Almost nine years ago, my husband and I got married. He had the same job he has now. I remember when we were dating he told me that he sometimes traveled for work, but the whole time we were dating he went on exactly one trip. To Mexico, in February, over Valentine’s Day.
Fast forward almost nine years…we have a seven-year-old and a crazy 80-pound black lab. And my husband is gone at least one week every month. In fact, this month, August 2018 he will have been gone 19 of the 31 days. Anyway, it’s enough to say he’s gone a lot.
If I think back, the year we met was the start of the great recession, so it makes complete sense that he wouldn’t have done a lot of traveling that year. Businesses were tight with their budgets. However, I wasn’t thinking of that then. I wasn’t thinking of how his traveling could explode once the economy improved. I wasn’t thinking of how much time I would spend ‘solo parenting’ when the economy improved. (This was of course right around the time our daughter was born – lucky me!)
It’s been a long road learning how to parent on my own while he is away. I struggled with the idea of having to do everything more than I actually struggled with doing everything. When you are used to working in partnership with someone, it’s a little more difficult to do it all successfully on your own. There were mornings that weren’t so pretty, and evenings that my daughter and I both cried.
Seven years in, I think I’ve finally figured out a good routine for the times he is gone. It starts with one word…planning. If I plan the meals for the week, I don’t struggle with that part of our day. I keep a calendar so I know when he will be gone and what events we have going on during those times. If I need someone to watch my daughter while I go to book club or some other “mommy time” scheduled event, I still feel guilty about it, but I understand I need to take care of me too. I also try to remember that this is difficult on my daughter as well. Her mood may be a little different, she may be a little clingier than normal, she just might need me to reassure her that it’s all okay. The most interesting part to me is how it affects our dog…to say he is my husband’s dog is an understatement. And he also acts differently when his master is gone. The worst was the morning I had to call my husband to get the dog to eat. I had my husband on speaker while I fed the dog out of my hands, just so he would eat!
In short, I’ve mentioned my four strategies for managing my solo parenting times
- Lean on support systems
- Practice self-care
- Be understanding of all the members of the household, it’s not easy for anyone when a parent is away
I have traveled a little for my job too, so I understand that traveling is hard on the traveler as well. The perception is that it’s glamorous to travel. You get to eat out, sleep in a bed all by yourself, and not have to take care of the little people in your life for that period of time. But, it’s not quite that easy. The feelings of guilt or the loneliness you may feel aren’t great either.
I want to give a huge shout out the single parents; I am in no way trying to compare my times alone with my daughter with single parenting. I understand the difference, and I admire and applaud all you do to care for your children and manage your household alone!
Are there other parents holding down the fort out there? How do you handle the responsibilities? What are the tips and tricks you can share? (I’m always looking for ideas.)