The Traveling Spouse
My hubby is a full time college hockey coach, and with his job comes traveling… lots and lots of traveling. Sometimes its planned & scheduled travel - other times its last minute. Sometimes we get to go with him- other times (most times) I choose to stay home. I’m often told by my friends, “I just don’t know how you do it.” And yes, I often find myself ‘feeling’ like a single parent. Or a maybe the term ‘solo parent’ would be better? But between the two of us, we have learned to make it work. Honestly- the real superhero parent’s out there are the ones who are single parents or those who have spouses in the military or some other job where they are gone for months & years at a time. There’s literally no way around it- the truth is- having a spouse who travels for work is HARD.
For us- Sometimes it’s two weeks in Alaska for a tournament, a short weekend away downstate or just a night here or there. No matter how long or short his trip is-being alone with my toddler can often times feel daunting. When I’m “solo parenting” that means that I’m the ONLY caregiver for her. We only have one kiddo so far, A 3 year old little girl- But when I’m alone with her for days on end- it leaves me exhausted, both physically & mentally. It leaves me feeling out of control & wishing there was someone I could “tap-out” with and say okay it’s your turn now!!
I used to be totally fine with my hubby traveling when we first got married. When we were dating he traveled a lot and I knew what I was getting into. But at that time it was just him and I. I was busy with a full time job (former massage therapist over here) and I’m one of those people who recharge by being alone, so- having a few days by myself here & there honestly helped me to refill my cup. It also gave me time to connect with my girlfriends, my family & people at our church.
Then I became a mama, a stay at home (eventually- a work from home -mama.) I used to cringe at the thought of my husband being gone for even just a night- in those first few new months of motherhood. I felt so much responsibility on my shoulders and I was worried about doing it all alone! I struggled with postpartum depression & anxiety, plus had some major health issues after I had her, so I was just a nervous wreck a lot of the time! We often move due to my hubby’s career so, we are usually far away from our family & their help. I now have become a pro at dealing with short-term solo motherhood, (did I just make up a new word?) I have found that I can more easily handle my husband’s work/travel schedule with some structure, planning & creativity on my part!!
things to do before your spouse leaves:
Tell the Kids about Travel Plans. I guess this is a no-brainer, but every time my husband travels he talks to our daughter, letting her know that he’ll be gone for a few days. She seems to understand this. He also tells her that she needs to “help take care of mom” while he is away. It seems to make her feel important and that she has a job to do!
Take your Spouse to the Airport. Whenever it’s possible, we try to make a family outing out of taking him to the airport. Our daughter loves our little small town airport and it seems to help her realize that he’s going away and that we will come back here to pick him back up.
Enlist Help. Before he leaves enlist and schedule some HELP! This option isn’t always available to all of us (myself included-since both sides of our family live several hours away), but if at all possible- consider asking your parents, your in-laws, or a trusted family friend to help out! I have found that my friends that have kids- GET IT! They know we all need a break sometimes! So we will do a trade off, you watch my kid today so I can rest or run an errand alone and I’ll watch yours tomorrow. There is also alway the option of paying for a babysitter for a few hours as well.
Spend Time Together. We do everything that we can to block off time the day before he leaves to spend time together, both as a family and as a couple. We try to play a board game, or watch a family movie together, have a nice meal and to be intentional of the time we do have with him. If I know he will be gone for a long time, I often try to get a babysitter and we go out to a dinner just the two of us before he leaves. Honestly- I need to be better at doing this, as it is so helpful for the both of us.
Let your Spouse know you Support them. How? As their spouse, only you can answer that question. My husband feels most supported when I tell him that even though we don’t like that he travels that we will be okay when he is gone. He likes knowing that I’m okay and that I can keep it together. He doesn’t want his traveling to feel like a burden to me. He also loves it when I randomly leave him a little card or note here and tell telling him how much we miss him. His love language is Words of Affirmation, so telling him we love and miss him, means a lot to him. (Again, I need to do this more!) Side Note- Do you know your spouse’s Love Language? Find it here.
things to do while your spouse is away
Coffee. Drink lots of Coffee. HaHa. I kid. I kid.
Wake Up before the Kiddos: I try to get up one hour before my daughter wakes up. Even if I’m sleep deprived, even if I am tired. (heck, Moms are always tired, anyway) I do this because I recharge by being alone. And I need/crave alone time. So, I will wake up early, I will workout, I’ll read, I’ll write and I will pray. I will make my coffee and I will drink it in peace. And I will breathe. This sets the tone for my day, and if I happen to sleep in and don’t get that hour to myself- I’m a mess. I feel like everything is chaotic and that I can’t control it. Getting up one hour before my child is my saving grace.
Streamline & Simplify. I do my best not to take on additional responsibilities, additional work or additional projects when I know he is going to be gone for a long period time. It just isn’t the right time for me to try to add on something else or something new- as that adds extra stress & anxiety onto my plate. The more simplified for me, THE BETTER! I’m not trying to be greedy with my time, but I kind of am! I know myself and I know that I tend to burn out rather quickly, so keep our little family unit running smoothly- I keep it simple!
Meal Prep. Make a ton of food ahead of time. If he’s going to be gone for the week- I precook all my meals in advance the day before he leaves. Then when I run out of options my go-to’s are - Healthy Fast Food (Think like Chipotle, Qdoba, Panera), Healthier Freezer Meal options., Crock Pot Meals, or Leftovers. These things keep me sane when he’s not here. When meals are quick & easy, it makes me feel like I have less to do, which, in turn, keeps my anxiety to a minimum! It also keeps me on track with my healthy eating lifestyle!
