Wednesday, January 16, 2008

the travel thing - WFMW

“How do you do it?”

I used to get asked this a lot. With three young children and a husband who constantly traveled, my tongue in cheek answer was, “Not very well.”

My husband no longer travels for work, but he was recently in Siberia for two weeks. He’s home again, thank the Lord, and we all survived just fine.

Here are a few survival tips:

Plan ahead. Make sure you take some time for yourself before your husband leaves. See a movie, go to Starbucks, whatever floats your boat. Schedule playdates for the kids. Trade babysitting with another Mom or hire a sitter once in awhile, for your own sanity. Making meatloaf? Lasagna? Sloppy Joes? Make extra and throw it in the freezer. You’ll have plenty of options for no-cook meals that don’t involve frozen pizza. (I’m not above serving my children frozen food once in awhile, but on an ongoing basis, it’s not good for anyone!)

Eat out. If you like to eat out and it’s not a stress on your family budget, do it. One of the things we found in the midst of our “travel days” was that my husband would come home tired after a long week, longing for a home-cooked meal and time with his family. On the other hand, I would be desperate to get out. Making sure we eat out a few times while he’s gone is a simple fix to this problem.

Stick to the routine. If your kids normally go to bed at seven, don’t keep them up until eight. Keep it simple and consistent.

Ask for help. If a friend calls and says, “Is there anything I can do to help?” say yes! Ask her to watch your kids for an hour or invite yourself over for dinner. At my house, dinnertime is the hardest time to be on my own. Often, we’ve been in the house together all afternoon, and sitting down at the table in the evening feels lonely. So call a friend! Find another Mom on her own for the dinner hour and invite her over for frozen pizza. And don’t clean up. Please, just leave all those toys right where they are. It will be a gift to her to know she is not alone.

Keep it positive. Don’t fall into the trap of self pity. Whether your husband is away on business or pleasure, own it yourself. I meet a lot of bitter, resentful Moms. I was one of them for awhile. Sit down with your spouse and negotiate. Rather than feel victimized, own the decisions you make together. If he travels constantly for work, let him know you need breaks and get them on the calendar. He can’t read your mind; you need to tell him exactly what you need. Looking at your calendar and seeing dates marked off for a weekend away or lunch with a friend can go a long way toward having a positive attitude.

Have fun. Sit down with your kids and play as much as you can. Remember those days before having kids when you thought about what it would be like to be a Mom? You didn’t think about the laundry and mopping the floor and vacuuming up goldfish, did you? I know I didn’t. Ignore the crunchy floor and sit down and play for awhile. Laugh a lot. It’s good for everybody.

Find support. Sometimes things fall apart. For this trip, I was doing fine until day ten. It all fell apart on day ten. Fortunately, we were already planning to go to Grandma’s house for supper. I dropped the kids off and left for awhile, then came back ready for round 2. If you need a break, find one. Don’t fall into the trap of yelling at your kids or overeating or drinking after everyone is in bed. Really. Lean into the support you have, create it if you don’t have it, and find a better way. There is a better way.

Does this post sound preachy? I’m not usually so preachy. If you need help finding support, please leave a comment or email me. I’ve been there.

For more tips, go to Rocks in my Dryer.

23 comments:

Sarah @ Ordinary Days said...

Great tips! My husband was in the Army for 6 1/2 years and then worked FOR the Army as a civilian for a couple of years. I'm pretty sure he has been gone more than he's been home. We also have three little ones: 4, 2 and 10 months.
Your ideas about support and getting time to yourself are so so so true!

clc said...

i'll second the motion. i find myself using all those tips while grant is away.

Mamabug said...

I think you need to be my new best friend... when are you moving to Dallas? : ) I can so identify with your writing. My hubby has been home a lot lately and I am just waiting/dreading the next trips around the corner. We're never quite sure how frequency or duration of the trips. We have 3 little ones as well. I don't have grandparents nearby (they are closer to you) but I do have a good friend to help out. Shoot, we order pizza together. One watches the kids while the other goes up to the corner to pick it up 12 minutes later.

Great tips! How old are your kiddos?

BTW, I am jealous of your Wii. I've never been so tempted to play/buy a video game console.

Mamabug said...

Sorry about that link. I copied the wrong thing. It's full of good laughs though. : )

Llama Momma said...

sarah -- I have enormous respect for the military and the spouses on their own while they are deployed. Thank you for the sacrifices you make for all of us.

clc -- all that and more, I'm sure!

mamabug -- I love our wii. My boys are 6, 6, and 18 months.

ValleyGirl said...

