I used to be a traveling guru. My husband and I logged tens of thousands of miles a year, traveling the world, staying in hotels, eating breakfast buffets and pretty much visiting every Extended Stay location we could manage.
Then, I got pregnant. Gone were the days of the wrinkle-free wardrobe, traded in for the spit-up stained sweats and also gone were the days of the Traveling Stremlaus. These days, my husband travels only a few days every month, and I manage to escape once a year for a girl’s weekend, but even a few missed story times really makes a dent in our family’s groove.
Whether you are going solo for a few days every once in a while or you have a partner who’s away as much as home, I’ve assembled my best bits of advice on how to not lose your mind (or your car keys).
Before You Go
No matter how old your child is, you need to let them know that Daddy is heading out for business. Feel free to throw Daddy’s boss firmly under the bus and blame him for “making Daddy take this trip”. It’s always easier to have a bad guy…and he might as well not be either of you, right? If your kiddo is able to understand the concept of days of the week, make a calendar or paper chain for how many days until he leaves and how many days until he comes home. Decide when you will cross off, sticker or rip off a day, be it over breakfast, after bath or dinner. I suggest skipping these types of conversations right before bed, lest you be invaded in your own space with a weepy child who misses their Daddy snuggles.
Hallmark has these very cool books that let you record your voice and read a story. I know this because my in-laws sent us one of these books for Christmas so we are often lulled to sleep or woken up by my mother-in-law reading The Night before Christmas. They have a ton of non-holiday books in stock and these make great family connection moments when Daddy is stuck in meetings or is out to his fully paid for steak dinners with just adults and deliciously flowing bottles of red wine (whoa, OK, I’ll hold back the resentment a little better).
I also love when Daddy leaves a snuggle friend at bedtime…this can be a new stuffed animal or even one you already have with a note saying that puppy would love to snuggle during reading because Daddy can’t – super parenting bonus points if Daddy packs a stuffed animal in HIS bag and texts a picture with said snuggle bear on his hotel bed.
Also on the top of my packing list is having my husband jot down some notes to tuck in special places. Just imagine your kiddo reaching into their PJ drawer or going for their toothbrush and finding a cute little note from Daddy. These take all of 5 minutes to do and it means so much for their little hearts to know that they are super special. You can even tuck letters in the mailbox and pretend the mailman delivered them (kids have no idea that a letter doesn’t instantly appear like an email, right?!?!).
Now that I’ve given you all my great tips, let me give you my biggest complaint ever. Do not, under any circumstances, tell your child they need to “take care of Mommy”. This “cute” little remark is one of my Top Ten parenting no-no’s, right up there with surprising them with Disney trips or not throwing them a birthday party every year (more on that later).
Why does this bug me? Two reasons, really. First, they are children and it’s my job as the mom to take care of them. My son actually tried to help me get dressed this morning because his Dad said he had to take care of me. I wasn’t yet aware that my son thinks my husband helps me zip up my jeans, but apparently, a 5-year-old has a convoluted sense of what it means to “take care” of somebody. The second reason is, well, kids take you seriously. They already are processing that you are going to be gone and, whether they are voicing it or not, wondering if you are coming back. Let’s let them be secure in knowing that nothing in their lives is really going to change…the rules of the house are still the same and mom is in charge (as per usual).
Once Dad has Left the Building
You’ve said your goodbyes, and chances are, your days looks pretty darn similar to before he left, right? In our house, we rarely see daddy before work…not only because I’m one of those people who aren’t functionally literate before 10 a.m. and a shot of espresso. When dinner-time comes around, it’s a different story. My suggestion is to change it up a bit. Hit a park after school instead of heading home. Grab a pizza or make popcorn in the microwave (you know you can just throw some popcorn in a paper bag and fold the top over, right?) or if you really want to waste some quality time, hit up . They have a great kid menu – $5 gets you a kid’s meal and a drink and you can console yourself with their honey fried chicken and mashed potatoes dinner. After a few days of solo parenting, there is nothing like a plate of fried goodness with some carbs on the side.
Obviously, you should schedule your Skype or FaceTime calls for sure, because kids love seeing their dad – but really, keep it short and sweet. I know my son gets burned out and squirrelly after a few minutes and let’s face it, if they aren’t into it, it’s just not worth it. Instead, have the kiddos create a poster or art project they can “show off” to their parent over video or text. Creating short videos to Facebook is also a big hit.
Oh, and there is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine after the kids are asleep.