Get out of the House. Sometimes I find myself in a major funk- and then I realize that we’ve been stuck in the house all day. Especially in winter. So- I try my best to get out of the house at least once a day, even if it’s just running up to the grocery store or to the gas station. BUT I would rather find activities that wear my kid out! It’s better for the both of us!! So we go to an indoor playgroup, outdoor playground, ice skating, sledding, running, swimming. Just something that is active, something that gets the both of us moving & out of the house!
Treat yourself. I have not by any means mastered this, but it’s really helpful to figure out a way to treat yourself when your spouse is out of town. For some that might mean getting a babysitter one night and going out with a friend for dinner. For others it might mean a massage or a pedicure. Or it could mean just binge watching your favorite Netflix show or reading a book when your kiddos are in bed!! Whatever it is, find what you enjoy & make a habit of treating yourself while your spouse is away!
Communicate. We are so blessed to live in this era! I mean, seriously, what did people do 30 years ago! There are so many wonderful ways that we can keep in touch with each other while he is gone! My husband & I use FaceTime. We try to connect over the phone a few times during the day. He likes to stay in the loop with what we are doing here back home and it makes him feel connected to us. I let our daughter see & talk to him as well. It makes their relationship stronger & she just loves seeing him at the hockey rinks! It’s special connection for the both of them, and I am so thankful we are able to take full advantage of it.
Encourage your Spouse. Can you text them something sweet or encouraging? One thing I’ve learned about marriage is that it isn’t just about me. I know that my husband would rather be home with us, so I try to consider his side of things. I ask myself, “What would he appreciate in his day?” For him it’s little things. I send him photos of things we are doing, an encouraging message or funny meme. I try my best to respond to him with patience & grace when he says that he won’t be able to talk. It’s not always easy for us- but having a positive attitude can make a huge difference.
Start Bedtime Early. The most stressful time in our house seems to be bedtime & bath time. Everyone is tired and wound up, and crazy! Forcing my kid to sit in the tubby, wash her hair or brush her teeth can be exhausting. So- My secret weapon? Start bedtime early. The earlier we start it the better for all of us! She has a clear expectation of what is to follow and knows the routine. It always ends with watching one (short) tv show, reading a book, and then we go night night.
Reassure Your Kids. If it doesn’t cause an issue or make things worse on your end, remind the kiddos at bedtime that mom or dad will be back soon, and that she/he loves them. As they get older, kids can fill out charts or be reminded about how many more “sleeps” it is until dad comes home. Kids love schedules, reassurance and knowing what is to come. The thrive off of it. So be sure to reassure them.
Give Yourself Grace. There are times when I am completely spent from handling everything myself, and honestly, the last thing I want to do is to be a happy, supportive wife. All I want is my husband home & I want to tap out and run away. If I find myself in this mental state- grouchiness is sure to follow, which seems to just compound the problem. So, I try to be honest with myself, telling myself that it’s understandable and okay for me to feel this way. Journaling & praying (sometimes yelling & screaming outside) helps to keep my emotions in check.
Spend Time reading the Bible or Personal Development Books. My husband’s travel seems to bring out my own insecurities & anxieties that stem from my past. I was cheated on and lied to in almost all of my past relationships, so while I trust my husband 100%, my mind can play tricks on me. Which means that I need to spend time bringing those thoughts and insecurities to God & letting Him reassure me. Personal Development books often work in the same way. They are basically self help books that are amazing at giving me the pep talks that I need! If you would like a list of my fav ones, shoot me a message!
TRUST. With that being said. You need to trust your spouse. And your spouse needs to be able to trust you. With so much time spent away TRUST has got to be the most sacred thing between the two of you. This whole traveling thing would not work, unless we trust each other. Without it. There is nothing. Why do I trust him so much? He has proven to me time and time and time again that he is who he says he is, and that is does what he says he does. He has never ever given me a reason to doubt him, and I’ve never given him a reason to doubt me. I think it takes a special couple to be able to count on and trust while the other one is away. (I’ll have a whole different blog post on this subject soon!)
Things to do when your Spouse comes home.
Greet Them! Let them know how excited and happy you are to see them when they come home. Smile. Give them a hug. Let them know you are thankful for the sacrifices they make for the family. Plus, I know it just makes my husbands day when our daughter runs up to him yelling, “Daddy, daddy you are home!”
Plan Time Together. Again, just as before he left, we make sure to plan an at home meal together and spend time together as a family. I often want to run out of the house the moment he walks in and take a break, but I have to remember that he is exhausted too. We are a team. And we work better together.
Workout A Deal. Yes, your spouse is traveling for work, not pleasure. But, let’s face it, there are no red-eyes, business dinners, or conferences that can hold a candle to being home with the kids full time with little to no relief in sight. My husband pretty much gives me the mornings off when he’s in town. Sometimes it ends up being 15 extra minutes of shuteye, but not having to jump out of bed the second my kid wakes up, feels like a vacation to me!! He feeds her breakfast and gets her dressed for the day! He will also take care of the bath time routine so I can sit and relax for a half hour or so in the evening. There are other things he will do for me too, like taking her to the park to play for an hour or he will run her to the grocery store- just to give me a few moments alone. And it is glorious!!! Figure out what it is that will help you when your spouse gets back home-make sure they agree to it- and do it!
Having a spouse that travels can be a MAJOR stressor. Taking care of and treating yourself, while learning a few tricks to get you & your kiddos through the day is an important step. I think it’s equally as important to find ways to feel connected with your spouse when they are on the road. With a little planning and effort, surviving the day (or week) without your spouse can be done- especially when you both agree to care for each other when traveling and while at home.
Is there anything I left off or forgot? Do you have a spouse that travels? Do you have any tips or tricks that you implement in your household to make things run more smoothly while your spouse is away? Comment below!!