As my husband prepared for a trip to Canada for four days, I was determined not to dread his time away.
I do not enjoy living in the space of anxiety leading up to his departure, or counting down the days until he gets back, or counting down the hours until my kids’ bedtime, or feeling horribly guilty for even feeling that way because there are single moms, widows, and military wives who can handle it all by themselves 365 days a year.
That cycle of dread, stress, guilt, repeat? No thank you. I’ve done that for almost the entire eight years that I’ve been a parent, and frankly, I’m over it.
That cycle of dread, stress, guilt, repeat? No thank you.
My husband is home now (hallelujah!) and reflecting on the past week, I have to say, it went pretty well! We had a few hiccups of course, like the tantrum my five-year-old threw the morning of her preschool’s picture day. And the next day, driving halfway to my girls’ school when I realized I was supposed to drop off my son first because his school starts earlier than theirs. And the meltdown my 7-year-old had over his math homework (I barely understand it myself), which took a long time to recover from. And my almost three-year-old not making it to the bathroom in time and peed all over the floor while dinner overcooked on the stove—two evenings in a row.
Despite all that, I’m alive! I may be a little exhausted, but I’m actually cheerful. Not everything went as planned, but there were a few good things that happened because of it.
So I started to think about other moms and dads, and how it’s possible that I’m not the only one who dreads when his or her spouse goes out of town and having to fly solo with the kids. I thought about WHY it is exactly that this time went better and more smoothly than all the other times my husband has been out of town, and I wanted to share seven thoughts with you.
7 keys to not losing your mind when your spouse is out of town:
1. Try to maintain a positive outlook beforehand.
In the weeks and days leading up to my husband’s trip, I tried not to think about it too much. And when I did, I thought about it matter-of-factly and in positive terms, such as, “He’s going out of town, and it’s going to be okay. We all end up missing each other when we’re apart, and when we are reunited it’s really great. Also, you tend to get a lot of things done when hubby is out of town, and him having time away is good for him, too.” Philippians 4:8 exhorts us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, excellent, lovely, and praiseworthy. Focusing on these positive attributes is a powerful thing.
2. Rely on God.
Sometimes maybe I rely on my husband too much. Sure, he’s great at opening jars, lifting heavy things, and reaching objects on high shelves with his tall self. But he is also an amazing husband and father, and we parent as a team with everything. Bedtime, school pick up and drop off, discipline…it’s a team effort all the way. I rely on him in that way, but I realized that ultimately God is the one who protects, provides for, helps, and equips me. With or without my husband, I need to start trusting God more.
3. Figure out what your afraid of and tackle it head on.
A couple of days before my husband left, I had the thought to ask myself what it is that I’ve been afraid of in the past. Why do I dread him going away? What do I fear?
FEAR: I’m not going to be able to get the kids to school on time.
REALITY: My kids are late less than a handful of times each school year. And it’s second grade and preschool—it’s not like they are going to get rejected from college because admissions finds out they were late that one time mama had to handle the kids by herself. It’s going to be okay.
FEAR: Being overworked and exhausted. With an energetic seven-year-old who tends to pester his sisters for fun, a strong-willed five-year-old, and a cuddly/clingy but sometimes throws you a curveball two-year-old, I know I’m going to have my hands full. Dinner and bedtime routine can be tough. Not to mention the lovely cacophony of fighting, whining, and crying that fills my home almost constantly.
REALITY: The Bible calls us to serve one another in love. If the Apostle Paul could be “poured out like a drink offering” (Philippians 2:17), I can pour myself out to the point of exhaustion for a week while my life partner is out of town. Yes, it’s hard, but there is no need to be afraid.
FEAR: I’m going to be stressed and grumpy.
REALITY: My attitude and response to my temporary circumstances is completely and 100% up to me.
4. Figure out a short cut.
To make my life a little easier, I ordered hot lunch for my two daughters for the week and bought Lunchables for my son so that all I would have to do it add pretzels, fruit, and baby carrots to his lunch box to make a complete meal. The girls were SO excited for hot lunch. We hardly ever order it because hot lunch be expensive. (I mean, I don’t even spend $5.00-$6.00 on my own lunch each day! It’s a racket I tell you!) But we took the financial hit for the week because it took some stress off me. #worthit #winning
5. Plan something fun.
The kids and I had fast food one night. We went to Wendy’s and they loved it! One evening, we went around and watered all the plants in the front yard and back yard. It was a change in the routine and they enjoyed helping me. During my lunch break from work, I went to the nail salon and got a much-needed pedicure. It was relaxing and felt like a reward or reprieve in the middle of an otherwise hectic week. I also went on a walk one morning with a friend. Her encouraging spirit and tips were such a blessing to me. Doing something out-of-the-ordinary while your spouse is away, gives you all something to enjoy even though you’re missing Daddy (or Mommy). It doesn’t have to be Disneyland. It could be the park, cruising around the mall, or going on a walk together.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The week my husband was out of town, our son had four dress rehearsals for an upcoming play instead of the usual once-a-week rehearsal. A wonderful friend of mine took him to three of the four rehearsals for me…praise the Lord! Lugging my other kids to these rehearsals that went until late at night, on school nights, would have been no bueno. So, I was incredibly thankful to my friend for pitching in to help me out. Mamas, sometimes we try to handle everything ourselves. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family members for help.
7. Rearrange some things.
I had to reschedule a doctor’s appointment. It was just too much. I couldn’t wrap my brain around shuttling kids to and from school, Picture Day for two of them, going to work, dinner, chores, bedtime routine, and trying to get myself to the doctor’s office. It didn’t have to be that week. It was not urgent at all. Look at the calendar and see what can be cut or rescheduled until your spouse gets home. It might ease the stress a little and give you one less thing to do.
* * *
I was blessed by several surprises during the week. When my son had a meltdown about his math homework, I was able to be patient and compassionate with him and get to the root of issue of it. We kind of had a breakthrough. When my almost three-year-old peed all over the floor while I was busy in the kitchen, the two older kids jumped in and helped her. They were so sweet and comforting to her; it brought a smile to a weary mama’s face.
After a flight delay and then major traffic on the freeway as he tried to drive home from the airport—all of which would have sent the old me deeper into grump status—my husband is finally home, praise God!!! I’m tired, yes. But you know what? I’m also energized by a positive and hopeful attitude. I’m proud of myself for handling a part-time job and three young children on my own. And I hope I can remember these keys the next time he goes out of town!
What are some things you do to stay joyful while your spouse is out of town? Let me know in the comments section below. 🙂