As many of you know (or now know), my husband is a musician. I’m a proud wife seeing my husband grace the stage with the likes of Lady Gaga or playing in front of hundreds sometimes thousands of people. Yes, it’s very cool, but what’s not so cool is trying to help my 3 year old cope when her daddy’s away for a few days or sometimes a few months on tour.
As parents our careers don’t have to end. I don’t want my husband to become someone else, music is very much a part of who he is, but I know firsthand how business travel can affect a young child. My dad also traveled for weeks and months at a time and my mom was our rock. So what are some things you can do to help your child during short or long trips? This is what I’ve been implementing for the past 3 years.
Prepare your child
You prepare your child by letting them know 1-2 days in advance. Children don't have a good sense of time so telling them too far in advance will only increase their anxiety. Also, don’t make a big deal about it. Less drama less trauma. I tell my daughter, “Daddy has to go work and play music but he will be back in a few days.” If she asks questions I answer them, but I try to keep it short and not paint a “glamorous” picture. She’s 3 with a FOMO so I try to make it clear that it’s work and not vacation.
Preparate! (Prepare Yourself)
- Make sure you have a plan for paying bills.
- Take care of any personal stuff when your spouse is in town. (Car oil/tire change, medical appointments, legal tasks, etc). You don't want to add to your to do list and you definitely don't want to lug your toddler around while you get your mammogram!
- Have a list of available babysitters. (Note plural)
- Tell your family and friends that you may need help (don't be afraid to ask!)
- Make sure that your child’s preschool or daycare has an additional contact other than your spouse. If something happens to you, you need to make sure someone trustworthy can pick your child up.
- Drop off laundry, hire a cleaning service, have groceries delivered, etc. You want to try and make as easy as possible for yourself.
- Make sure to go out or have mommy/daddy alone time, for your sanity, and get a sitter.
Try to Communicate with your spouse or partner daily.
With us it can be very tricky. Between time zone differences, sound checks, my work schedule, and daycare, coordinating a time when we’re all available can be challenging but we try. We either Facetime or talk on the phone. On the days when we can’t I make sure to show Victoria videos of her dad so she always feels his presence. My husband's not the only one that travels, there are times when I have to travel for business too, so we make sure to stay connected.
Keep your child busy
When daddy is away it’s our special mommy and me time. When mommy is away it's daddy and toddler time. The key is to do fun things that you know your spouse or partner doesn't really care to do. If mom is away maybe dad can take the little one to a sports game, if mom's not into sports. If dad is away maybe you can have a real tea party or do a mom's brunch play date or go shopping, cause we know how much dad's love to shop!
Routine is key
Keeping kids on a schedule means that you are better equipped to prevent or lessen tantrums, your kids will be happier and you will be happier too. They already have enough disruption in their life when mommy or daddy are away so we want to be consistent. When mom or dad are away their meal times, bed times, or wake times should stay the same. If your spouse is the one to read to them at night, then fill in. We want to make sure that we create as little disruption in their lives as possible.
Don't be surprised if their behavior changes
When a parent is away it is a big change for a child. They may not know how to express themselves and so you may notice more tantrums, rebellious behavior, they may cry for even the smallest of things, or they may have separation anxiety from you. Talk to your child and ask questions so they can open up about their feelings. Every night, I ask my daughter these things, "What made you happy today? Why? What made you sad? Why? What made you angry? Why?" I ask questions to get her to open up about her feelings.
If she has a meltdown (like today) I reinforce her feelings, "You're crying because you're mad (or sad) about..." Many times she will correct me and tell me the true reason of her tantrum. Today she refused to get ready for daycare and it went from 0 to 10 in seconds. When I said to her, "You're crying because you don't want to go to school." She yelled back, "No, I miss my daddy." After her meltdown stopped, we hugged, I expressed that her daddy loves her and misses her too and that it's ok to be sad or angry, that I was there for her if she just wanted to hug. "Do you feel better?" I asked, she said "Yes, and I have mocos."(boogers) She is 3 after all!
Create a special memento or keepsake box just for the traveling spouse
A lot can happen in a child's life in a few days, weeks, or even months. Now that my daughter is a bit older and very talkative we have created a special box for daddy upon his return. In it we're putting items of events or things that we've created while he's been away, like our dog's Hope's Birthday card, a few spring flowers from our park outings, and some craft projects. The idea is that when he returns they can have a special bonding time and she can discuss all of the items and events that happened while he was away. It'll make him feel included and she will have the chance to catch up with her daddy.
You don't have to feel guilty about going away on business. We already have enough parent guilt as it is. Simply working with our spouses or partners and ensuring we have a game plan is crucial. Ensuring that our kids feel loved, listened to, and understood will make it a smoother ride. What about the return? Your little one will need 1 on 1 time with the absent parent and plan a family outing so you can become a unit again. So until our rockstar daddy returns, it'll be my favorite 3 ft person and me!
Like the blog? I'd love to hear your tips! It takes a village and we can all use mama tips.