How To Thrive While Your Spouse Travels

Tips When A Spouse Travels

This month marks the one year anniversary since Goose started working at a local firm.  After a lay off, nine weeks of unemployment, and then a stint working a job with an hour and a half each way commute (if he left at 5:30 am), we were beyond grateful for this new opportunity.  The work place is fantastic: the co-workers are great, the hours are flexible, and the company itself is solid.  This job, however, comes with travel.  I am not about to call it a drawback or a downside.  It is just a fact of life.  Plenty of people travel for their work and we have been very fortunate that Goose did not travel up until this point in his career.

I won’t tell you that it didn’t take some adjusting.  Solo parenting is not my most favourite thing.  To be honest, I have never met anyone who does love it, but then again, I don’t circulate much.  There are a few things I have learned in this past year that I thought I’d pass on.  Our first couple of trips were more than a bit stressful.  While clinging to the idea, around here, that we really are normal and that there are others just like us, I though I’d offer up a few of my best suggestions to make work travel easier for the one who is left behind to juggle all the things.

Get Your Head In The Game

My biggest piece of advice?  Attitude.  You can do this.  Other people do this all the time.  Military families.  Single parent families.  Other working families.  Yes, you will be tired and frustrated and have less time for yourself.  But you can do it.  The minute you say you can’t, you’re right.  Buck it up Buttercup.  There may be moments where you may want to cry.  Go ahead – secure the minions children (turn on the TV), lock the doors, and have yourself a mini pity party.  Get out, dry yourself off, and carry on.  And before you think ‘well, that’s harsh’, trust me – I have tried to do this travel thing while moping.  It doesn’t do anybody any good.

Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail

Sketch out a meal plan.  Stock up on groceries.  Write out a chore list.  Plan to order pizza.  Pack well in advance.  Check flights ahead of time.  Calculate the time difference (if there is one) and schedule video chat and phone call times.  We actually call a family meeting before Goose heads out.  Chores are divvied up.  Special events are noted on calendars.  Count down till daddy is home again charts are drawn up.  I ‘overcook’ for a couple of nights before Goose leaves and then we have leftovers to start off with.  Meals are one less thing I have to worry about during the first few days.

Need To Know Basis

There are people who need to know you are flying solo and then there are a whole bunch of people who do not.  Grandparents, neighbours, and teachers should probably know.  We send notes to the school to let them know travel dates.  Our kids don’t get a free pass to act like hooligans just because their dad is gone, but stress affects everybody and acting out is not outside the realm of possibility.  Especially in the case of children with special needs, like Autism, you might be saving your child, the teachers, and yourself a lot of headache.  Let a few neighbours know that your other half is away.  There is no better security system than an aware neighbour.  Who doesn’t need to know?   Everybody you are connected to on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  It may be tempting to look for a little online camaraderie, but avoid doing it, please.  Call your mom, text a girlfriend, go chat with a neighbour.  People give away far more information than they realize on social media.

Keep The Same Routine – Sort Of

Don’t make the day your spouse leaves the same day you begin a new diet or exercise routine or decide that the kids will suddenly take on a whole list of chores they aren’t used to doing.  Pare down the extras and cut yourself some slack.  Keep bedtime and meal time as close to normal as possible, but don’t beat yourself up for slipping up.  A tired, malnourished family is not a happy one.  Limit friends (for the kids and yourself) for a while.   I know, I know, you are craving adult conversation.  For short trips, or at the beginning of long ones, I actually suggest limiting yourself to texts and short phone calls.  Face to face visits take time.  If your friends come over to your place, you are going to want to cook or clean.  Until I got the hang of this new routine, I learned to say no.

Prepare the Traveller

You who are left behind will have enough to worry about, stressing that your spouse is ill-equipped won’t help.  Start packing at least three days in advance.  Check with the airline to determine luggage allowances.  At least a week ahead of time, order foreign currency from your bank or stop by a currency conversion place.  Get him or her good guide and phrase books.  I am a big fan of the DK Canada Bilingual Dictionary.   Goose making an effort to speak in German earned him big time brownie points with the locals.  The DK 15-minute language series is also pretty helpful.  Even if you never use the CDs (which truthfully, he didn’t), the visual guide is excellent.  Check the weather and pack accordingly.  Arrange for transportation to and from the airport.  Double check that forbidden items aren’t in the carry on.  Then – breathe.

Make It A Win-Win

Serve ice cream for dessert.  Book yourself a manicure after your spouse gets home (but give it a few days for jet lag recovery).  Check out regional specialties and have the travelling spouse bring them back.  Goose makes pretty regular trips to the US.  I don’t need to remind my Canadian readers that they still have Target.  Hola!  He does his best to make a quick stop and pick me up food items that can’t be found here – different coffee creamers, cookies, and cake mixes.  He often brings the kids home a small candy or treat to put in their school lunches.  Added bonus:  having something to look forward to will make the time go by quicker.

You Will Find Your Groove

And this will get easier.  With practice, you will become a pro.  A bumpy start doesn’t mean that everything is going to hell in a hand basket forever.  Each time you will get this routine down pat faster and faster.  It will become a minor bump in the road and your every day routine will keep trudging along.  Heck, you may even learn to enjoy the time apart.  After all, you know what they say – absence makes the heart grow fonder.

These are my best tips for thriving – do you have any to add?

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