lost time with the children.
Make sure you connect with your husband every day while he is gone without the children hanging onto your every word — preferably while they are sleeping or otherwise occupied. I like to do this right before bed. Share the highlights of your day and ask questions about his. Send picture messages and text messages as often as you can. Use modern technology to your advantage.
Ask family and friends for help when you need it. People want to help you. Let them. If you don’t have family or friends within close proximity, hire help. Many neighborhoods have email message groups now. Google yours and join up. This is a great way to find local babysitters, mother’s helpers (who charge the fraction of a sitter) and cleaners. You can even connect with other mothers in the same situation who may want to share in the childcare duties.
Above all, don’t feel guilty if you feed your kids popcorn for dinner or drop them off late at preschool. Motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint, and we all need some breaks once in a while.