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When Husbands Travel

Christy’s post last week got me thinking about our family dynamic.  My husband works close to home (and even from home, occasionally), but he also does a LOT of traveling for his PhD studies.  He’ll be gone for anywhere from ten days to twelve weeks at a time.  The traveling can be difficult for him, with frequent travels through international airports (and their security), sleeping on couches at friends’ houses, and eating out every day (which he hates doing).  I’ve also witnessed how it has affected our children.

It’s hard on us when our husbands have to leave on business (or TDY), but it can even be harder on the kids.  When kids are young, they have little or no concept of time.  Saying “daddy will be home in ten days” or something along those lines just doesn’t register with them.  The first time my husband left us to do some PhD work at his university (in another country), he was gone for over two months.  Ten weeks?  Seventy days?  How was I supposed to explain this?  My four year old could only count to twenty!  Fortunately, I have a dear friend who was stationed overseas a couple of years ago, and during that time, her husband was deployed three times.  Her kids were also very young at the time, and she gave me some very helpful advice to get me and the kids through those very difficult weeks away.

Make a “daddy” book: Create a mini photo album filled with pictures of dad playing and interacting with the kids.  Let the kids carry them around, or prop it up next to their bed at night, so daddy’s right there with them. Some parents have put pictures of their spouses on the kids’ pillowcases (which you can order from Snapfish).

“Count” down the days until dad gets home: Whenever my husband leaves, whether it be for a few days or weeks, we create a Jellybean Countdown Container.  As you can probably guess, we take an old jar and fill it with jellybeans, and the number of treats corresponds with the number of days that my husband is gone.  The kids get one jellybean out of the jar every day, and that way, they know that daddy’s coming home when the jar is empty!

Let the kids use things that smell like dad: I would let my son use dad’s cologne if he wanted to smell like daddy.  Just dab a little on his wrist or spray his shirt, and he was good to go.  I, too, would occasionally use his cologne, spray one of his flannel shirts, and sleep in it at night.

Give them “kisses” from daddy: As an extra comfort measure, I would fill a jar with Hershey’s Kisses and place it on top of the counter.  Any time the kids got hurt or really sad, they would get a “kiss” from dad.

Skype before bed: If your husband’s involved with the kids’ bedtime routines, arrange for him to call around bedtime.  He can tell the kids a story (or, in our case, my son can tell HIM a story), sing them a song, etc.  If your husband is in a place where he can’t do this, have him record a few videos reading the kids’ favorite books.  Then, play the videos at night so daddy can read them a story before bed.

Does your husband travel a lot for work?  How do you handle this time in your house?

Related posts:

Trina’s post about being a (temporary) single mom

5 Responses to When Husbands Travel

  • Comment by Christy
    October 8, 2009 @ 8:13 am

    These are great ideas Sharon! I will be gone from my kids for 3 days next weekend when I have surgery and was trying to figure out how to explain it to them in a way they will understand. I’ve never been away from them. Not to mention, with flu season, they might not be allowed to visit me in the hospital. I like the book idea!!! :-)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Hayley
    October 8, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

    I love the jellybean countdown idea!

  • Comment by Sharon M
    October 8, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

    Christy, you’re right, this list can also work for dads (grandparents, etc.) who are staying at home with the kiddos while mom is away. I’ll keep you in my prayers this weekend as you undergo surgery. God bless.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Danika
    October 9, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

    On one of my husband’s early deployments, my daughter who was 4, was having a VERY bad “missing Daddy day.” It had turned into a bit of anger towards him for not being there. I decided to play a game of hide and seek. After a couple of rounds, I asked, “Did you know I still loved you while I was hiding in the pantry?” “Did you still love me while you were hiding under the bed? Really? Let’s play again and see if we still love each other while we aren’t together.” Explain how out of sight does NOT equal out of mind: The loved one may not be in “here”, but the LOVE is still there! And, eventually, the game will end and Daddy (or Mommy) will be home again. We had a blast and killed a good 30 minutes (which can be an eternity sometimes), and she figured it out on her own by experiencing being the one who was “away.” Note and disclaimer: This worked for one of my kids…the other one just kept looking for Daddy in the shower! ;)

  • Comment by Sharon M
    October 13, 2009 @ 6:41 am

    Excellent suggestion, Danika. We’ll try that next time my husband leaves if we run into some problems.

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