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The Travelling Parent

The Canadian economy has taken a great hit over the past few years. There isn’t a Canadian home that hasn’t felt the pain. Lessened hours, lay-offs, etc. Many people have lost their jobs, some stay-at- home moms forced back to work and for some homes like my own it means one parent travels for work. My husband has been travelling for work off and on for about four years now. His rotation schedules have varied from 10 on and 4 off in Fort McMurray to 60 days on and 14 days off in China. He’s literally travelled the globe for work. I believe many other moms and dads are in our same boat.

This unnatural living situation is not ideal and it can take a toll on the whole family. It takes a great deal of sacrifice from everyone involved but there are many ways to make this hopefully temporary set-up a little bit easier. Whether your family are apart for 7 days, 10 days, 14 days, or 60 days, these same tips apply.

The Couple:
It is most important to remember you are still a couple. You still need to connect like you would if you woke up next to each other. A simple “Good Morning” or a check-in mid-day with a picture of your lunch or afternoon Tim’s run can make the world of a difference for both people. This gesture, ensures the parent traveling that they are not forgotten and for the parent at home, it lets them know they are still supported and also not forgotten. Also, be sure to talk as often as possible. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, just a quick check in is all you need. Perhaps first thing in the morning or right before bed. Saying “I love you” as much as possible has been very important for my husband and I. It can seem overkill for some couples but when you can’t show your love in different ways throughout the day you need to go for the most obvious way! Be sure to still keep the travelling parent in the know about day to day happenings. This could include things like telling them about a lunch date you had with a friend, or how you found a good deal for cable. Also, give them time to tell you about work, or an experience they’ve had while away. My husband and I know pretty much everything about each other’s day. We share almost every detail and for some that may be a little much but for us, it’s what keeps us connected. It’s like we’re never apart. If you do have a conflict, be sure to try and talk it out as soon as possible. Being apart and being angry with each other is not a good combination. Also, choosing to just hang-up the phone or not answer it is just not an option. Finally we careful about arguing over text. It is so easy to miscommunicate over text message as the person cannot see the expressions on your face or hear the tone in your voice. How easy is it to say something but have them “hear” something totally different!

The Kids:
It is vital for the family dynamics to remain intact that the travelling parent is a much of a part of the home life as possible. This means sharing with them everything big and small, good and bad that takes  place at home. It is important to give the travelling parent the opportunity to give your children praise for the positive things and to discipline at the same time the negative behaviours. For example, when our daughter is exceptionally well behaved or she learns something new, I make a point of telling my husband so that he can praise her and tell her how proud he is of her. At the same time, if she has had a rough day and displayed poor behaviour, I also tell him and he talks to her about it. That way she knows Daddy is still as much a part of the family as Mommy. I take tons of pictures of the kids doing different things and share them with my husband. Playing, eating, bathing, laughing, crying, everything! My daughter even asks me to take pictures to send to Daddy so he can see her painting or so he can see her outfit that day. I find this helps when our daughter talks to him and tells him about something she did he can respond in a way where he knows what she is talking about. She loves this! They can have a conversation where he doesn’t feel lost and she feels like he’s a part of it all.

The Routine:
It’s important for any well-oiled machine to run smoothly, that there be a system in place. For a family, routine is that system. As one parent, is away the other parent is left to hold down the fort and naturally must find their own way to make it work on their own. That means that they adapt by finding their own routine. This may include meals, bed time routines, and routines for weekends vs. weekdays. When the travelling parent comes home, it can disrupt that routine and that is ok… to an extent. Although it’s exciting when Mommy or Daddy come home and children are hesitant to sleep early because they want to tell stories and play games it is important to keep with the previously established routines as much as possible. If you allow it lax too much, you will undoubtedly suffer to get it back in order later on. Starting  over again is just not fun!

Keeping in Touch:
Open, honest communication is very important in any marriage but it is even more important when there are factors which can make that difficult. No matter the time difference, the distance between you or how long you are apart (1 day or 1 month), it is essential to keep communication strong. Ensure you have the tools to be in touch. We are living in a very technologically advanced time where the globe just
doesn’t seem to large anymore. This this should be taken advantage of! A call to check in, a text message with a picture or an hour long video chat, these will all help the communication and connection

Some tools my husband and I have used are:
 WhatsApp
 WeChat
 Skype
 Facebook Chat
 Facebook Voice Call
 Viber
 Imo

What tips do you have for a family in this situation? What have you done that has made life easier?

Mona Ismaeil is a an Elementary teacher by profession but has been a stay at home mom for 4 years. She is a momprenuer, modesty fashion blogger and a world traveller at heart. Living in Edmonton, she keeps busy with her 2 kids, community involvement and just enjoying all Edmonton has to offer.