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7 Tips for When Your Spouse Must Travel for Work

I had to say goodbye to my husband today. It happens frequently at our home, due to the nature of his job. In fact, he must travel for work for about three solid weeks each month.  The 7-10 days that he is home, though, he is home 24/7 with no obligation to be anywhere.

Does your spouse frequently travel for work?  Here are some tips to make things easier.It makes for a pretty crazy lifestyle. We have a slogan that we say a lot: “Never a dull moment.” Because that is our life! Either he is home and we are busy enjoying having him here, or he is gone and I am busy being essentially a single parent.

There are pros and cons to this type of situation, as with anything else.  The cons are fairly obvious: he’s not home every night, he often misses birthdays or other milestones, etc.  The pros are more subtle, but they do exist.  He gets to see the world, for one.  When he’s home, we can have great family time for days on end.  We can get a house project done pretty quickly, because he can work on it for several days in a row.  I don’t have to cook as much or do as much laundry when he is gone. Things like that.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how difficult it is.  Obviously it can be hard to be the only responsible adult around for weeks on end.  In this economy, though, we are grateful that he has a steady, fairly secure job.  Mostly I just try to find ways to make it work, because it is what we have to do; and wallowing in self-pity isn’t going to make it any better.

Don’t get me wrong; I have had my meltdowns. But over the 10+ years that we’ve been doing this, I’ve learned a few things about how to make it easier, how to smooth over some of the rough spots. So the meltdowns happen less frequently than they used to… at least I think so. 🙂

7 tips for when your spouse must travel for work:

1) It helps to be a low-maintenance wife. A guy who travels a lot already has a lot of pressures on his life; I don’t need to create more.  I can’t have high expectations about him remembering special occasions or sending me love notes.  I need to give him the freedom to focus on work while he is at work.

2) Expect a day or two of adjustment when he leaves.  I am often sad after saying goodbye.  When I remember that this is perfectly normal and will pass within a couple days, then it doesn’t faze me too much.  Sometimes I pamper myself during that time by reading a nice long book not pushing myself for too much productivity, and that can help make the sadness pass with less emotional upset. 🙂

3) Expect a day or two of adjustment when he comes home. While my husband is gone, I am the decision-maker; I control my days and my kids’ days. When he gets back, it can be hard for me to remember that I don’t have to (nor should I) make all the decisions any more. Sometimes it can take us a couple of days to iron out the kinks of this transition; but when we remember that it will happen, then we are more able to handle the readjustment with laughter rather than frustration.

4) Expect that a few hours or the night before he has to leave, he may be preoccupied with thinking about what he is heading out to do.   That means that it’s best if I don’t try to have any major discussion with him during that time, or to request help with anything.  If I haven’t brought it up before this preoccupation hits, then I usually wait until he comes back home before I try again.

5) Avoid bringing up heavy conversation topics on the phone.  I also try not to mention that I wish he were home or to make him feel bad for being gone.  I warn the kids to keep things light when they talk to him, as well.  The poor guy is doing what he needs to do to put food on our table; he doesn’t need us to be whining at him about something over which he has no control.  In short, I try to make it as emotionally easy as possible for him to be away.

6) Be respectful of the times when he is unavailable due to work. Sometimes I just cannot reach him.  At all.  Other times he is busy and cannot talk for long.  This needs to be OK with me.  Cell phones are a recent invention, after all.  Many women lived without talking to their husbands for weeks and longer at a time, when the men went off to war, or to scout out a job opportunity or frontier location.  Surely I can manage to get through the few hours or even days that I cannot talk to him.  For more on how to communicate when your spouse is away, I highly recommend Wendy Woerner’s article: Six Ways to Stay Connected with Your Husband When He Travels for Work.

7) Be flexible to adapt to his task list while he is home.  Since we live out in the country, a big honey-do list has usually been written by the time he gets back home.  It is important to him to get as much of it done as possible, so that things are easier for me without him.  That means I shouldn’t be demanding he take over my tasks while he is home or that he spend a lot of time socializing to make me happy.

It’s not only me that has to do the adjusting.  The Man was telling me that he often doesn’t want to go to restaurants when he gets home, because he has been eating in them every day for so long.  All he wants is some yummy, home-cooked meals; but he has to remember that it’s important to take me out a time or two while he’s here.  I can definitely go with that. 🙂

Another thing I think about is that I am the same way whenever I leave the house.  Even if it’s just for a few hours to be with my friends for ladies’ night, or to go shopping, I don’t like to be interrupted a lot or made to feel bad for going out.  So why would I want to do that to my husband?

I’d rather keep him wanting to come back home.

