Going it alone

I am the wife of a traveling husband. After almost eight years of marriage, I have gotten used to the whole routine. In the beginning it was bad. After children it was worse. But now that the kids have gotten a bit older it's really become easier for all of us.

Since he works late most evenings, which forces me to be creative with our evening activities, it's not the witching hour that is difficult when he is away. It's the mornings. Since he leaves late in the morning to compensate for coming home after the kids are in bed, he gets up with the kids, gets them fed, reads them some books and helps get us ready for the day. When he's gone, it's the 13-hour shift for me. (As all you moms know.)

Traveling husband might mean a evening of extra laundry or packing for him. But for me, it's at least a day-long process to mentally prepare and plan for the week (or two) alone.

Many moms do this. The wives of pilots, consultants, military, doctors (who are on call all week), politicians have to deal with trip after trip on a monthly, or for many weekly, basis. Someone asked me last week how I manage my time without the extra hands, dinners for three and bath/bed.

1. Keep busy and make plans. Have at least one big activity planned for each day. It helps break up 'what-can-be' a very long day.

2. Make time for yourself. Get a babysitter or a friend to stay with your kids so you can run the errands you need to run or just sit and have a coffee. It's hard going it alone without a break. Get some help if you can.

3. Make easy dinners you can all eat. It's tempting to order pizza or make mac and cheese every night. Do that a few nights. But after a week you'll feel gross. Make a big salad or a big pot of stew for yourself (or your kids, too) and eat off of it during the week. Buy pre-made or pre-mixed things to make your evenings easier. There's nothing worse than dealing with kids alone all day then having to race to make dinner, clean up and do bedtime.

4. Go to the grocery store solo before your husband leaves. Or better yet, send him! It's hard for me to take 2 kids to the store so I try to get there before so I only have to run in and grab milk and bread if necessary.

5. Do baths every other night so you're not bogged down with this extra chore every night.

6. Consolidate bedtime rituals as much as you can. Don't knock yourself if you have to use a DVD/music to keep them occupied while you put the other child to bed.

7. Put kids to bed early. Sometimes at the end of a long day alone, I prefer to get them in bed 30 minutes early. I know they will wake earlier, but somehow it seems easier to manage everything in the morning.

8. Try to make everything fun. It can be hard to make the whole week a game, but we try to "mix it up" a bit when dad's away. I do breakfast for dinner, have a movie night, let them wear whatever they want, make pancakes for breakfast, or go out for dinner at a real restaurant.

Really, it's about having a plan. Everyday involves a well-planned out list of activities that take us from the morning to the late evening. Busy is better when we're going it alone.


kim said...

Great topic - I'll be referencing this a lot as hubby spends more and more time away at school.

ModMomMuse said...

THANK YOU. My husband has been on a job for 7+ months & will likely take a new job soon that will include overseas travel. We use iSight (like skype...for Macs) to stay in touch, he sends postcards & has phone conversations with my little ones during the day. Time together is cherished and rare--survival for me is critical. COMMUNITY with other women & their children is crucial. Appreciate your list.