I’ll never forget the first business trip my husband took after the birth of our second child. Our baby was about 3 months old and barely sleeping. Our oldest was newly 3 years old…and barely potty trained. Not 30 minutes after my husband had left for the airport to start his travels, but I walked outside to find our vehicle had not one, but two flat tires.
That pretty much sums up the rest of my week alone with the two kids.
Since that trip, we have added one more child to the mix. Although my husband’s work doesn’t require that he travels that often, he has steadily gone on more business trips with each passing year. Thankfully, with the increase in business trips and increased family size, has also come the ability for me to adapt and get through it. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few strategies for surviving.
I make it a stay-cation.
If my husband is away, then I try to make things as fun as possible at home. While we try to stick to the basic routines so that we aren’t totally out of whack, I do bend some rules, and try to pack in the fun. First, I fill in the week with lots of playdates. Then I layer in a few fun activities like the zoo, or even Chuck E Cheese for dinner one night. The key for me has been to have zero expectations other than to go out, be distracted, and have fun. I also don’t tell the children ahead of time what the plans are. That way I can be flexible about timing and choose activities to fit the overall mood. I can also potentially avoid risking the wrath of a disappointed child (or three).
I schedule my own travels (or at the least, a night out).
Right now I am a mostly at-home mom. My work allows me to be the one primarily home with the kids during the day. As my own CEO, though, I don’t get company paid travel or vacations. We’ve tried to make it a priority in the annual household budget to send ME on a mini-vacation every year. Sometimes I schedule a girls’ trip away to the beach. Sometimes I just do a weekend locally in a hotel with room-service. When I had a nursing newborn, even an evening out for 2-3 hours with friends was enough. When I have my own thing scheduled, I find that it is a great way to curb any jealous feelings I get of my husband’s time away.
I pack the parachute.
Before my husband leaves for his travels, we “pack my parachute.” Packing my parachute means that my husband and I do a few things to set me up for a successful week. We grocery shop, and I am sure to stock a few foods the kids don’t normally get to enjoy. We do some simple meal and snack prep so that I’m not worried about doing a lot of cooking. We go through the big chores so that the house is in extra good order. When I feel prepared, it helps me to not feel so overwhelmed.
I hide a stash of chocolate and wine.
I think this is pretty much crucial to surviving motherhood in general. It’s extra important when my husband is away, though. I have been known to stash some fancy bakery cupcakes in the back of the freezer just for me. I also might pick up a bottle of wine to last me the week. It gives me something to look forward to when things start to feel a little nuts – and while I’m dreaming about my own planned vacation travels too, of course!
I’ve learned to set a timer.
Seriously. I have noticed that most high tension moments with little kids are over in 20 minutes or less. I can do anything for 20 minutes. Any. Thing. At the very worst, I can typically get the kids packed up in the car within 20 minutes for an impromptu trip to the McDonald’s drive – thru. The kids and I have found that a total change of scenery and getting out can turn a bad mood around for all of us. Of course I can expect meltdowns with kids. Especially when my kids are missing one of the people they love and depend on most. For the most part, though, the meltdowns are short lived.
And there you have it. Those are my best tips for making it while your partner is temporarily away. I would love to hear from you too: does your partner travel? What are some of your best survival tips for other moms in the same boat? Please feel free to share in the comments!