My husband works his butt off for our family.
I love this about him. Truly. His dedication, diligence, and hard work on the job are incredibly admirable. Since we were engaged, though, that has meant a lot of work trips.
Pre-kids, his trips meant more time to study or hang with friends.
Three kids, a home, and two school schedules later, his trips often mean I have to fight to avoid my crazy place.
Some days I hide in the bathroom for a few minutes. Don’t judge me.
I’ve learned a few things that have helped me manage the sanity, schedule, and house when he travels that I’d like to share with anyone reading from the bathroom today.
Step 1: Prep
Before your spouse departs, prep your life to minimize impact. Let me expand. For me, I always feel behind on laundry, grocery shopping, and getting food ready. Before Brad leaves, he helps me catch up on those things.
Groceries: We stock up on groceries including easy meals/snacks for them and me (pretzel chips, baby carrots, hummus, grapes, sandwich stuff, cereal, milk, eggs, yogurt, frozen lunches, and dinners).
Food: I make a big crockpot meal the night he leaves that I chip away while he’s gone by refrigerating overnight and keeping on warm during the days. I also get everything chopped and de-branched – red peppers, blocked cheese, grapes, etc. – ahead of time so they can be at grab-and-go status.
Laundry: We try to get completely caught up and put away before he leaves.
Step 2: Know Your Limits
You know the areas of kid and house management that make you want to run for the hills. For me, it was taking all three girls to alternating dance classes. Sitting with my 6-year-old and baby for 45 minutes just to rotate to the 4 year-old and baby that was half-past done for another 45 minutes made me feel, and I’m sure look, a frantic mess. Don’t be deceived by their cuteness.
It took me a few weeks of attempting this while Brad traveled to realize I could pull the grandpa card. Neither of our parents are retired yet, but his dad gets off work early and was able to watch our baby while I took the older two to dance. Huge, huge difference.
Maybe it’s coordinating drop-offs and pickups or keeping the house in order, but learn your limits, know your resources and set up help before the spouse travels.
Step 3: Don’t Forget to Socialize
When you are manning the house alone, sometimes it feels like your vocabulary is limited to, “no”, “don’t hit your sister,” and “three more bites” on rinse and repeat.
One of the greatest gifts, when Brad travels, is staying connected. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, set up playdates. If you’re away from home, find an online community with similar interests. If you work or have working friends that offer to help, invite them over after bedtime or to join the circus of eating out with toddlers.
Find your people. Invite your them over, out, etc. Adult conversation is such a gift when you’re flying solo
Step 5: Capitalize on Self-Time
My husband and I never agree on any shows. I enjoy Gilmore Girls and This Is Us while he enjoys Game of Thrones and West Wing. We have a select few we agree on, but mostly end up with football and HGTV to meet in the middle. When he travels, I catch up on all of my quality cinema.
I save annoying and time-consuming home organization projects – toy room purge, tackling the desk room, etc. – for when he’s gone.
I also try to read a lot more when he’s gone during kid’s naps or after bedtime and catch up on book club material or ones collecting dust on the shelf.
When your spouse is gone, do your thing.
Step 6: Cash In On Reward Perks
Make sure if your spouse uses reward program numbers or cards to rack up points as they travel. Brad uses Southwest so often he earned a Companion Pass meaning that I can fly with him anywhere for free for an entire year. Woot!
I hopped along on his recent work trip down to TX for our anniversary weekend and hung, explored, and blogged from the hotel while he worked. That night, we found a cool dinner and bar spot and enjoyed soaking up Southern warmth mid-December.
I’ve also used his reward points to book flights to a FOCUS conference and girl’s weekend. God bless you, Southwest.
Step 7: Recharge
Without fail, when he gets home my girls forget I exist in all the right ways. Their joy when he walks in the door, sets down his bags, and covers them with kisses melts me. We are all a bit ecstatic when dad gets home.
Still, when your spouse does return if you need to give them a kiss and then flee the house immediately to endlessly browse the aisles of Target by yourself, I feel ya. Or if catching up with a friend at a bar or going for a run is your thing, rock it.
If a traveling spouse empties your tank, make sure to fuel up when they’re home.
I’d love to hear some more tips or ideas. What helps you prepare, handle, or recharge when your spouse travels?