My husband travels for work, a lot. His trips are long, 2 weeks or more, they come often, sometimes month after month, and they usually take him to the other side of the world.
When he first took this job 2 years ago I suffered–and just barely survived while he was gone.
But, other these 2 years our little family has lived through many long trips. I spent a good deal of time crying on the phone to him (admittedly) but I can honestly say things are going better–and they are going better because I have discovered a few ways to not only survive his trips–but to THRIVE when my husband travels.
In case you are in a similar situation, here is what I have found works for us:
1. If you can, Travel Yourself
My husband had been kicking around the idea of taking this job full of travel for several months, but due to my adamant resistance hadn’t moved on it. He began pursuing other opportunities and then one morning I came across a picture of my nephew, who lives near my parents and their farm, out helping my dad with the cattle. The pride on that little boy’s face reminded me of my own farm-filled childhood.
From the beginning I have struggled with the idea of raising my kids in the suburbs. How will they ever get to know and love the farm like I did? I don’t want my kids to be afraid of cattle or inexperienced in climbing hay bails or navigating electric fences. But how would they acquire theses skills in the suburbs?
And then it hit me–maybe there would be some benefits to Bill traveling–and if he was going to need to travel, won’t it be better to travel now, before any of our kids were in school–when I was still free to leave myself?
So, in the end I actually encouraged him to take this job, even though I knew he would be leaving me with new babies and irrational toddlers.
Especially during those golden summer months, I pack up the kids as my husband packs his suitcase and we head to the farm for 2 solid weeks of dirt, fun, cousins, tractor rides, pasture picnics and wild cat taming.
If you don’t have this kind of freedom, I have found that I at least need to travel on the weekend. It is one thing to be stuck at home, alone, on a Monday night. It is completely different to be living this lonely reality on a Saturday night. Raise mobile kids. The effort it takes to get everyone out the door will be well worth it.
While he is gone, make your own memories and live fully.
2. Recognize the Benefits
I hate to say that their are benefits to my husband being gone, but there are.
When my husband is home the worst hour of everyday is that hour I spend making supper/holding a hungry baby/yelling at toddlers/going insane. And then there is the circus of getting everyone fed, and cleaning up…
But, when he’s gone on a trip I release myself from all this stress.
The kids want peanut butter and jelly for supper? Cool. I’ll slap together some sandwiches and we’ll eat at the park. I’ll eat the same salad I’ve had for the last 5 meals. No dishes to clean up and tired kids ready to climb into bed when we get back. Score. Let’s do the same thing tomorrow.
3. Don’t Listen to the Critics
When Bill is gone I get a lot of sympathy. A lot. And you know how helpful that is? Not at all.
Alone with 3 little kids–that must be so hard! I would be so jealous of him! There is no way I would let my husband do that!
Yup, I get it, this isn’t ideal and in fact a lot of time it totally sucks but you pointing that out doesn’t help at all. You know what would be more helpful–offering to take the kids for an hour so I can get some groceries, or meeting us at the park for some fun distraction. My husband isn’t a bad guy and he isn’t doing this traveling thing out of selfishness so please, keep your commentary to yourself.
I already struggle with bitterness. I don’t need your comments to fan the flames. Please stay positive with me. I am working very hard to do that myself.
4. Go to Bed on Time
When my husband is gone I stay up so late. I think it’s because I hate going to bed by myself (I’m a scared cat) and when I haven’t had a break from the kids all day I just love those post-bedtime moments.
But, when I stay up until 2am and the kids get up at 6am…you can just imagine what a great mom I am. And, without a husband coming home to give me a break it’s a long time until bedtime…
5. Share all these Good Things with your Husband when He Calls
And here is where I fail. Yes, I have figured out ways to laugh and thrive with my kids while my husband is gone, but then he calls and tells me about the fabulous food he is eating and exotic things he is seeing sometimes all I can do is complain.
I list all of the times I got woken up last night, all of the tantrums, all of the new teeth and accidents and failures. It’s like I want to suck all of the joy out of his experiences by poisoning it with guilt over leaving me.
And that is often exactly what happens.
Sometimes I fail to tell him any of the good things. And we hang up both feeling miserable.
But leaving out the fun, the joy and the laughter is really a lie. He is my husband and the father of my children. Our joys are his joys and I have no right to withhold these joys from him.
Also he isn’t off on vacation. Sure he is gone, but he is working very hard and has a lot to complain about himself. He is jet-lagged and dealing with difficult co-workers, language issues, too much work and dirty hotel rooms. He is happy to allow me to vent–but he needs more than that from me. And I need to get over my own issues and give that to him.
6. Stay Busy
There is a reason why I have been blogging in earnest for 2 years–and why my husband has had this job for as long. I need something to distract me. I need a part of my life that doesn’t revolve around his travel schedule.
And in so many ways this blog as been my saving grace during his long business trips. I often plan big projects or events for the weeks when he is gone. With my mind focused on something other than my usual poor-me mantra, I stay so much happier and healthier.
7. Stay Connected Through Prayer
I tease my husband that when he is sent to China, he is sent to the Iowa of China–but that’s not far from the truth. His company often times sends him to rural areas of these far-flung countries. For this reason we often struggle with communication, since we rely 100% of the internet to talk. A few of his trips we have barely been able to connect.
Those trips we couldn’t talk have been the worst–but they are so much harder for him than they are for me.
Without our daily FaceTime he is totally alone, surrounded by people that don’t speak the same language or co-workers who can sometimes be difficult.
During these periods of disconnection I have come to see how important prayer can be. He needs to be supported through prayer, as does our marriage. Even if we can’t talk there is a peace knowing that we are both reflecting on the same Gospel reading and there is a connection through our mutual prayer.
If your husband is also asked to travel for work, I hope that some of these tips help you not only survive while he is gone–but to thrive. It is always better to have dad home, but if he has to be away make sure the life you live with your kids is as fun and beautiful as possible.
All the best,
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