These are great tips! My husband is a middle distance trucker, so he's gone basically the whole week EVERY week. In two weeks, he's heading WAY up to the Northwest Territories to drive the ice roads and then he'll be gone for all of February and March. We did it last year and survived, but I think if I was a little more persistent at following these tips, we'd do better than just surviving!

Don Mills Diva said...

Those are great tips. My hubby works a lot and I actually enjoy being on my own now. It's kinda hard but I enjoy the solitary evenings after my son'd in bed. Three kids might be a different story though...

Ellen said...

Good tips. One thing I have learned to do when my husband travels is to start the bed time routine 15 to 30 minutes early. Bed time tends to be our rough spot in the day - it's the end of the day, I'm tired and oh-so-ready to have some down time.

I just can't get both kids ready for bed as quickly when I am by myself and if I get a little head-start, I'm not rushing (read: yelling at) the kids and the whole process goes much better. Of course, our kids are young enough that they don't notice the early start yet...

Mamabug said...

Speaking of the bedtime routine, when Daddybug is OOT, I have been known to give baths at 5pm then cook/pull out dinner. I have more energy at 5 than 7 and it changes up the mundane a bit.

Craver Vii said...

Not preachy. Simple, helpful, direct.

My wife has two close friends who have rescued her from insanity on more than one occasion. We didn't have that before, and it was hard for me to truly understand how badly she needed it, and I didn't know how to find those kinds of friends for her. We just felt "unlucky" that way for a long time.

A Musing Mom said...

What a great article! Now tell me you're sending this off to be published somewhere because there are even more people who could learn from what you've said.

Llama Momma said...

valleygirl -- your schedule sounds hard. Do you have friends you can turn to when things get tough? Do reach out. You'll not only find encouragement yourself, you will encourage others.

don mills diva -- I've got three and I enjoy those solitary evenings after the kids are in bed, too! It's just getting them there...

ellen -- I agree! We start bedtime super early here, too. Right after dinner, in fact!

Llama Momma said...

mamabug -- GREAT tip!

Craver -- We all need those friendships, but stay at home moms REALLY need them. I'm glad your wife was able to find women she could connect with. When we first moved here and the twins were babies, I was so lonely I called every woman in my church directory and invited her over for lunch, even if I had never met them. Only two people called back, but they're both friends to this day. :-)

Llama Momma said...

AMM -- I may try to re-work this for an article. Another friend sent me an email with the same advice! Thanks for your encouragement.

MamaToo said...

you're not preachy - you're practical! These are good tips, whether figuring things out for the first trip, or trying to fix bad habits. :) Thanks for the encouragement, as always.
-MamaToo

Gretchen said...

This is my first visit (via WFMW), and I really enjoyed myself. I, too, have a travelin' man, and I wish I had seen this post about 18 years ago. :) I am finally learning (the hard way, of course) that taking care of myself and saying "yes" to help is not a cop-out--it's what I should be doing in order for us all to thrive when Hubby is away. Blessings.

twinmommy said...

Great ideas... what a timely post. My husband is getting ready to travel quite a bit for business and with twins and a new one on the way people are already asking me, "How will you do it?"

Belonging to a MOMS Club International chapter helps... but I'll definitely be keeping your ideas in mind! Thanks millions!

L.L. Barkat said...

Oh... I remember those days. Day 14, now that was pretty unbearable. Thing is, we're about to start this again. I'm in a totally new place, and sometimes it'll even be ME who's gone. It makes me sad, but it's a season. And I like your advice. There are things to be learned, too, in such a season.

(During these away times, I always make ridiculous dinners that wouldn't fill grown-man's belly. We eat stuff like nachos or egg and toast. It's even better than going out! :)

Llama Momma said...

MamaToo -- thank you for your kind words. :-)

Gretchen -- thanks for stopping by. You nailed it -- we must take care of ourselves as women...whatever age and stage we're at!

Twinmommy -- my MOPS group was a lifesaver when the boys were small. I had such a "SuperMom" complex when the boys were babies...I wish I had been more willing to tell the truth about how hard it really was. Do reach out when you need to.

LL -- We do those dinners too! (Though with growing, active boys, they out-eat me most nights!) Blessings to you as you enter this new season.

Marmot Mom said...

A Musing Mom is a wise woman. Just don't spend too much time re-working.
They do that for you, you know, except they call it slashing <3

Llama Momma said...

thanks, Marmot Mom. :-)

Kelly said...

Great tips! Glad to meet you through the CWO Cafe.

Nicole @ Life in Progress said...

These are great tips! My husband doesn't have to travel too often, but when he does it's always a strain. Thanks for sharing all you've learned.