I believe some of the most difficult days of my life are the days that I have to juggle everything on my plate all on my own. They are the days that I run this gig called parenting/homeschooling/mothering solo. These are the days when my husband travels without us, usually for business. I’ve been reflecting on his last couple of trips lately. One of them went really very well for our family and the other did not. Why the contrast? I’ll share that with you and perhaps I can help you and your family have a positive experience the next time your husband is away from home.
1.Prepare Ahead of Time
If you are as blessed as I am to have a pretty engaged, hands-on husband, then he is sure to leave a gaping hole in your family’s life when he travels. In our house Daddy is very involved. Not only does he read to the kids and tuck the children into bed most nights, but he also pitches in with the cleaning, taxiing them to their dozens of activities, and he often does the cooking.
When my husband leaves all of a sudden, all of these big things fall on my shoulders. I didn’t even mention the small but important things like feeding the dogs, putting out the trash, watering the vegetable garden or locking up at night. They say you don’t really appreciate someone until they are gone? Well, I don’t think I ever comprehend just how much my husband does around here until he isn’t here anymore. I’m all out busy all on my own, so taking on his responsibilities too becomes overwhelming. The first time my husband traveled this year I felt I was prepared for this. I was organized with lists of things to remember. I had lots of discussions with my children about stepping up to do some of Daddy’s jobs and they were excited to do it. I made sure our laundry was all caught up and the house was pretty well clean and tidy so that I could feel ahead and not behind the whole week. As a result, I was rather relaxed most of the week. We even took a special field trip and had a great time. I welcomed him home with open arms. I felt confident and proud as I had accomplished so much. I found my kids and I could do more than I ever realized.
The second time he traveled, I think I had already grown complacent. I didn’t do any of the above. When he left, the house was a total disarray with laundry and dishes piled high. I hadn’t delegated tasks and expectations to my children and they were ill-prepared to step up. I had misplaced my lists and I forgot a dozen things. Nothing like waking up with a start and racing out of the house at 5am in jammies hoping to sprint the garbage can to curb before the truck pulls up. Not the best way to start the day. I was tired, and stressed, and just a discombobbled mess all week. A field trip? Not on your life! My husband was welcomed home to a tired and grumpy wife because I had raced around trying to play catch-up all week and it didn’t work. It was a mess and I was left feeling rather like a failure.
2. Rest Your Expectations!
The first time my husband went away I reset my expectations for what I thought a week in our home should look like. Deep cleaning didn’t happen and that was ok. Stories at night with the kids only happened once and that was ok. The dogs didn’t get walked the way they usually do and that was ok too. Our meals weren’t as healthy as they usually are. Yes I resorted to paper plates and frozen pizza. Everyone was happy! We even missed one of the kids’ activities and that too was ok! The important stuff got done, my kids and I enjoyed each other, and that was all the mattered.
The second time I didn’t even think about expectations. I didn’t make a plan in my mind about what was needed and what I could let go. I was like a dog chasing my tail just stumbling around. I beat myself up for everything that didn’t go according to my own standards. I berated myself for each thing I forgot, or lost, or didn’t handle smoothly. I was intensely hard on myself and that really only made things that much worse! My husband also didn’t prepare my expectations for what he’d be doing while he was away. He was supposed to be away on business. He was working! My hard work and sacrifice at home was in support of his career. At least that’s the mantra I had running through my head as I cleaned up a dog mess for the 3rd time. It was at that moment he decided to text me a photo from his seat at a Red Sox baseball game. Can I admit to blowing a gasket?! Here I was running myself ragged so he could go off gallivanting and enjoying a good time!?! Ok that is so not fair to him. My husband is a very hard worker and he totally enjoyed that fun he had. But at the moment I was expecting it and I was in a mess. I wish I had just known ahead of time that there would be a bit of fun built into the trip. Again, it’s all about expectations.
I did pray the first time around. Is it obvious that I didn’t the second? I think so. I prayed for my husband’s protection and safety not only of his physical being but also his heart. I prayed for God’s help with my own attitudes towards myself, my kids, and my husband. And most of all I prayed for God’s over all help to smooth my path as I walked through my days. God delivers when asked. I didn’t ask the 2nd time around.
What It All Boils Down To
Truly, when we prepare ourselves and our home and our expectations, when we pray and seek the Lord, times away from our husbands can actually be a blessing. After his first trip I discovered that I am stronger and capable of more than I thought. My confidence was definitely boosted. It was good for our marriage too. I appreciated him so much more than usual as I fully grasped just how much he does around here. I completely missed my man and I was also totally excited to welcome him home. Excitement in a marriage is definitely a good thing if you know what I mean. I know I will handle his next trip far better than I handled his first. God taught me some valuable lessons about being complacent and perhaps a little too self-confident. It was not a pleasant experience but I praise Him for I know that I am a better wife and mother because of it.
How about you? Does your husband travel? How do you cope? What works well in your home? I’d love some pointers from other moms out there!
Delivered by FeedBurner