It’s coming up on just about three years that my husband consistently travels for business. He typically travels every other week and mostly heads to Atlanta or Chicago, with the occasional stint to California. I will always be thankful for the job, because the alternative is terrifying, but I cannot say that having a spouse who travels a lot for work is an easy experience. It’s definitely a life adjustment for sure.
A lot has been written on Tips for Working Parents Who Travel for Business. What about the rest of us who are left behind? There are some tricks of the trade that I’ve learned, but also some important lessons about myself, my two kids, my husband, my friends and family, and our overall circumstances.
- The children help! By default, they almost have to. Granted I’ve often had to ask them “How many people are you?” to which they answer “two.” And then I ask, “How many people am I?” – and being that the answer to that is ONE, they realize that if they want/need something done, they might have to do it by themselves. In the absence of the everyday presence of their father, my kids have taken on more responsibility and independence.
- You will have friends and family willing to help. Say yes. Don’t hesitate to rely on those who offer. I always figured it was just small talk, but I’m telling you – most people mean it! Take it! Take the offer! Sometimes it’s just as simple as a carpool to an event. I’m still not 100% comfortable accepting the kindness - I’m getting there though. And reciprocate if you can.
- While you may feel like you’re running yourself ragged with daily parenting tasks, remember that your spouse/partner is missing some good stuff! Sure, he/she misses the everyday drama – for which they might actually be thankful! – but, they also miss the concerts, sports events, school shows and maybe even a birthday or two.
- As I get older, I find that I’m no longer interested in being “Ms. Organization.” Sure, I have a calendar with events and meetings and such documented, but too much planning and predicting gave me angst and half the time things didn’t go as planned anyway! Though, if you have a traveling spouse/partner, there certainly is a need to plan in advance – if there is an event where you need the whole family present, you may have no choice. For us, my husband is a Product Trainer and the weekly classes he teaches are scheduled months in advance. In January, we needed to make sure that he was in town for our son’s middle school graduation in June.
- Even though I’m in my late 40s, I sensed that I’ve grown a bit and there’s a rise in my own self-confidence. I have definitely become more of an independent, well-rounded, and confident woman. I’m no longer anxious when my husband heads out of town. I can handle small things like chipping the ice off the car after a cold night or eating out at a restaurant with just me and the kids, through much more important situations, like flying solo at meetings with school officials. I’ve learned more about myself and I’m more cognizant of my strengths….
- …..and weaknesses – especially when it comes to some household work. There’s definitely been weeks where we get to Friday and I’ve discovered that we’re lacking in the clean underwear department, out of milk and there too many dishes in the sink. If you forget something, make a mistake or a something goes wrong – let it go! Although your kids might think you have superpowers – and you think you should - you are only human! Move on and don’t dwell.
- Reentry for your spouse/partner may not be easy. There’s no doubt that my husband does his share when he is not traveling, still there’s a little learning curve when he returns from a week away. Honestly, that’s for all four of us. There is a disconnection to our daily routines and how my son, my daughter and I have been managing our week.
- Committing to constant and consistent communication is key. There are days when we only text and phone conversations are quick and to the point. I’m not going to lie – we need a little boost in this area when he is traveling.
- I’ve had the honor of getting to know my kids even better, which is awesome. I have a strong sense of who they are and the people they are becoming. I know when they need some help and when they can handle an errand, project or responsibility on their own.
- You have permission to be cranky, overwhelmed or even resentful. Many of the daily tasks fall on solely on you. It’s not easy and you’re tired! For many of us, it isn’t what we signed up for. Part of the reason you opted to get married or be in a relationship is because you liked being with this person. And now you’re not. Now, I wouldn’t go overboard on communicating this to your spouse/partner, or kids for that matter. Venting to a family member or friend can help. There may be support groups online or on social media. Or you can blog about it!
Relationships are work. I’m not crying “woe is me” and there are plenty in more trying situations. Still, if you are in a partnership with one who travels for work, it is quite alright not to love it. Give yourself that space.
It’s all about the family. It’s all for your family and the future. Just a hint or two for the traveler…. Please try to keep some aspects of your days to yourself. For example: Don’t tell me that you had time to binge watch Stranger Things. Don’t tell me that room service forgot to put a cookie on your pillow. And don’t tell me that how hard you worked that day, even though I don’t doubt that you did.
But do tell me that you miss us. Or better yet, text it ‘cause you never know if I’m in the middle of helping a kid or two with their homework. Baby steps.
My name is Melissa – I’m a native New Yorker and the mother of two school-aged children. My son is in middle school and my daughter is in elementary school and they are both Bright Horizons alumni. I love working for an organization that has meant so much to our family. As an Enrollment Counselor, I assist families with the enrollment process for our centers in NYC. What a way to pay it forward! Having been through the incredible Bright Horizons experience as parent, from infants all the way through Kindergarten Prep, I’m so happy to be able to share some of my views and experiences with The Family Room community.
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