“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.