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Tips For Coping When Dad’s Out of Town

We have gone through a lot of changes in the past few months.

First my husband was suddenly laid off, which meant he went from having the regular, predictable schedule associated with a full time job to being home most of the time.

That took some getting used to.

We had to navigate around each other and work out who was going to do what if the baby was crying, the phone was ringing, and the boy needed help with Algebra - all at the same time. These are things I had been doing all on my own during the day, but now that he wanted to pitch in, it still remained to be decided exactly what each of our "jobs" would be.

Now that he is employed, but working mostly out of town, we are once again trying to find the new normal.

Going from one extreme to another, while we were sometimes literally tripping over each other trying to get lunch served, now I find myself completely on my own serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, PLUS solving sibling disputes, answering tough life questions, and tucking everyone in at night.

DISCLAIMER: I am not griping here. We are thrilled that my husband has a job and we are able to pay our bills and even contribute to the needs of others. I am simply contrasting the difference between having a husband home most of the time to having a husband gone most of the time.

Here are a few tips for coping when Dad's out of town:

  • Try to keep your regular schedule. Get up and get dressed and serve breakfast as usual. Continue with as much of your routine as possible so the kids can count on some predictability during this time of transition.
  • Involve each of the children in regular phone calls. We even let the baby hear Daddy's voice over the phone as he talks sweetly to her and she stares curiously into the phone wondering how he got in there!
  • Continue to eat dinner around the table together each night. It is tempting for me to pass out sandwiches and let the kids scatter after a long day, but I have found that keeping our dinner routine seems to bring a sense of calm to us and we definitely enjoy a time of all coming together, even if Daddy's seat is empty.
  • Pray for Daddy together. Each day, throughout the day, we pray to thank God for Daddy's job and to ask protection over him while he is away.
  • Pray for yourself. Ask God for wisdom in the many daily decisions you are making on your own now. Ask for endurance and energy to make it through the days being the only adult in the house.

What tips would you add? How do you cope when Dad's out of town?

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  1. We are totally going through this also. Hubby’s new job requires a lot of traveling. We have used Skype a few times and that was neat. We also try to stick to our normal routine & make sure to pray for Daddy at every meal. It’s hardest for me at bedtime….I have to make sure I am really tired so I can fall right to sleep. ;-).

  2. Well being a military wife for the last 10 years, I have more than enough experience in dealing with seperation, the longest stretch was a 15 month deployment in which he came home only for 2 weeks during that entire time.

    For us, we stuck to the normal routine, of course things were different but we stuck to the same general time frame as usual.

    I cooked normal meals, too many times I have seen women go back to just serving sandwiches, hotdogs, other easy things the entire deployment. It’s great to take a break from time to time but important to still have normal healthy family meals.

    Stick to a normal cleaning schedule, again so easy to get out of the habit when you aren’t trying to impress your husband with a clean house at the end of the day 😉

    If dealing with long term separations, invest in a “daddy doll”. Our children still love to carry around their daddy dolls even though he is home.

    Keep busy, don’t shut down. Plan play dates, get out of the house, keep on moving, it makes the time go so much faster.

  3. We have had to deal with this in the past, and are currently dealing with it as my husband is doing a 2 month military training halfway across the country. Tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday, and tonight she was crying uncontrolably because she missed her Daddy so much, and he wouldn’t be there for her birthday. It breaks my heart, his too! We like to look at pictures of him, write letters, talk on the phone, remember fun memories. We take alot of pictures and send them on the cell phone. We pray for him every night. We try to stay busy, and count down the days to his return.

  4. My husband’s travels have become less and less over the years, so we tend to mix it up a bit when he is gone by trying to do “fun” things and we always throw him a welcome home party when he returns. This usually just involves homemade signs and something we’ve baked, like cookies or brownies etc.. I blogged about it here last year (http://wearesoparents.blogspot.com/2010/11/when-daddy-is-away.html)

    But your tips are perfect for your situation where dad is gone a lot. I know that when we do have stretches where my husband has to travel a lot we tend to try to keep our routines going as normal as possible. I’m so happy for your family that he has a job, but I do understand how hard it can be when he is gone. I’ll be praying for this new transition!

