Tips for helping your spouse while you’re traveling
Sometimes the idea of traveling and leaving your spouse at home with the kids can seem like a scary thought. And it’s not because they can’t do it on their own. No matter which spouse travels, it’s usually easier to share the workload when it comes to household chores and kids. I’ll just send a shout out to single parents everywhere, I am truly amazed and respect what you do every day. Anyway, here are my tips to helping your spouse maintain the household while you are traveling.
1) Maintain a Master Schedule: Thanks to technology, our master schedule is on our iPhones. We don’t share every aspect of each other’s daily schedules. But we do have a “Family” calendar group on iCal that we add to very regularly. An example of things we put on the shared calendar would be sports games/practices, orthodontist appointments, club activities at school, birthday parties, cotillion, etc. Before one of us hits the road, we review the “Family” calendar to make sure we are all on the same page.
When the boys were little (before iCal), I would type up a daily schedule for reference and post it on the refrigerator. Once I had the template on the computer, it was easy to change for each trip. That way, no matter who was watching the boys, they would have something to refer to for nap times, bath routines, bottle feedings, bedtime routine etc. While most of us are easily reachable by phone while traveling, the master schedule cuts down on interruptions for everyday tasks. We also load our flight information on the master schedule so that each of us can have that information at our fingertips if we need it.
2) Let your Village Know: Even before we had kids, we’d always let our closest friends and family know that one of us was roughing it at home alone for a while. Hubby isn’t exactly talented in the cooking department, so he was happy to be asked over to dinner with friends and/or family. With kids in the mix we notify school, family, babysitters and backup carpool parents. Other parents are quick to offer rides to events, or have your kids over to spend the night just so they can help you out. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the help I can get.
3) Stock the house like you’re preparing for a snowstorm: When news of an impending snowstorm hits our area, we stock up and prepare our home in case we are stuck for a few days. I kind of do the same thing when I’m the one traveling. Hubby and the boys aren’t stuck at home while I’m gone, but they aren’t going to be eager to run household errands either.
The biggest thing for our house is assembling meals. I assemble their favorite meals and label them, so that Hubby (or the after school sitter) just has to put them in the oven or the crockpot. Stocking the fridge with fruits and vegetables is another must do. Otherwise, my family would contract scurvy while I’m gone. They tend to eat out a lot if I don’t prepare some options for them. Being all caught up on the household laundry a day or two before departure is a big help too. While it makes it easier for me to pack, it also keeps the calls for lost uniforms and underwear to a minimum. On the flip side, Hubby always makes sure my car has a full tank of gas, and that sports equipment for the boys is stored and easily accessible.
4) Develop a system for keeping in touch: Some families agree to a nightly call to keep in touch. I found that when my kids were little, a call home from a traveling parent would upset them more than anything else, so we got out of the habit. I think it also depends on your kids and your travel habits. Our boys are used to a decent amount of travel for Mom and Dad. Hubby sometimes leaves post it notes in funny places for our boys to find. They might find one on their bathroom mirror, sports helmet, book, school bag, or even in their car seat. The messages vary from “I’ll miss you” to “help take care of your brothers”. Now that my boys are teens and tweens, they’ll text me if they want to talk. I try to make a point to text them during a trip with a funny photo or interesting story.
Hubby and I have agreed that as long as we have some kind of communication once a day, we’re all good. Phone calls or texts work for us, since one of us might fall asleep exhausted. Traveling for work usually means you don’t have a lot of time to catch up on the phone with your spouse. Last fall I attended a conference that had meetings from 8am until 9pm with a small break for lunch. By the time I got back to my hotel room, I just wanted to relax in quiet for a little while. On the flip side, I communicate mostly by text if Hubby is the one traveling. I never know if I am interrupting an important meeting, so texting seems better.
5) Relax!! – Your spouse or caregiver is perfectly capable and trustworthy, otherwise you wouldn’t have even entertained this idea. Believe in them. Don’t let them see you sweat. The more nervous you are about leaving, the more your family will be too. If this is your first trip away, you have to start somewhere. Separation Anxiety is normal, but should get easier each time. Just think, if the first time you are away from your family is in an emergency, you’ll really be stressed. Once you’ve prepared as much as you can, it’s time to let go. Whether that means you can now focus on the work at hand, or truly enjoy some vacation time away from home, you deserve it, and so does your family.