Monday, October 20, 2008

Marital Moments- Issue 10; TheTraveling Spouse

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder" - Eleanor Roosevelt

Growing up I don't remember either of my parents traveling often. My dad was a hunter, so every fall he would take a hunting trip with his buddies. My mom did a great job of making the best of it. I have fun memories of staying up late, making popcorn balls, fudge, and homemade hot cocoa.

My marriage and family has been quite different. Travel is something that both my husband and I end up doing quite regularly and it has been even before our kids were born. Said husband was traveling last week and it made me think about some of the things that we have learned over the years that have both helped us as a couple and as a family. Thank goodness we now have cell phones and internet connectivity almost anywhere! So here they are, my top 10 tips:

1. Be realistic about phone calls. Timing can be difficult when separated, thus cutting real communication short. *Make it a point to leave each other messages throughout the day when things come to mind or you just want to tell them that you love them, are proud of them, praying for them or that the toilet is clogged in such a way that you don't know how to unclog it! :)
2. Set aside a time to reconnect after the travels Listen to one another's adventures from the time spent apart
3. Commit to praying for your spouse daily while they are gone.
I LOVE this about my husband. He prays out loud over the kids and I each time before one of us leaves - it gives me such a sense of peace to know that he is praying for us. We try to give each other a couple of specific requests that usually involve our activities while we are apart and then we try to come up with one or two things on our own to increase the other as an individual - physically, mentally, emotionally or Spiritually.
4. Realize it is NOT a vacation! (Unless, of course, it is!) After we had kids, I began to feel resentful each time my husband left. I knew he was eating out and sleeping all night (even if in a hotel bed.) I could get myself really worked up about how easy he had things. However, there are a lot of stresses about traveling and although there may be perks here and there, the stresses tend to outweigh the perks. Don't allow your mind to park on resentments.
5. Tell your children about travel plans in advance. When they have time to process and talk about it, the transition is easier.
6. Give your children a role to fill while you are gone. The "man" of the house while daddy is away; "mommy's helper" with your younger brother or sister; "Daddy's eyes" to watch out for brother at ball games, etc. If they feel like they have an important role to fill it will help you to be able to refocus them if they have sad moments. If sad at bedtime, distract them by planning a "stuffed animal sleep over" in one of their rooms and then alternate rooms.
7. Reward your children when they are helping out! My daughter is such a HUGE help for me when my husband travels. I have been known to draw her a bubble bath with candles and music (in MY tub) when she has really been contributing more than normal with my younger two. She cannot do enough for me after special moments like those which makes it WELL worth the effort!
8. We have a family point system. Each point is worth a dollar. We call them "(last name) Points." They can only earn them when we see them going out of their way to help another family member.
9. Plan to eat out at least once! You need to allow yourself a "back up" plan for dinner one night to save the sanity!
10. Build Anticipation for a spouse's return. One or two nights before my husband returns I tell the kids "how many more 'sleeps' it will be until daddy gets home" We try to work together to make the house look nice and I let them stay up late for his arrival if it isn't too late.

I'd love to hear some of your best tips!! Many Blessings!


Melissa said...

Good ideas Shanda. We use to say we were partying when Papa was gone. This helped my little guys and we would talk about where we would go out to dinner. Planning to do something special when a parent is away really helps to take the focus off the parent being gone and gives everyone something fun to look forward too.

I also found it helped me if Eric told me he would miss me or that he didn't really want to go. I also thought he was getting all the fun by traveling and I was home with the crying kids.

Thanks for the ideas.

Joyful said...

Thanks for visiting my blog Shanda. I did use "After Shave" on my son - serves the same purpose!

I'm glad my husband doesn't travel very much. These are wonderful suggestions. My son is now 16 years old, but I remember using the 'how-many-more-sleeps' on him when he was little. Whenever my husband goes away, he calls home at night when he returns to his hotel room - always nice to still say goodnight to him and tell him that I love him.

Thanks again for your kind words,

Jimmy Parker said...

Wow--this is such a great list of ideas, Shanda. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I'd love to contribute to it, but your ideas blow all mine out of the water! I see now that I can do quite a bit more to make my traveling a little easier on everyone, so I've got some work to do!!

Tiffiney said...

Love the idea's. My husband does not travel very much. But I will keep all of these in mind for when he does. Specially number 4!! That one can be hard! ;)

Stacey @ The Blessed Nest said...

My dad travelled all the time when I was a kid, so I'm mostly used to it when my husband has to travel. My girls don't like Daddy to be gone, so we usually have a "Girls Night" and watch a movie together. They can stay up a little later than usual, and they love this ritual! I also tell them that they can look at Daddy's picture (or mine) when we're apart so they can see us, and they can ask to call to talk too.

My husband and I also call each other often. He tells me when his meetings/unavailable times are so I only call if it's emergency related during those times. Other than that, we call often. Definitely call right before we go to sleep so we can share the day, pray, and say "Goodnight"! Makes me feel better being in the house alone!

Stacey @ The Blessed Nest said...

By the way, I came over from SITS, and I'm going to add you to my blog list, if that's ok!


Melanie said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. My November looks wide open too and I can't wait.

Mammatalk said...

What a great, original post. I can use it!

Rachel said...

Very good ideas. My husband travels a lot and when he is gone, my son and I usually have at least one "date night" even if it is to subway or chik fil a.