  5. Everything you mentioned about keeping a routine is HUGE! The biggest thing I have found, in 8 years of Navy life, is that it really isn’t a big deal during the day. I’m used to running errands and taking people to Drs appointments and all that jazz with him anyway while he’s at work. It really isn’t until dinner time/ bedtime that the difference is there. Some things that work for us ( and might not work for every family):

    Flat daddy- Our flat daddy is a life sized poster of Daddy from the shoulders up. It sticks to the wall and we keep it just outside the bedrooms, so the kids can say good morning and good night to daddy.

    pre-recorded DVDs- The ship uses a program called “united through reading” ( but anyone with a video function on a camera or ipod could do this) The dad’s read a story book out loud to the kids on a dvd. My husband will even ask questions, pause, and then “agree” with the answer he predicts the kids will give ( kind of like dora or blues clues) The kids love these videos, and daddy gets to read them a story before bed each night. We also do this for Birthdays and Holidays if we know daddy is going to miss them.

    Skype: This is a big one because it involves everybody. scheduled skype calls are free, and wonderful. everybody gets to see and talk to each other. the kids show off their school work or art work, and I know he can see the house behind me, so I stays clean.

    For myself ( The Mama) I have to go about my business like he’s going to walk through that door that night, or else everything goes to pot. And that is not easy. Half way through a 7 month deployment ti’s easy to stay in pajamas , keep the blinds pulled and shower once a week…every two weeks…wait…when was the last time…? Have a meal plan. even if it’s as simple as

    m- pizza
    t- pasta
    w- beef
    t- chicken
    f- soup
    s- leftovers
    s- chicken

    at least you know what to expect even if your not feeling especially creative.

    Pray. pray pray. Read. knit. keep busy, and don’t turn to your DVR as a stand in companion. Write each other once a day. even if it’s just a text or a small email. it’s good for your heart. And the thing that strikes fear into the hearts of my children, “What do you think your father would say? Are you going to tell him? If you wouldn’t do/say/act that way around your dad, don’t do it to others” Nobody wants to spoil a Daddy phone call .

  6. With my husband working a job that takes him away from home 28 days a month I know exactly how you feel. I agree with previous posters that you MUST stick to your regular routine. We are not military, but live right next to an Air Force base and I have a few friends who will let their houses go completely uncleaned for months because their husband is deployed, then spend a week cleaning before they get home. Not a good idea, imho.

    I also second the Skype idea. My husband and I talk several times throughout the day (good morning, how’d you sleep, after work, how was your day, etc..), but we ALWAYS use Skype for our bedtime call. The kids get to see daddy this way, we all get to blow kisses, and I have an accountability factor built in (you know, we at least have to have gotten dressed and brushed our hair!).

  7. My comment is actually about you disclaimer about not griping. When my kids were 3,2, and 2 months, my husband was laid off. He was off for about 6 months. When he found a job, it was an hour from home, and it was 10-12 hr days, usually 6 days a week (or really, I should say 6 nights a week, since it was 3rd shift). He would leave as the kids were getting in bed at night, work all night, come home around breakfast time, and sleep until supper. He would eat with us, spend about an hour with us, and leave again. His only days off were Sundays, so they were full of worship and church activities, not relaxing family time. There was no end in sight to this schedule (in fact, he still works there two years later, and the only difference is he is now on a day shift).

    Whenever I expressed any dissatisfaction with that schedule, people were always so quick to say “At least he has a job!” and “I bet all that overtime pay is nice!” Um, you know what’s nice? Having a husband around. Not having to raise 3 kids under 5 by yourself. Is it so wrong to wish he could have found a job with a normal daytime schedule that isn’t an hour away? Why do people have to act like you are ungrateful or whiney because you want your husband around? Is money all people think about?? I am not a whiner, and I never actually said that to people. I always just smiled and said we were so glad he was working. And I have tried to humbly accept our situation, and remember others have it worse. But I like my husband, and I hate having to apologize for missing him.

    Okay, rant over.

    • I agree! The other comment I get, usually from Air Force wives, is : “Isn’t it sooo much easier when your husband isn’t home?” WHAT! I actually enjoy being around my husband.

