It's a fact of my life. I am married to a traveling salesman. Not the type who travels door-to-door and sells cleaning products but the high tech type who travels city-to-city to meet face-to-face with his clients. During the 21 years of our married life my husband has worked in at least 6 different jobs with high tech start-ups that required lots of travel, including international travel. On top of that, I worked full time for the first 16 years of our marriage. Even if I did not work at a business, being a full time mom is plenty of work. How does a marriage and family survive when the dad is busy racking up literally millions of miles on his frequent flyer membership?
I have learned a few lessons in my 21 years as a wife and mother who has had to hold down the fort while the husband/father was away from home like a pioneer, leaving the homestead to hunt and explore. I know lots of wives and mothers who are in the same situation. So what works to keep these families in tact?
Jump right back on that merry-go-round
Wherever you go, whatever you do, be sure to stay in sync. What that means is the more in touch you are with what's going on at home the better you'll be upon your return. When my husband was away, our merry-go-round kept on moving and it irritated me when he came home and was talking on and on about his travels and forgot to ask me what was going on at home. In my mind he should have just known. Things don't stop because you're away from home - get right back on that moving carousel and get in the groove with the family. It may mean pitching in to give the kids a bath before you put your briefcase away, but it will help - believe me.
When you have children at home and you're on the road it is important to catch up with them during the day so they know you are thinking about them. Perhaps that means using Skype or Facetime so you can see them while you catch up. Several friends I know read a book to their children that way. Even my two daughters who are still at home catch up with their college sister. They place a laptop on our kitchen counter and catch up with each other while having dinner. I even found them watching a movie with her one day as the laptop was on the sofa. You're there even when you're not there!
Give me a break
The best thing my husband can do for me when he returns from a business trip is to take control of the helm and give me a break from holding down the fort. It could mean ordering take out or giving me a couple of hours to unwind and take a nice hot bath. Just the acknowledgment and appreciation for the one left at home is all it takes to diffuse a potential stress bomb that could explode if the traveling spouse doesn't give credit where credit is due.
Bring gifts of thoughtfulness
When my husband is traveling he's always on the lookout for key chains or T-shirts that he knows my kids will love. They collect things from his many travels and proudly wear or display them. What these little gifts do is show my kids that he was thinking of them even when he was gone. It may not seem like much, but the subtlety isn't lost on my kids.
Photos with love
Through apps like Instagram and cell phone cameras the traveling spouse can take a photo from nearly any place they happen to be. As a photographer I told my husband about a fun and habitual app called Instagram. This app posts photos that aficionados take from all over the globe and mark with a hashtag such as "#fromwhereIstand" and "#wakeuppics." So now he sends me silly photos that make me smile throughout the day when he's traveling. Just these little bits of silliness enable us to stay in touch and keep the smile on our faces throughout the day.
So if you are a traveling spouse, be sure you take a few of these tips to heart. They can make a big difference upon the return of the traveling salesman and enable a smooth return to the chaos at home.
What do you do to keep the home life sane when you travel?