When Your Spouse Travels For Work: Surviving and Thriving Weeks as a Single Parent
Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring this post, but the story and all thoughts and experiences are my own!
It’s been almost three and a half years since Jacob made a career change from a rocket scientist to a consultant, but I will probably always teasingly refer to him as a rocket scientist. It was a big career change and a big change for our family. He went from a highly regulated, controlled job with very set hours to a job that was a lot more business mixed with technical, lots of new things to master in a quickly changing up-and-coming industry, and now working longer hours with quite a bit of travel. I feel like before I dive into the next section I need to clarify we really love my husband’s job, he works for an amazing company and he loves what he does and has opportunities we never imagined! We also get to travel so much because of the points he racks up, so I in no way mean to throw shade at something we love. But even with that love comes the struggle of time as a single parent while my husband travels for work.
A few months ago I saw a friend post on social media asking how those who are moms survive a husband who travels for work because her husband had just started and she was struggling, and I was skyrocketed back to those first few months of adjustment and just how hard they can be. I was lucky enough to transition before I was even pregnant, but I’ve been through rough infertility treatments while he was away, had lots of sad disappointments during those moments while he was traveling crying on the phone in the times we could actually talk when I really needed a hug, a pregnancy, one of the last weeks of my last trimester having contractions while he was on the other side of the world, the week after we had a baby, and lots of rough colic/teething/toddler times as a single mom that I really had to face as a somewhat single parent and those were hard times.
So when I saw this post and thought through the emotions of adjustment, my answer to how I survive came in clearly: chocolate.
I’m half kidding, but I admit it’s been a part of my coping strategy, and I’ll come back to it in a minute!
First of all to anyone in this situation I have to mention it does get easier. Like all hard things in life, we somehow get a little more used to it and our capacity to deal with it becomes easier. How do all single moms do it 24/7? Seriously, this isn’t even a comparison to the real struggle it is to face that burden full-time. I know from my friends and family in this situation they tell me they have learned to face it and adapt to it. On the small scale I experience extended times alone, I’ve learned that’s what I have to do. And even though that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of rough days and moments and times I well up in tears when I say goodbye to my husband for a week, I’ve learned a few coping mechanisms and perspective shifts that really help! Here are some things that have made a huge difference for me.
- Facetime/Google Hangout. The investment in a phone that does this well or iPad for him to take with him helps so much! Our child can talk to him and doesn’t forget him. We plan a sacred time to talk, sometimes it’s only a few minutes between a business meeting or before bedtime, but we both sacrifice our schedules a bit on the busiest of days even for 10-15 minutes so we all get to connect face-to-face.
- Buying a Security System. This may be the reason I’m writing about this for the first time, but we just recently invested in one and we’ve been thrilled. I am sleeping so much better, feeling so much safer, and I’m fine coming home when it’s dark because I know my alarm is set and I can feel more secure at home. Jacob feels better too knowing we’re safer and getting more sleep too.
- Be Smart About Not Posting Online When You’re Alone. I’d tell a few people in person, and I’d keep it quiet otherwise. No matter who you are, be smart and be safe about it and use the security system as another safeguard.
- Plan more in-person events. Feeling like a single mom without adult friends wears on anyone. Some of my single mom friends tell me this is crucial, they need to have quality time with other adults and they have to proactively make time for it no matter how busy they are. I try hard to find play dates and lunch or dinner plans with friends and family. It helps me feel more connectivity and patience if things are rough and I’m the only set of hands while my husband isn’t home. Particularly if you don’t have work, I’d make some social plans to see some adults in person either during play dates or get a sitter and take a night off to stay sane.
- Stay on normal routines as much as possible. It’s tempting to let all the kids jump in bed with you or let them stay up, but it creates more havoc with behavior more often than not. I actually have been the parent traveling for work more often than my husband lately, and having nap time and bed time and as many routines as possible stay in place made it so much easier for all parties to stay on track.
- Let A Responsibility Go. This one came from Jacob, he pretty much decided he wasn’t going to bother with cooking and doing dishes most nights while I was gone last week, so they went out to dinner and ordered enough for leftovers the next night. Dinner planning and prep is usually something I take care of, and he knew the extra time to pick up the baby from our amazing sister’s house plus dinner prep was going to be more than he could do and stay sane. For me, the house may be a little messier and meals may be more simple, but cutting some slack is important.
- Do Something That Relaxes You. Some people take long baths, some watch a TV series their spouse doesn’t love, and I’m a weirdo who loves to work and try to catch up/get ahead and really enjoys that time. Find what it is for you and do it.
- Get a Sitter. If it’s a full week and you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to get a babysitter for just you. Maybe a girl’s night for a few hours is in order, maybe you just need to go to the grocery store alone, or maybe in-home care so you can work or take care of a chore that’s hard to do with kids climbing on you is in order. It’s okay to find a few extra bucks in the budget for even an hour of sanity if you need a break.
- Find an Indulgence on the Rough Days. It’s time to go back to chocolate my friends! I’ll never forget the week we had a baby a few weeks old with colic who wasn’t sleeping well at night who had a huge blowout during a bath, and another in the towel, and I felt like I was bathing and cleaning and getting further from accomplishing anything. That night when the baby finally went to sleep I thought I just really wanted some chocolate and moment on the couch alone to indulge. Those few moments reset my attitude, had me realize I was already laughing about it, and a warm treat full of chocolate was just what I needed.
I’m such a fan of the Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Chocolate Lover’s Cake. The Perfect Size for 1 is an individually portioned pouch of cake mix – single-serving portions = no leftovers or waste It helps me avoid having to heat up the house and the oven, and it even saves me from feeling like I have more of a mess to clean- there’s no bowls or pans to clean when you’re done! It’s quick and easy, made in an 8-oz. coffee mug in about a minute. Just a mug, some water, and about a minute is all it takes!
I also love that it’s easy to customize, you can make it nearly any liquid (milk, juice, coffee, soda, etc.) and accepts add-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, or fruit.
I’m also using it as a gift for the overwhelmed moms in my life, how cute and easy is this for a friend gift? In the height of overwhelm a warm treat in a cute mug plus chocolate is the answer, I mean how perfect is that?
I have come a long way from the first week my husband was away crying every night and missing him dearly. I still miss him, and the older our child gets the harder those days and nights can be. But I’m thankful for his career and job every day, and I’m learning to proactively tackle each hard week I feel like a single parent re-adjusting to time away. And for the nights I need a little chocolate, I’m really great for the stash of Duncan Hines in my pantry.
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I love all of these ideas!! I’m going to invest in these for nights when Joe is gone camping with the scouts, or working late on a lawn care project. And yes… chocolate is totally an investment