    • Yeah, rants are fair. :)

      My husband works such long hours, 6 days a week. While we ARE extremely grateful to be able to pay our bills, we miss him so much, and my heart hurts to see how tired he is all of the time. He does like his job, and we ARE THANKFUL!!!! but still, I wish it were better hours so we had more family time.

      Connie – I have no tips. I was going to say that my coping strategy is to find the nearest corner so that I may curl into the fetal position and suck my thumb. :)

      But you know that’s not true….we keep pluggin’ along, just like always. I’m not good at routines – other than: WE HAVE GOT TO CLEAN THIS HOUSE (every day, in some way) and SCHOOL! I’ve got to get some school in this day SOMEWAY! :)

  8. My hubby will be out of the country for a month next spring – so I appreciate your good perspective and advice on this!

  9. Funny you posted this today! We’re at the beginning of a 2 1/2 week time of Daddy being out of the country! He does this about four times a year. I know this is different than a lifestyle of Daddy traveling, so here are a couple of things that might be helpful for shorter-term absences:
    – paper plates
    – very simple meals, no sense in spending all evening on a dinner all the kids will complain about!
    – if you can, set up a little budget so that you can do a couple “fun” things with the kids.
    – find a friend whose husband also travels and join your families for the evening meal once in a while, or plan a Saturday together, since everyone else is busy with family time.

  10. First of all, no you are not griping. While you are grateful for a paycheck, of course you miss him, physically, emotionally, mentally because you love HIM, not just his paycheck and his ability to share with parenting and chores. Why should that be griping ? So gripe away. I think it is sweet you are ‘griping’ after all these years :). I cannot bear to be away from my husband too and I am not ashamed to say it.

    As for pointers, I cannot add much to it except
    1. If daddy does not have one for himself already, I would really invest in a laptop. Things like Skype and google plus help, immensely. Look at it as an investment for family. Yes, the phone is wonderful, but seeing a person even through a camera feels more of a connection. And Daddy especially would appreciate seeing the kids.
    2. When I am alone in that big marital bed by myself, it hits me the hardest and I cry. Somehow I can cope during the day. My simple remedy is wear one of my husband’s shirts to bed and sleep on his side of the bed. Though I am a slob for doing so, I do not wash the sheets until the day he comes. I am lucky our separation is not for long, longest has been 2 weeks to a month. But I never change the sheets on our bed until he comes home. Though I love sleeping on clean sheets, I’d rather sleep on husband scented sheets :)

  11. While I’ve been blessed to have my husband home, my dad worked (and still does work) oil fields (LONG hours) plus he has gone to college out of town for a few years. Every week, I remember we had the weekend clean up for Daddy, and we really cleared out the schedule when he was home, so that we could enjoy each other. We cleared out homeschooling schedule to come visit Grampa this week, in fact, as my dad had a week off. You are being a great blessing to your husband by finding coping strategies and holding down things at home and not complaining to him about what he needs to do now to provide for the family. I’m saying a prayer for you and the family. Hang in there, and remember to give those kiddos hugs from Dad, too. When I was little, it always helped when mom would say that this hug was from dad.

  12. Here is a whole other side to this post: I am a child of an airline pilot who was gone most of my childhood. We considered this to be perfectly normal. In fact, when I married, I told my husband I was not a 9 to 5 type of girl. It made everyone in our family very independent. We must have had our normal routines but I know when Daddy was home, we ate bigger and better meals and we were not allowed to miss them. He had to deal with some discipline issues from far away so that was a bit hard. He always brought us gifts from his trips and since this was often, he chose small things like toothbrushes , etc. We loved that!! He also had a game where he brought us chewing gum in his pockets and we had to hunt for it. My Dad also kept his relationship with my Mom special: he would call her when he landed the plane so we knew he was home. This gave her an hour to “get ready” and when he came home, he made us kids leave so they could kiss!! My Dad is 90 now and we still talk fondly about these things…so I guess I am saying your kids will remember your separation times and remember how you handled them. Hopefully, they will have happy memories, too.

