Nine Ideas for Coping When Dad Travels

My husband’s gone this week. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often. With the morning I was having when he left, I was in tears by the time he hit the interstate. I can tend to get a little desperate with the round-the-clock needs of kids, the loneliness, and the lack of my husband’s stability, his leadership, and his wrestling matches with my testosterone-charged boys.

To cope with being on duty 24/7 — and stave off a few more rounds of “When’s Dad coming home?” — I’ve been strategizing. Hopefully this week will be a little more enjoyable for me and a little more exciting for them. Here are some of the ideas I’ve found:

Get cooking. This week, we checked out a kids’ cookbook from the library, bought ingredients for the recipes that looked the yummiest, and cooked together (at least as long as their attention spans lasted). We liked “Kids Cook 1-2-3” (every recipe has only three ingredients) and “The Children’s Quick and Easy Cookbook,” but there are a lot of great ones out there.

I’ve also tried reading a book like “Stone Soup” together and then surprising them with simmering their very own Stone Soup together for dinner. My kids like picnics — indoors or outdoors. We’ve also tried making personal pizzas in cake pans or making breakfast for dinner. For dessert, who can resist an ice cream sundae buffet?

Ahhh, relief. I usually ask the grandparents if we can have dinner with them some evening to break up the monotony of dad-less nights. You might request a little carpool help from friends. Or like my friends do, schedule a girls’ night at your house after your kids are in bed.

Leave notes in Dad’s suitcase before he leaves. Small surprises work, too, like a favorite candy, a movie theater gift certificate (go online to check area theaters), or a bag of microwave popcorn with a note scrawled on top. He’ll be reminded that he’s loved all week, and kids learn how to plan ahead for thoughtfulness.

Pray for him. During business travel, my husband may be battling exhaustion, temptations, and stress. Or maybe the non-business-related hours will be a great opportunity for him to relax and/or connect with God. I like to pray Psalm 90:17: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (FamilyLife also offers a great prayer card to pray for your husband consistently.) The kids like to pray for him, too.

Do something fun you’ve put off. A friend of mine catches up on scrapbooking in the otherwise lonely hours after her kids are in bed. You might get a few chick flicks and favorite snacks just for you. Or call some friends whom you haven’t talked to. It’s a great time to make a date with God and be able to reconnect spiritually, too.

Feel productive. Maybe you’ve been wanting to paint a room, organize a closet, fill out a baby book, write a few letters, or journal. This week may be a great chance to catch up on your list of projects. Just avoid my typical mistake of “catching up” to the point of exhaustion!

Do some fun projects together. Do a huge jigsaw puzzle at the kitchen table throughout the week. Go on a bike ride or a hike. See something in your city you haven’t before. Or think of a fun service project to do: Make cookies for someone who needs a pick-me-up, invite a young mom’s children over to play, or rake leaves (complete with piles for jumping) for a widow or single woman.

Make them feel special. It’s a great time for a date night with one of your kids, maybe while another gets his own night at Grandma’s. Try an at-home “spa night” with a daughter or a pizza and video games night with the boys.

Relax. I loosen up on our normal routine a little. We don’t eat quite as healthy because I’m content with minimal cooking; after all, hot dogs clean up a whole lot easier than baked chicken. I figure that if I have less help, I may want to create less work. We’ll have a movie night or even two and push back bedtime a few minutes, and one of them might even get to sleep in my big bed.

Get creative. Think of some special crafts you might do to fill some evening hours: making soap or candles, making models, or letting the kids put on a puppet show or their own play.

Get technical. For the frequent-flyer dad, purchase webcams for your home computer and his laptop. He can read bedtime stories, hear the day’s highlights, and witness the lost teeth or baby milestones. (This actually works great for us to keep in touch with long-distance grandparents, too!)

Be prepared. Before he leaves, think about whether you’ve got jumper cables in the car, know where the fuse box is or similar locations helpful when the house freaks out, and have a list of repairmen your husband trusts — a mechanic, a plumber, an appliance repair shop, etc. Have him show you how to change a tire if you don’t already know. (Note to self: charge cell phone!) You might have him contact a family friend who’s “on call” for minor emergencies and mishaps when your husband’s gone.

With my man out of town, I’m sometimes amazed that couples have done this for centuries. That doesn’t mean it’s not crazy around here when my own husband is out-of-pocket, but it does mean God’s got my “daily bread” ready for whatever I’m going to face. And I’m sure it’ll go well with whatever my kids and I are cooking up!

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