Does your spouse have to travel for work?  If so, you might want to subscribe to my blog, because this is a topic I’ll be talking about frequently.  Just put your email address in the box at the top of the sidebar. 🙂

 

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About the author

Ann Karako

Ann has been homeschooling for 18+ years and has graduated four children (one more to go). She believes that EVERY mom can CONFIDENTLY, COMPETENTLY -- and even CONTENTEDLY -- provide the COMPLETE high school education that her teen needs. Ann's website, AnnieandEverything.com, offers information, resources, and virtual hugs to help homeschool moms do just that. Ann has written Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Manual for Research & Planning, and she founded the popular FB group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School. She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.

6 Comments

  • I really needed this! My husband just started with a new company where he goes out of town often as well and it’s been a big adjustment for us and our two little ones. Thanks!!

    • Oh good, Erin, I’m glad the timing on this post was right for you! It IS an adjustment but with a little flexibility it can become quite workable. I’m sure you’ll figure out how to make it flow for you all. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!

  • I wish I had read this months ago! My husband just started a new job and has to travel two to three weeks out of the month. I didn’t handle the transition as gracefully as I would have liked to. I’ve learned a lot and he’s about to start traveling again as soon as our second is born this week. This will help me to support him more. Thank you for your honesty! It opened my eyes to the things I’m doing selfishly. Thank you!

    • Aw, Elizabeth, I know the feeling, trust me. Most of these lessons have been learned the hard way, lol; and I still fail at them more than I would like. Hang in there! I promise it will get better as you work at it. 🙂 Thanks SO MUCH for taking the time to comment!

  • I appreciate the ideas and can see how helpful they’d be for a life which involves a constant back-and-forth transition. Some sound advice.

    But I need to vent here. My husband leaves in a week’s time for the other side of the planet for a year. Yeah; I’ll be a single homeschooling mother and a lonely wife until August 2016. I’ll run the entire house by myself: shopping, utilities, parenting, decisions, repairs, grass cutting and snow shoveling, meals, dishes, and so on. Plus teaching our tween daughter and running my own online graphic design business.

    Somehow I don’t think #5, for example, is going to be relevant – if there are big issues between me and my daughter, he’ll want and need to be involved in negotiating, backing, and helping decide a way to move forward. If there are financial decisions, well, it’s his overseas job that will be paying for them and he will be consulted. Same with #6 – of course I’m not going to be making frantic phone calls to the university in Oman at 3 in the morning my time while he’s probably in class, but we need to talk on a regular basis, or our marriage won’t be alive in a year’s time.

    So, anyone have any ideas for how to keep emotional intimacy and connection, involve him in parenting, home ownership, family, etc., and build rather than hold relationship, over the course of a year’s separation?

    • Aw, Judith, you go right ahead and vent! Totally allowed here!! I feel so bad that you and your husband will be apart so long!

      You are right, my post is more for people who will only be separated for a short time. Of course you will need to talk to your husband about your daughter, as well as all of the household details. I should probably amend #5 to say to AVOID bringing up heavy topics on the phone — because obviously there are times when we all need to do so. I would never advise making those types of decisions without your husband’s involvement. (And I just did change that — thanks for showing me the need to do so!)

      #6, though, I think still applies, and you said so yourself. You WON’T be calling him while he is in class — that’s respecting the times when he is unavailable. I certainly did not mean to imply that we wouldn’t talk at all to our husbands while they’re away. I just meant that we need to be patient if they are unavailable for a few hours or possibly even for a few days (although that hopefully won’t be a common occurrence). By all means, DO “talk on a regular basis.” 🙂 My husband and I try to talk at least once a day while he is gone, when he’s available to do so.

      As I’m thinking about your question, I wonder if it would work to send a scheduled email, say once a week, or every other day (whatever you think would work best) to keep him posted on all the “maintenance” issues that you are working through? Tell him what’s going on, ask for what he wants you to do, then later tell him how it worked out. He can write back or advise you the next time you talk; but that gives him the opportunity to think about things before he needs to come up with an answer. Maybe that would enable the phone conversations to stay more light-hearted.

      A great intimacy builder is to pray together over the phone. You can pray for your relationship, for your daughter, and for anything else that either of you is working through. I know that it helps me feel closer to my husband when we do so.

      I also think old-fashioned letters would be really neat. There is something about seeing the person’s handwriting on a piece of paper, something you can hold in your hands and keep in your nightstand to read over and over, that cannot be replicated with email. Especially since you will be apart for such a long time, maybe that’s something to consider.

      My heart goes out to you! I am so glad you stopped by and felt free to share. Please let me know how things go. HUGS!!! 🙂

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I’m Ann (aka Annie), a veteran homeschool mom of five. I believe YOU can do this homeschool high school thing!
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