  13. Hi!

    Military wives and military “brats” kind of know this drill really well after a while. I would say the most important thing- go on as if he’s never left, go about your day as if he isn’t away- which is basically what you said. After 8 years of this life, I have learned one of the most important things to do is get dressed! Don’t stay in your jammies thinking that your appearance isn’t a big deal since hubby is gone, you will feel better if you get dressed- which is also what you mentioned! Try to get out a little as much as possible, even to do simple things like going to the park and having a picnic. Plan fun “family things” for you to do with your children, having things to look forward to is a big deal and helps break up the time spans that hubby is away. And, weekends are without a doubt the hardest and loneliest, so try to plan something fun to do, or something with friends so that you don’t wake up saturday morning and spend the next two days wandering around in your pj’s down in the dumps!


  14. I can 1 million percent relate to this! Chris is gone far too much for his job – and yet we are so grateful for the income it provides (especially that it allows me to stay home & raise our kids). God has given me several verses to cling to during the long stints that he is away, namely:
    Isaiah 54:5 – “For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!” When Chris’ absence leaves such a hole in our family’s life, only God is able to fill it in such a powerful way – he is our ultimate husband! He uses the time that I am away from my earthly husband to strengthen the bond with my heavenly husband.
    2 Corinthians 9:8 – “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Again, God provides his fathomless grace during our most stressful seasons to carry us and give us everything we need to not just help us survive, but help us abound in good works. I am so grateful for his very present strength – I have no idea how I would cope otherwise! Thank you for this awesome post!

  15. These are great tips. I especially love the one about praying for daddy together! What a great way to live out your faith in front of your kids!

  16. We went from hubby/daddy being home at 5:30 (when he was late) to being home all the time to working an hour away. We shifted our schedule to include him in dinner, but that’s the only time of day we see him. As for tips I try and keep my daughter busy and give her a little extra time with me and recognize when a meltdown is an I miss daddy and when it’s something else. Thankfully we can move and we will end of October! Hope your situation gets better too!

  17. We spent a month visiting family while my husband stayed home and worked. We talked every night and it was funny to see our 4 month old try to eat the phone and figure out where daddy’s voice was coming from.
    When we got home though she got shy of letting daddy hold her. This is normal. It is so important for you husband to not be offended if the youngest kids go thru phases of shyness around him. It is a phase and they will outgrow it.

  18. My husband travels a lot for work. He works from home when he’s not traveling, so it’s an even trade-off, but we miss him even more now that we’re used to seeing him at lunch and other points during the day instead of just in the evenings.

    While we do stick to a schedule, sometimes we’ll do meals that are just a bit more “fun” when he’s gone. For example, he’s not fond of breakfast for dinner, so we do that sometimes while he’s away. One time he even called while we were eating a dinner of strawberry shortcakes, eggs, and sausage. (Not one of my finer moments, but the shortcakes were made with fresh ground whole wheat flour.) He also doesn’t like sloppy joe’s, so we tend to eat sloppy joe’s once each time he leaves.

    I like to plan special things to do in the evenings. Sometimes it’s something like cleaning a closet. I’ll let the kids watch a movie, and I’ll busy myself with organizing. Other times we’ll take the mornings off to play at a park and do school in the evenings.

  19. My husband works out of town and is home every other weekend. I work full time and have a two year old and I am pregnant with our second child. I am finding life right now very challenging. We are very thankful for the job my husband has, but it is very difficult. He works 14-18 hour shifts and has no access to internet where he is, so Skype is not an option for us. Because he works such long hours our daughter tends to be in bed by the time he gets off work and so she doesn’t get to talk to him. I bought one of those recordable story books so he can “read” her a bed time story every night (she calls it her “Daddy book” reads it two or three times in a row and then says good night to Daddy at the end of the book). I find the time after the daughter goes to bed the most challenging. I am now alone in my house and because it’s the only time of the day I have to myself I have all these lists of things that I want to do running through my head. The laundry needs to be done, dishes, supper needs to be planned for tomorrow, pack lunch for work, shower, I would love to read. But also being pregnant I just want to sleep and get some rest. So at the moment I feel lonely and as though I’m a fairly bad housekeeper because I just don’t have the energy to keep things up. We are trying to take each day as it comes, but are very much looking forward to winter when things freeze up and he can be home again.