Friday, April 4, 2008

Keeping it together on your own.

Back from a 2 week trip: capturing their happiness.

Craig isn't traveling as much as he used too, but there are still weeks that pass when he is absent for the entire day stuck in meetings with no ability to reach him. He can be gone from 7:30 to 6:30, leaving only an hour for the girls to spend with him. Here are a few things I've learned to do when coping with a husband who travels:

There is always a honeymoon night for the girls. The first night they are energetic, go to bed when asked, talk happily, and keep the drama at a very normal level. The second night they hold it together well, the drama escalates, a few more tantrums then normal, whines, and an added "I miss daddy" talk. After the 2nd full night, my girls escalate becoming more frantic, easy to tears and drama, drama, drama; however, I realized something this and even the last time Craig went out of town - their mood relates strongly with my mood. Some of the drama is elevated, because my stress level is elevated. I've made a huge effort to keep my cool, stay calm, and take each day cheerfully - most days! Here are my tips:

#1. Plan something, anything- every night. The routine of school has been so helpful for the girls. Even when they weren't going all day, they still thrived on the stimulation and routine of school/or preschool. The evenings, however, always get hairy when something isn't planned, and often when there is a plan - but always better with one. For instance, I wrote this back in February when we had our valentine fairy night where we delivered cupcakes, Tuesday was their ballet and gymnastics and our second fairy drop-off, Wednesday was their weekly meeting with the specialist, Wendy's, and American Idol night, Thursday was valentine picnic up in the office with pizza, macaroni and cheese and all their special fun stuff while we watched Wednesday's American Idol, and than we carried ourselves downstairs for the High School Musical Concert on DVD. Every night almost every minute is planned, which helps me stay focused and helps the girls know what to expect.

#2. Show them that daddy is still thinking about them. Despite my efforts to encourage them that "daddy is coming back", "daddy is thinking about" them, "daddy loves" them; there is always added tantrums, fighting between each other - basically extra drama! To encourage their understanding of "daddy", being available to them when they need him, Craig sets a certain time each day to talk to them privately, we take a photo of each of the girls with daddy right before he leaves and print it off. They are free to carry it, set it down in their room, or wherever they want. I come to know when they are "sulking" over the empty daddy space and start talking them through it, this allows them to cope with it better.

#3. Make a calendar. Seeing when daddy is coming home, makes all the difference. I always print a calendar with clip art ie, planes, holidays etc.; anything that let's the girls know how much time they have left until they can see daddy again. I place it in a very high traffic area and give them stickers (if the want) to record the days he was away and how many days until he comes home.

#4. Take time for yourself. If it's doing some extra shopping, having someone babysit one evening, a girls night out, a movie after the kids go to bed, calling friends, or something special to eat - taking time for yourself keeps your head clear, and your body physically prepared for being both mommy and daddy. Even with the girls at school, I was still dealing with extreme nausea and had to do my daily routine. The little things I did for myself really helped.

#5. Expect to be tired. When Craig is gone, I just can't sleep as well as I do when he's here. I have succeeded many times in setting a nightly routine, so that I can settle in and sleep peacefully. However, this doesn't always work. Whether you're sick, your kids are sick or whatever keeps you up at night, be prepared to be a bit more tired than you are normally. Realizing this always helps me control my temper with the children, and on a rare day, try harder to get to sleep earlier or in a more rare moment -take a nap during the day. If you have family and close friends around, to be afraid to ask for their help. I am not lucky to have these close relationships here in Montreal - but I know a couple friends I have called when I needed help.

I applaud anyone who has to do it alone for any amount of time. These are my must do's, what are yours?


Barb said...

Having a strategy is huge! Craig is obviously very involved when he is home, or else they wouldn't miss him, right? A blessing to have a dad who is into his little girls, with a bit of backlash when he's away.
You manage the challenges of motherhood so well!

crystal said...

I like the "plan something every night" tip. That's great advice for any family--not just for coping with travelin' dads! I am bad at it, though. I just have an after-school routine, then let them play free-style 'til it's time for bedtime routine.

YOU ARE MUCH MORE FUN!!! And you just gave me a giant complex.

Elise said...

Hi Michelle

What a great list of "survival strategies". I like that your tips are creative and have such a sense of fun about them.

The last one, expect to be tired, is so true. It's amazing how your whole mindset can change when you do embrace this notion.

jenny said...

A traveling hubby would be SO hard. Hands down to you for sure. What great tips. I second planning activities and staying busy. That is what keeps me sane most of the time. And Attitude is definitely the key. THe kids for sure feed off of that.

Mandi said...

Hi Michelle
You are going to drive yourself crazy!!!! ha ha (already have).
My husband works shift work and when my kids were little we looked at that time as our "girl time" so two nights a week he is not home, and I find it really great. We dont really think about him not being there (does that sound weird), its just how its been for so long so thats what happens. I am worried if you continue to plan every minute while he is away (if he starts being away more again) then you will drive yourself aroundthe twist trying to plan so the girls dont miss him. I assume as they get older they wont notice as much, but I know its harder when hes gone for weeks!!! It just concerns me that you are stressing about filling in the time for the girls but you are not able to use this time to relax and do some me things. I dont know if any of that makes any sense, but I hope so. The girls will eventually understand that Dad has to do this and yes we miss him but we can be ok while he is not here, and that they can use the time for them too instead of you having to be stressed that they arent too stressed.
Love u - Mandi...........xx

Amanda said...

I can attest to everything you have said! My husband's "office" is in our house, but he covers all of NE for his job. So, there are days when we eat all 3 meals with him, he helps take kids to school if the baby is napping, is available to play a bit after school, etc. all while "working". Then he leaves for 2, 3 sometimes 4 days and it's hard on the kids. He's much more fun that I am...but when he's gone I let kids pick dinner (which they love), and sometimes we'll watch a show, or go to the park after dinner etc.

But, what really gets me through those days? Diet Coke. Let's just be honest here.

Best of luck! Hope you all hang in there!