When my husband and I first moved in together he had a job which required him to travel. He was home one week a month at the most (and the days were not consecutive either). Since this was the first time I would be living on my own while he was away, we adopted a dog to keep me company. I’ll admit that an empty quiet house (especially at night) freaked me out, so having a dog to blame all the nighttime noises on really helped. About a year later we found out we were pregnant with our first child and we decided that it was time for him to find another job so he can come home every night to be with me and our new baby.
Jump ahead ten years, two dogs, two cats, and three kids later. We now run our own business which allows me to work from home and be there for our kids. However, that means that my husband now travels again. It is not as often as it used to be, but often enough that it does make an impact on our family.
Even with a full (and loud) house, his absence is still very clear throughout our daily routine. There is definitely an impact to our family dynamic before, during, and after he goes away. Now that it’s not just me and our dog, it is important as parents to not only prepare for my husbands’ departure, but for the duration of his absence, and for when he comes home again.
From our experience, over the years of his travelling, we’ve done some things which have really helped in all aspects of his travel. Here are the 7 things we do with and for the kids that help to manage the family with a travelling spouse:
Take time off before they leave
My husband always makes sure to take a day or two off of work before he goes on a work trip. Not only does this give him time to take care of things for himself before he goes away, but it also gives him extra time to spend with the kids to make up for the time he will be away. The kids love spending this extra time with him because my husband usually does something special with them like go to a movie, or lets them help him work on his muscle car.
Reassure the kids they will talk to them while they are gone
Saying goodnight to the kids is a very important part of our kids’ bedtime routine, so reassuring them that they will either speak on the phone or FaceTime/Skype at bedtime makes them feel better about their Dad not being there.
Make sure the kids know how long they will be gone, and when they will be back
When my kids were young we used to count how many sleeps until Daddy was coming home. Now, we tell them how long he will be gone (i.e. one week) and when he is coming home (the actual date) so they can keep track on their own.
If feasible, go as a family to drop them off at the airport/train station etc.
If you are dropping your spouse off at the airport or train station, bring the kids along if you can. Having them be a part of their trip makes them feel like they are involved, and that they get to be with them up until the last second. Likewise, bring the kids with you again when you pick them up. Taking the kids with you again to pick them up gives them a sense of responsibility and necessity.
Make the necessary arrangements you need in order to manage while your spouse is away
I have three kids with different extra-curricular activities throughout the week. When my husband goes away for work, sometimes it becomes a challenge to arrange transportation and other necessary parental responsibilities on my own. I always try to plan in advance when I may need help while my husband is away. I am fortunate to have family that lives close to us and is available whenever we may need them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are not so lucky, so making friends with other parents or even neighbours may be useful when you need to make arrangements for carpooling or babysitting while your spouse is away.
My husband doesn’t know very far in advance as to when he has to travel, so as soon as I know when he will be gone I look at my schedule to see if we have any appointments coming up. If feasible, I change whatever appointments I can for when he comes home. This makes things easier if I have an appointment in which I cannot bring the kids to.
Plan something special with the kids for when your spouse comes home
It is a tradition in our house that we make my husband one of his favourite dinners when he comes home from a work trip. While he is gone the kids and I plan what we are going to make, and do a special grocery shopping trip just for that. This gets them excited about their Dad’s arrival. When we go shopping for this special home-coming dinner they know he is coming home the next day.
Allow time for things to go back to normal when your spouse comes home
When your spouse comes home, don’t necessarily expect things to go right back to normal immediately. Depending on the work they are doing while their away, they may need some extra time to adjust. My husband often travels to places in a different time zone as well as working night shift so he experiences jetlag when he comes home. He usually needs about a day to adjust, and during that time, I remind the kids that he may need a little bit of time to get back to normal when he comes home.
Some of the tips above are things that you naturally will do when you have a spouse that travels, but some have taken time for us to figure out over the years. Every time my husband goes away, I stick to the 7 tips above and we get through it fine every time. I hope that if you have a spouse who travels, these tips will help you navigate your way through it just like they do for us.