Hubby working away from home half the time has meant this mom flies solo a lot. But a little creativity goes a long way to making the most of family time.
When my husband told me he had yet another business trip scheduled for the week after our first child was due to be born, I wasn’t concerned. I was used to being on my own frequently, and in my first-time-mom-to-be state, a week seemed like it would be plenty of time to get into a routine with a newborn.
I couldn’t have predicted that when he left for the airport, I’d still be healing from a difficult birth, using a hospital grade pump to express milk, and tube-feeding our son due to latch issues. (Fortunately, my parents took me in, along with the baby, the pump, the nursing pillow, and all the other “essential” gear.) When my husband came home, I joked that he’d already missed half of our son’s life. He didn’t laugh.
It’s been eleven years, another son, and a career change (for me), and my husband still travels about 50 percent of the time. We’ve paid for vacations with the airline points he racks up. While none of us love the frequent separations, we’ve made it work by being creative.
When I returned to my full-time job in publishing after having our second child, and faced juggling two different school and daycare drop offs and pick ups on my own (our closest family lived an hour away), we realized it made sense to employ a live-in nanny for a couple of years instead. Since leaving that career to become a teacher, I’ve worked freelance or part-time so I can be here when my husband is not. When their dad’s away, the boys and I occasionally have pancakes for dinner. We sometimes have to text him photos of milestones like lost teeth. And we avoid committing to activities on school nights. But overall, we manage. In fact, the boys have only ever missed the bus in the morning when dad is home…
The biggest solo-parenting challenge has been dealing with the boys’ Periodic Fever Syndrome (short version: frequent, often predictable high fevers for no apparent reason). My own current career flexibility helps with this. In addition, my husband has been able to telecommute for the last few years when he’s not travelling. Which means he can be on bus duty and never be late for work, handle doctor’s appointments while responding to emails, or be at home with a sick kid (parked in front of the TV) while he dials into a conference call. None of which he’d be able to do if he was commuting 2-3 hours a day to an office as he once did. This goes a long way towards making up for his frequent travel.
Most importantly, he makes it a point to devote weekends to our family—taking the boys to their activities, creating epic Lego structures, or simply getting them out of the house so I can catch up on my own work or get some much-needed cleaning done! The boys don’t like it when daddy’s away, but they deal with it really well—after all, this has always been their normal. The truth is, as a result of our unusual work arrangements, we probably get more “family time” than many others. And for us, that’s what it’s all about.
This is #1000families post number 162. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here. To get our weekly newsletter with the best of our website and podcast, just enter your email address here!