Staying Sane When Your Spouse is Away
My husband began traveling long before we had children, so I have plenty of experience with holding down the fort while he’s away providing for our family. We both do our part, but it’s a bit more challenging when those two extra hands aren’t coming home to help tag-team for a night or a few days.
Of course we miss each other, and the kids miss their daddy, but it’s important to stay optimistic and focus on the positive and what we’ll deem the “perks” of having a traveling spouse. We’ll also offer some tips, as well as ideas on how to keep connected as a family.
- I try to plan ahead as much as possible while my husband is still home. I like to have an idea of my meal plan for the week and go grocery shopping alone beforehand to avoid shopping with all my children on my own.
- I often discuss the plans for while Daddy is away with my kids and how I need them to be extra helpful while Daddy is gone. Not always—but sometimes—they listen better because they need to help Mommy and be a part of “Team Family,” as we like to say. When your spouse travels, utilize that extra sense of responsibility to your advantage. It’s also a great time to remember that children can, in fact, help out a lot more than we give them credit for. I remind my kids that if they are helpful in cleaning up, then there will be more time for snuggling with Mom afterward.
- Speaking of meals, keep it simple and kid friendly. Jennifer Willis, Blue Springs mother of four, shares, “When John is out of town, I make sure our dinners are something the kids will eat without complaining! Examples include chicken nuggets, hot dogs, spaghetti and meatballs and “brinner” (breakfast for dinner). I also try to schedule baths so I don’t have to do them by myself while John is gone.”
- Personally, the worst part for me is getting the kids up and going in the morning and to the bus or school on time. This is usually a tag-team effort, and Daddy generally walks them to the bus stop. Preparing as much as possible the night before (even more than usual) is key. I usually have to talk myself into doing everything I need to do before I plop exhaustedly on the couch, because my motivation plummets as soon as I finally sit down.
- During the day, I try to have at least one or two outings just to break up the day since I know I will be homebound for the evenings. Simple outings like going to the library, the gym or a playdate help me to keep busy and give me the opportunity for some conversations with other adults. Check out the KC Parent events calendar at for ideas.
- Once you’ve made it through the day, it’s up to you to determine whether the kiddos need to retire early to their rooms so you can enjoy a little extra peace and quiet before the next day dawns. Then the night is your oyster! Choose a series on Netflix that your spouse wouldn’t watch with you and binge on it solo, get your craft on, work on organizing your plethora of photos on your computer, catch up on baby books, journal, read or even have friends over! I often try to host my friends one night while my husband is away. It gives me something to look forward to and motivation to tidy up the house. For long trips, I even have hired a babysitter to come over so I can still go to the scheduled girls night out or book club. Be sure to utilize the help of family and friends, or go ahead and hire a sitter, to catch a break and regroup to get yourself through the rest of the week.
- Another perk is having the whole bed to yourself! I heat up a rice pack in the microwave to make up for the missing body heat I’m used to warming my toes on though.
- To stay connected, discover how your spouse or child feels loved, which is why I highly recommend reading The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman. Perhaps your spouse feels loved when he comes home to an orderly house or a planned date night. Maybe you feel loved by a thoughtful gift or encouraging notes left around the house for you to find throughout your spouse’s trip. Your children may light up if Mom or Dad arrives home with a thoughtful gift for them to help them know their parent was thinking of them and missing them while away. Kids love simple things like a new pencil, pen, stuffed animal or keychain. If not a gift, perhaps your kiddos would prefer a family movie night to be assured that the clan is reunited.
- Communicate with these love languages to make sure everyone in the family still feels loved even when a few days don’t run as usual. Your kids can participate by leaving notes or drawings in Mommy or Daddy’s suitcase before a trip or make a welcome home drawing. Other ways to stay connected include talking at dinner, before bed or using FaceTime to let everyone chat about the day or to have the traveling parent read a story to the kids. Hallmark also makes recordable storybooks that you could have the traveling parent record before a trip. I have found these books helpful to entertain my children while they take turns taking baths when I’m on my own.
- If you’re new to this traveling lifestyle, I promise it does become easier and you do get accustomed to it after a while. Distance can make the heart grow fonder, but I’m always relieved when my husband returns, and I can sneak out for a long run or a coffee date on my own. Also, I always, always, always have mad appreciation for single parents. Kudos to you all, you’re absolutely amazing.
Stephanie Loux is the mother of Layla, 7, Mason, 5, and Slade, 2, and writes from her home. You can check out more of her writing at LettersFromTheLouxs.blogspot.com.