Carissa is at Liberty University this week taking another class as she works towards her master’s degree in counseling. This isn’t the first time she taken a class like this, and as a result, I’ve had some practice at parenting when she is away. The truth is, just because mom is away doesn’t mean the craziness of life ceases. School and other activities do not stop. We have to feed our kids because that is considered socially acceptable. Wink. Wink. They still need to take baths at night and get up in the morning. It got me thinking about how I survive when she is gone. Let me offer five tips that have worked for me. You may find them helpful as well.
- Be flexible.
If you are like most people, your life is extremely busy, and we are no different. When one of us is out of town, it is obviously more challenging to control the chaos of the week’s activities. Like you, we have a certain way we like to manage our household. There’s a bedtime, a dinnertime, a bath-time, etc. Combine that with the fact that your day job doesn’t disappear just because your spouse is gone. I have found that flexibility is key. Allow yourself the space to veer off schedule if need be. It may not be exactly how things are normally run, but your kids will survive and so will you.
- Make it fun.
I have to admit that sometimes I can be the stereotype of the dad who can let things get out of control when mom is out of town. I’ve found though that making things fun is beneficial to all involved. It takes some stress off of you as the parent. It helps the kids to not miss mom as much. It also may allow you to connect with the kids a little more than normal. Go out to eat. Have a family-movie-night. Do dinner and a movie. Play games together. Notice I mentioned several things about eating. That’s because one of the easiest ways to make it fun is making sure you have food that your kids enjoy. Don’t make it difficult on yourself by fixing the veggies that they need to eat but don’t want to. You can save that for another time. You’ll thank me later.
- Give yourself some grace.
Go easy on yourself and allow some grace if you fall short of your expectations. Sure, you didn’t get everything done that you wanted to. You didn’t get to work on that project. Maybe you had dinner later than planned, or the kids went to bed a little late. That’s ok. You are not a failure. Things happen. Plus, I’m sure your kids won’t complain about staying up late.
- Do not deflect frustration.
Early this week, I had a frustrating day at my job with the healthcare company. From the beginning of the day I was on a trajectory that didn’t get any better as the day went on. I work out of our house, and as I was closing up for the day, I could hear two of my kids fighting in the living room. It was obvious that the evening was going to be a challenge after having the day I had just experienced. We all have challenging days and frustrations, but keep in mind kids are kids. As easy as it may be, we need to fight the urge to deflect our frustrations onto them. For me that meant saying a prayer before I left my office and later doing a FaceTime with Carissa. It could also mean taking a deep breath or going for a quick walk.
- Be Considerate.
What I’m getting at here is just making sure that your spouse doesn’t come home to more work than when she left. This means cleaning up the house. Don’t leave a pile of dishes in the kitchen or things all over the living-room. It may mean catching up on the laundry and vacuuming if need be. Get the kids involved. It’s a team-effort, and everyone has a part. This is merely being considerate. If your spouse has been away for school or away for some other reason, she will be tired when she gets home but will appreciate the opportunity to recover from the trip without having to worry about getting the house back together.
Do you ever parent when your spouse is away? What has worked for you?