How To Juggle Kids and Work When My Husband Travels
For two years, my husband traveled every other week for three to four days per week. In that time, I had a young elementary school child, a toddler and a more than full-time job. Juggling doesn’t begin to describe how we survived that period. Thankfully, he left that company for one based closer to home and only travels once a month, or less.
While I’m no longer flying solo every other week, I have lots of shortcuts to make solo parenting while your partner travels easier. I will preface this by saying that those two years were difficult and made me realize how hard single parents work. I truly feel that there is no harder job than being a single parent. I only had a small taste of it and it was a major struggle. The difference is, I had help prepping for the week and recovering from the week – something single parents don’t have.
If you have a spouse who travels frequently and are looking for ways to make the travel time easier – especially if you too are a working parent – these parenting shortcuts can help.
Parenting Shortcuts To Make Spouse Travel Weeks Easier
Organization is Key to Solo Parenting
If you aren’t organized, surviving the travel weeks will be ridiculously hard. The only way we survived the frequent business travel weeks was because we used the weekend before the trip to get ready for the week. I’m not going to lie, it was annoying to have to spend the weekend taking care of all of the household duties, but it made it much easier for me to get through the week alone.
If you are going to be alone during the school/work week, some of the things you want to take care of in advance are laundry, laying out outfits, meal prep (I usually made a few meals over the weekend that the kids and I would eat all week) and grocery/errand shopping. I left nothing for the weekdays because my schedule was already going to be tight having to drop off and pick up both boys on my way to and from work. Once we got home, we had homework and prep for the next day so I didn’t want to drag the boys on errands.
Lower Your Parenting Bar
I’m not going to lie, my bar is already pretty low. As long as my kids are fed and relatively clean, I’m happy. I had to let go of being a perfectionist when I became sick. I learned that I only have a certain amount of energy to give and I need to put that energy toward things that are most important to me.
Yes, I’d like a perfectly organized home where everything gets put in its place at the end of the day. Yes, I’d like meals that are a little less simple. Yes, I’d like to be this insanely productive person who accomplishes everything on her to do list. However, I don’t want to do all of those thinks at the risk of my time with my kids.
That means, on weeks when my husband was traveling for work and I was solo parenting, my older son bought school lunch far more frequently, our meals were super simple and our house was pretty embarrassing for a stranger to see. I’d much rather read books with my kids than pick up toys. I’d much rather hear the newest game my son made up than cook an elaborate meal. And, I’d much rather make yet another train track for my youngest son.
OK, truth be told, these things ring true all the time. The difference is, when my husband is in town, we can share the load. Having to be responsible for everything is difficult. Give yourself room to let things go and just focus on the things that really matter to you. If you can’t stand dishes in the sink (I can’t), make sure you just do that.
Let go of the other things. Leave the clean laundry folded in the basket. Leave the mail in the mailbox (my strategy so that I don’t have to deal with it during the week) and eat macaroni and cheese every night, if that’s what works for your family.
Use Your Mom Village
I hate asking for help. I don’t know why, really, since I’m happy to help someone who needs my help. I had to get over my resistance to asking for help when I was solo parenting on a regular basis.
My son’s school has after-school events that require adult supervision. The events are in the afternoon, which is really difficult for a working parent – even more difficult if you have to pick up a child from another school. If it wasn’t for my school mom friends, my son would have missed out on the Valentine’s Day dance, the Spring Dance and the Halloween Carnival.
If you are a single parent, or has a spouse who travels or works long hours, it can be incredibly difficult to be everything to everyone. The only way to survive is to call on your village. Trust me, you’ll have the opportunity to repay the favor at some point. The mom who took my son to the dances? Her husband has been working out of town for four months straight for the last year and a half. I have happily watched her son on weekends when she needed to run errands, kid free. My husband has also watched him when she and I wanted to attend a PTA event together.
Moms need a village, particularly if you don’t live near family. I’m fortunate that my parents are only 45 minutes away. However, that is a long drive for older adults in the evening. I have a strong network of like-minded parents who I know I can count on in a pinch.
Parenting Prep Work
We’ve already discussed getting organized before you start the travel week, but these are actual action items to put on your to do list the weekend before a business trip:
- Check your work schedule and school schedules for any unusual events or activities that require advance preparation. For example – during school spirit week, my son has to wear a different spirit wear daily. I need to know if I’m supposed to buy hair color or a specific color shirt in advance!
- Meal plan for the entire week. You don’t need to plan elaborate meals, but make sure you have easy meals ready to go. You may even want to make sandwiches in advance or pre-chop veggies for lunches. Do whatever you can ahead of time.
- Get ready for tomorrow tonight. Do everything you can possibly do the night before. Make lunches, pack backpacks and bags, lay out clothing and set up the coffee maker and breakfast items before you go to bed. No matter how tired you are, it will be so much harder in the morning with the kids underfoot.
- Enlist the kids. Trust me, they are probably more capable than we assume. Your first grader can probably make a peanut butter sandwich while you’re packing your toddler’s lunch. Most walking kids can put their shoes next to the front door. You don’t need to do everything. Evaluate your kids’ abilities and have them jump in. It may take a while to teach them but it’ll pay off in the long run.
- Plan to leave 10 minutes earlier than normal. That gives you a buffer for the kid catastrophes that come up. Trust me, on more than one occasion, I’ve had to do a last minute diaper or wardrobe change or run back in the house for forgotten homework or work papers.
- Don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t run according to plan. Solo parenting is incredibly difficult. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else who was in the same position.
If you are solo parenting frequently, hopefully these shortcuts will work for you. Do you have any hacks that work in your household?