9 Parents’ Tips for Holding Down the Fort While One Spouse Is Away

9 Parents’ Tips for Holding Down the Fort While One Spouse Is Away

Solo parenting isn’t for wimps! Read on for survival tips from the pros.

By Wendy Robinson

There is a giant suitcase sitting near our back door, ready and waiting for me to finish saying my goodbyes to my husband and kids. Soon, I’ll be leaving on a nine-day work trip, a prospect I am having a hard time even thinking about. I travel regularly, but this will be the longest stretch of time away from my little family and also the longest stretch of solo parenting my husband will have to do.

My husband is a stay-at-home dad, so he’s used to running the show with the kids, but even so, nine days is a long time to be flying solo when you are used to splitting the night shift with someone else. (Let me take a second to give a shout-out to full-time single parents out there -- you guys are amazing!)

I mentioned this upcoming trip to my friend Samantha, who is no stranger to the challenges of solo parenting. Her husband traveled more than 200,000 miles last year, and she survived with her sanity mostly intact by having “a plan for SOME sort of activity every day if the kids aren’t in school/day care full time and by not being afraid to ask for help from friends or family,” she says. “You’re not in this to be a hero.”

More from P&G everyday: 10 Tips for Your First Work Trip Away From the Kids

The idea of having a plan and trying to keep the kids moving and active was echoed by Tara D. from Portland, Oregon, who also advocates trying to follow a schedule and routine, and Kristin B. from Texas, who shared that she makes sure she plans for “easy meals and movie nights” with no guilt. Austin S. from Minnesota says she embraces “more screen time than usual and paper plates for simple meals and takeout. Also, have lots of time out of the house, and cry as needed.”

There is no doubt that being the only adult in the house can make for challenging moments. Kent B. from Tucson, Arizona explains, “Because my wife does more of the traveling, I sometimes have to deal with people who think I am like this bumbling dad who is barely surviving. It can be annoying that people still have those stereotypes.” His fix: “I try not to let it bug me and just focus on doing what needs to be done with the kids and the dogs. Just take it a day at a time." Smart! Meanwhile, Sam C. from Wheaton, Illinois recommends having “adult-only snacks on hand to eat your feelings,” while Sara K. from Boulder, Colorado admits she reaches for “all the carbs.” “And chocolate,” she elaborates.

Matt C. from Baltimore, Maryland, has a wife who travels every other week for work and explains that making sure they connect by phone or webcam every day helps keep both him and the kids sane: “We all like to see her face and to have a few minutes just to talk about our day. A lot of times, I’ll set up the webcam around bedtime, and she can read them a story while I get the rooms ready. It feels like a nice way to end the day.”


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Finally, perhaps the best advice comes from Anna V. from Phoenix, Arizona, who belongs to a group called “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Spouse” in her neighborhood. These women (and a few men) pitch in and help one another out as much they can with babysitting and emotional support. Anna says that in their group, the rule is to “lower your expectations. Keeping the kids alive and fed is good enough. Outsource things like meals and housekeeping if you can afford it and for trips over a week, try to schedule a babysitter for at least a few hours of alone time. Survival is key.”

I was planning on buying my husband a nice souvenir while I was away, but maybe my money would be better spent pre-paying for a babysitter?

How do you handle flying solo when your spouse is away?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.com and is on Twitter as @wendyrmonkey.

Image ©iStock.com/DragonImages

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