Written by guest author Katie Hayes, Boy Mom, Homeschooling Mom, and Public Relations Specialist
105. That’s how many nights my husband was traveling for work and away from home in 2018. (We have an alarm system and no cash, so please don’t rob us.) People are always telling me, “I don’t know how you do it!” Surprisingly, I don’t either.
Our family has learned a few lessons the hard way in the past ten years or so while my husband has traveled the globe working in international missions. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way…
Voice your needs to your spouse!
Communication is more vital than ever if you have a spouse who travels. It’s tempting to think that since they are away, silence follows. But please hear this, it’s actually SO IMPORTANT. You have no right to be in an angry place because your needs aren’t being met if you’ve never voiced them out loud. (This goes for marriage in general, but it seems so easy to overlook in these cases.)
I learned early on that I have a threshold for what I can handle on my own. 14 days! I told Tom that if it could be done (and sometimes it can’t) I would be a much better mother if his trips away were limited to 14 days. As an introvert with VERY extroverted children, I told him how I was terrified of never having a minute of quiet while he was away. We worked together and came up with a plan. When he is away, I get a babysitter sometime during his trip so I can run errands or go watch a movie. It has helped me immensely to know that a mental break is coming.
Intentionally connect when they are away!
My husband travels out of the country A LOT, and this poses an interesting problem to work around. It’s not so easy to FaceTime with Daddy when Daddy is in a third world country that has never even heard of FaceTime. I should note here that a good deal of flexibility is required if you’re gonna pull this off. My children get especially annoyed if they haven’t heard from Daddy in a while or we lose that much-longed-for connection with him. We do our best and explain there are no guarantees. There have been plenty of times when I have sent Tom a note to let him know they really need to talk to him or see him to boost morale at home. (Or for him to do some FaceTime disciplining, but that’s a *colorful* conversation for another day!)
It can be hard to be the parent at home while the other parent is living in the lap of luxury. (Ok, fine. So he’s in India in a rundown hotel. Whatever. Compared to the day/s I’ve had at home with the children, it sounds luxurious.) My husband is truly great at realizing what is going on back home. He makes an intentional effort to shoot me an e-mail every day or two to let me know how things are going in his part of the world. There are usually some time delays in our e-mail conversations, but it does so much for my spirit to know he’s thinking of us while he’s so far away. It strangely makes us feel connected, even though we may not have spoken to or seen each other in quite some time. This goes back to my previous point of voicing your concerns. Talk about what you need in terms of communication long before your spouse has actually left town.
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24 (NASB)
Community will keep you sane!
Like all situations in life, community is the key to keeping some wind in your sails. Surround yourself with a strong community that loves your family. I could not even begin to tell you how many things our friends and family have done to help me out while Tom is away. From fixing stuck garage doors to taking my kids to the movies and literally everything in between. A few years back when Texas had that nasty ice storm that shut down the city for a week, my husband was stuck in India and unable to get back to Texas. I had a baby and a kindergartner at home. He had already been gone for more than a week before the ice storm hit. To say I was exhausted and close to losing my mind would be a huge understatement. One of our friends braved the elements and the nasty roads to pick up some groceries for his family and stopped to drop off a bag of food to us while he was out. I literally hugged him and started to cry on my porch. I was so happy to see another adult and so moved he was dropping off bread and milk for us. I could recount these types of stories into the millions, but you get the idea. You need to be able to have support people ready just in case you hit your breaking point, for whatever reason that might be.
Set the Example!
Your kids are watching how you react when your spouse is away. I know my kids have heard me ranting about how stressful it is when Dad is gone, and I know they feed off that stress themselves. One of my great mentors, Jeanne Hendricks, once told me that the key was how we talked to our kids about Daddy being away. This piece of advice was a game changer for me. So now, I try to say things like, “Look how lucky we are to have a Daddy who wants to help people all over the world!” It’s so hard to turn it positive when you really aren’t thrilled he’s leaving in the first place. “We are so blessed to have a Daddy that loves Jesus so much he is obeying God’s commandments to help people all over the world!”
(Sidenote: even if your spouse is traveling for “non-ministry” type travel, you can still turn it into a positive. “We are so lucky that our Daddy is such a good leader that his company wants him to travel to be an example for others.”)
Keep tabs on your insecurities!
You need to know, Satan is going to drive you crazy while your spouse is away. He just is. He’s going to prey on your insecurities. He’s going to whisper in your ear that your husband might not make it home. Or that your husband is having more fun without you. He’s going to be ruthless. He’s going to try to use this time to drive a wedge into your marriage. He’s going to try to convince you that you are a terrible mother. You MUST keep tabs on your insecurities, and know GOD’S TRUTH to your core. At some point, you’ve got to trust God to protect your spouse, in a variety of ways. You’ve got to trust God to keep him safe physically, morally, etc.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)
“Strength and dignity are her clothing and she smiles at the future.” Proverbs 31:25 (NASB)
Katie and her husband, Tom, have been attending Stonebriar Community Church since 2006. They have two energetic boys, Hudson and Jude. Katie has a degree in Communications and Public Relations and has worked in many various industries including government, non-profit, ministry, and corporate. Her days are kept very busy homeschooling their oldest son, Hudson. Tom and Katie are often found traveling the globe together and love to see God’s work among the nations.