A fun and not-at-all-stressful thing that happens sometimes is my husband traveling for about a week for work. He used to do this once a year when the kids were preschoolers, and lately it’s been more like once a month.
I realize that this is different for parents whose kids are not in school and/or who work in the home as opposed to out of the home. I do appreciate that I can escape the nest to an office for a few days a week and that my two second-graders are in school most of the day. That said, here are some tips I’ve come up with to make it through when your spouse/partner is
enjoying sweet freedom away:
Take It Easy
Easy meals on paper plates and don’t kill yourself over cleaning the house. This is not a contest. Martha Stewart does not care. You need all your strength and energy to keep things running smoothly, so don’t worry about trivial things like how many Amazon boxes are littered in the living room for the cats to play in or how many meals are centered around chicken nuggets. They can still be healthy meals, like including carrots and celery. The problem with that for us is only one of my kids will eat carrots and we all agree that celery is terrible.
I have learned the hard way, this is not the time for elaborate meal-planning and tackling home projects. Do not invite the Pope–or anyone–to dinner.
Savor the Little Victories
Be amazed at how much less laundry and dirty dishes there are with one less adult around. We typically run our dishwasher every other day, but I can get away with just once during the weeks when the father of my children and the apple of my eye is gone. Probably because of the paper plates I use generously.
Sleep in the middle of the bed with all. the. pillows. But don’t forget to set an alarm so the kids aren’t late for that 7:45 school start time.
Make Things Fair-ish
I have managed to convince my husband that any personal expenditures (within reason, such as movie rentals or take-out) during his absence are not to be taken from my personal spending allotment as he is eating (well) gratis and gets a total break from childcare and housework while he’s gone.
Accept any offers of help, from your stepfather-in-law offering to snowblow your driveway and sidewalk (why did we decide to buy a corner lot again?!) to friends offering to visit and break up the week. Accept help from your coffeemaker and every drive-thru window in a 10-mile radius.
Keep Things In Perspective
Fight the urge to compare your life to that of a truly single/divorced/widowed parent. It is NOT the same.
Stay In Contact
Beyond the usual checking in about flight status and sending memes, touch base via video chat with your kids and spouse so he can visually be reminded of all the great reasons he has to come home and not take up permanent residence in sunny, sunny, sunny Florida. Don’t show him the tall-person-height snowbanks outside. In fact, try to close the curtains ahead of time so no accidents happen.
Carve Out You Time
If you can manage it, take a day or even a half-day off from work and enjoy some time alone while the kids are in school or pawn them off on a helpful and willing family member. It’s a well-deserved break to refresh and recharge your battery. Don’t spend it doing chores or running errands (unless you like that sort of thing). Read that book, take a long walk, catch up on your favorite TV show, nap.
Remember The Kids Are Also Dealing With an Absence
Try, really try, to be extra gentle with the kids. They will seem even more annoying than before, but they pick up on those stress signals you’ll be constantly emitting, and you want them to give good reports on how Mom did while Dad was gone. Have a movie or game night with a snack board for dinner to keep things interesting and special/easy.
Get Out of the House
If you can, schedule some time out of the house and just for yourself after your partner is back. Get a massage, go to a coffee shop, have lunch with friends, powerwalk in the mall, shop by yourself at Target, whatever trips your trigger.
Express Your Gratitude
Lastly and most importantly, tell your partner how much you appreciate him and everything he does for your family and around the house. You will never appreciate it more than when he is not around to do it.
Next chapter: Tagging along on that work trip and spending copious amounts of time at the hotel pool.