“Your husband is gone AGAIN?”
Oh, how many times I’ve heard those words, only to say out loud with a small sigh, “Yes, he’s traveling . . . again,” and yet think in my head, “if you only knew.”
You see, we moms with spouses/partners who travel for business or are deployed — we’re in a special club. A club that you cannot fully understand and grasp unless you’re a part of it. It’s not the most fun club to be a member of, but it’s one we’ve either chosen for our family’s benefit or perhaps have been thrust into due to family necessity. The initiation process is basically, as the old saying goes, “baptism by fire.” And the membership, while it may have certain benefits (hotel points, airline miles, rental car points out the wazoo), isn’t without its challenges.
A Tale from the Traveling Husband’s Wife
Six years ago, my husband took a job that was a true blessing. It was a great career move for him in many ways and allowed me my dream job of staying at home. The only thing is: He has to travel. Before our children were born, this travel was difficult, but once our children were born, it became increasingly hard. In fact, the first time he left on a business trip post-children was when our oldest was three weeks old. Talk about an initiation!
As the years have gone by, I’ve developed routines that work best for the three of us while my husband is gone. Each mom whose spouse/partner travels for business has her own; mine are pretty simple: laying out all clothes for the week, only making easy dinners (boxed macaroni and cheese for the win!), and planning lots of play dates to keep us out of the house and occupied to make the time go faster.
But it’s during this travel time that, without a doubt, my children get sick, tornadoes happen in the middle of the night, and everything known to man breaks in our house. All of these things have only made me stronger and have shown me not only that I AM capable of doing hard things, but also where I put my trust. However, that’s not to say I — and my fellow club members — don’t need help sometimes, whether it was chosen by us or we were thrust into it.
How to Help: What to Do
There are many ways you can help a mom whose spouse/partner travels for work. They don’t have to be anything outlandish, but know that whatever you do is appreciated more than you’ll ever know. Many of these moms (including me!) get into their own routine and are too proud to ask for help, so sometimes you might be met with pushback, but don’t let that stop you from trying.
- Invite her over for dinner or send her dinner. Whether it’s a pizza delivered or a homemade bouf bourguignon at your house, the mom will appreciate not having to cook that night and won’t feel guilty for feeding her child(ren) a PB&J for the third night in a row. Plus, the evenings get long and lonely when you’re alone!
- Offer to help with the kid(s). If you’re headed to the same preschool as the mom whose spouse/partner is traveling for work, offer to take her child to school with yours. If you’re a local grandparent, ask to take the kid(s) to Sonic for a treat to give the mom 20 minutes of alone time. Or if you’re up for it, ask if one of the kids can have a sleepover with your child that night. (This works great during the summer!) My aunt used to come over and help me with bath time when my boys were little, and it was a tremendous help!
- Choose your words wisely. I’ll discuss words/phrases that aren’t helpful below, but this is just a gentle reminder to use, as we say in our home, “helping words.” Just understand that the mom is going to be overtired, stressed, and a tad lonely during this travel time — and kind, thoughtful words are a gift to her. My favorite was a friend who encouraged me by saying, “I know this week is hard. I don’t live this life, but I want to help you. How can I best do that?”
How to Help: What Not to Do
On the opposite end, there are things that simply do not help, as kind and well-intended as they may be. Many people say and do things in an effort to connect — or at the very least, try to relate — but they can come off as insensitive to a mom doing everything completely on her own for an extended period of time.
Things not to say:
- Wasn’t he just traveling?
- Can’t he just find a new job that allows him to be home more often?
- I don’t know how you do it.
- Seriously, I’d be a mess if my husband traveled like yours. Mine traveled overnight last week, and I was dying!
- You can’t really complain about his job since you chose this life.
- You think it’s hard NOW? Just wait until [insert life stage here].
- In hindsight, two weeks isn’t THAT long.
- I bet it’s a nice break with him gone.
- We all struggle.
Other things that don’t help:
- Local grandparents not helping whatsoever, not calling to check in, or offering any assistance when the spouse/partner is traveling .
- Friends/family members who offer help and don’t follow through (or don’t offer at all).
- Offering your experiences from when your children were little and your spouse/partner traveled — but not offering any assistance.
- Not being respectful of family time when the spouse/partner does return.
It truly takes a village, and any help you can provide to be that village for that mom is a gift.