It can be hard when your partner works away. Luckily my children are older now, I’m not sure how I would have done it when they were all little needing help to bathe, eat, dress, need to be tucked into bed… Now, I need to wake them up (in a staggered order dependent upon departure, because we have one bathroom), I set out individually bagged snack choices (I buy in bulk and then divide out) that they choose from, transport them to carpool or school, and then go to work myself. Then in a very staggered order dependent upon practices, classes, etc I pick them up from school, transport to another activity or eventually bring them home, make dinner, help with homework, and occasionally work on other projects or planning with them. They put themselves to bed, I just do the mom thing reminding them to wash faces and brush teeth. Of course, I do all this when my partner is home too, but it’s different when there isn’t a partner who can help.
So what makes this easier?
Definitely I have an easier week when I have meal planned, and better yet, meal prepped. If I can take some time on the weekend to prep dinners, then there is less of a rush on the weeknights. The downside to this is that usually, I am meal prepping while my husband is resting and watching tv in the bedroom which means our limited time together is actually apart.
Likewise, making sure I have school snacks ready ahead helps. But the caveat to this is that if they are available in mass quantities, they get eaten in mas quantities, so I tend not to put them out until the day of school. I try to offer 3-4 choices for them, but only four servings of each (four kids). My own bagged lunch, I tend to prep the night before.
Coffee. Actually coffee and wine help. With a lack of adult conversation, coffee helps me get up and going in the morning and wine helps me unwind at night. I’m fairly certain they make me a nicer person. When it fit in my schedule the gym did this too. You need to have something that helps you feel good to exist, and something that makes your body feel good. Find out what this is and chase it.
Online shopping. No, really, online shopping. Time is short because our five schedules don’t always mesh well, and I usually feel like I am on the run, or stuck waiting for someone. Therefore saving time at the grocery store is hugely beneficial. I use Amazon Prime to have school snacks, cat food, all sorts of non-perishable items shipped right to my door. I still have to unpack it and put it away, but I completely skip the loading it into the car, onto the checkout, bagging, into the car, out of the car…I do keep a running tally of prices so I buy only what is comparable or cheaper than the store. Now the downfall to this is that my money is not going to my local grocer. Hence the Rosie app. “She” is almost as good as Amazon as she allows me to do all my grocery store shopping to my local store, online. Then she collects it, bags it, and delivers it out to my car. There is a five dollar convenience fee for this, but to save that hour grocery shopping can be totally worth it. This includes fresh and frozen items. However, I sometimes really struggle with picturing what amount a ¼ pound of red grapes actually is. Usually I do well, but sometimes it is laughable.
Focus on the positives of not sharing your time or space. So for example, my husband likes to sleep with the tv on. I do not. When he is gone I relish the dark, quiet room. The downside of not sharing space is of course that he is not in the room for me to touch or talk to. It’s nice when we both wake up in the middle of the night and chat.
Take pride in your accomplishments. It is nice to stop and recognize all that I accomplish sometimes. We talk about “how was your day” and it can be quite pleasing to be able to list a bunch of things that got done that day. Some of these would have been done with him home, but this way there was no guilt about spending time apart and they were done!
Communication is key. One or the other of us always wakes up in the middle of the night (usually both of us at different times), and we usually send a quick text then, knowing it may not be read until the next morning. We also send a good night text and a good morning note. In between, as we have time we send notes to each other. We actually use two different apps to text on, so there is a little more variety. Sometimes there are photos sent back and forth for amusement too. Or, I screenshot an email for him. There is some day to day responsible chatter. There is also affectionate chatter. Sometimes there is venting chatter. It’s not the same as face to face chatter, but it is imperative to maintaining a closeness. Occasionally there is a typo or a miscommunication, these tend to lead to laughter…eventually.
Just as key as communication is appreciation. Just as much as you deserve to be recognized for working so tirelessly, you should remember to appreciate you partner. Appreciate the sacrifices that they make (being away from home, from family, missing events and milestones) and how hard that they are working too. Appreciate that they are also lacking a portion of their support network. Acknowledge that they struggle too. Appreciate what you are both sacrificing and how hard you are both trying. Some weeks one of you may be more grateful than the other, some weeks are tougher on one of you than the other, but always show them that you appreciate them.
When your partner is working out of town (or overseas) you are similar to a single parent. Accept it, embrace the organization and giant time-suck that it is. But remember, this is infinitely better than being truly alone. You do have a partner and they will come home. Be grateful for how you are connected and how you are partners.