For the past four years my husband has been working three week shifts that require him to be away from us. It’s not all bad otherwise we wouldn’t have done it for this long, but I’m not going to lie, I’ll be excited when it comes to an end. Being “on” 24/7 for 3 weeks straight is exhausting. (Single parents, you are the true MVPs.) But luckily I’ve found a lot of little ways to help me survive.
Leftovers are my friend
I make a lot of items from scratch for a number of reasons. This means a simple meal can be a ton of work, so I discovered long ago the beauty of leftovers. I double recipes, plan to eat the meal twice, and freeze the rest. A stocked freezer full of soups and chilies and muffins and breads and cookies is a game changer.
I grew up with a dad in the military so I can tell you first-hand what a game changer technology has been. We FaceTime every night before bed as a family, and sometimes my son will FaceTime his father throughout the day if he’s missing him a bit harder than normal or if he has something exciting to share. It’s especially great for younger kids who may not always be the best conversationalists, but still benefit from their parent’s presence.
Have them help from afar
I know this isn’t a possibility in every situation, but if you can swing it take advantage. I hate making phone calls, so a lot of times my husband will make them while he’s away. He will also research things for our son and is usually the one who remembers what needs to be done around the house. Time to book a service appointment? My husband will usually ask me for dates and times and then call for me. It’s not always perfect (like when the dentist wouldn’t let him rebook the appointment he was cancelling for our son) but it’s a huge load off.
Online game apps
My husband downloaded GamePigeon into my son’s messages app. They play games of everything from Connect4 to Chess virtually. It’s an easy way for them to be together without physically being near one another, and it’s priceless.
Stick to a routine
Sometimes being on your own can be a bit of a time trip and throw you off your game. I also get worn down a lot more easily than when my husband is home, so keeping a routine helps me keep my momentum rather than being paralyzed by the to do list. And, it helps me be prepared for when something like sickness pops up. (Ahem, usually.) I have a grocery day and a laundry day and a cleaning day. It also helps quell tantrums from my kiddo because he knows that we clean Sundays, so it’s not a surprise that he needs to pick up his toys. Sometimes he’ll even clean without me asking because the expectation has been set. I’m recoiling as I write this because it sounds so… strict. But it honestly helps.
Know your limits
Cancel plans. Play hooky. Ask for help. If it’s been a particularly crappy week, don’t be afraid to throw in the towel. If you get stir crazy, then get out of the house and interact with other adults. I know I can get really focused on what needs to be done or what my child needs and can forget about myself, and then I wonder why I’m snapping at every little thing. I have days where I sit on the couch and write and read and knit. I have days when I lock myself in a room and do yoga or meditate, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. I have days where I eat cookies in secret. And I have days where I say screw what needs to be done, let’s go have fun. Which brings me to:
Don’t hold off on fun
There’s a huge temptation on not doing fun things when my husband is home because I want us to do them as a family. And while I’m not suggesting planning a once in a lifetime outing without the spouse that’s away, delaying any and all outings just makes the days stretch longer. Go to museums and science centres and favourite restaurants. Go for a hike. Have friends over for brunch. Try to keep life going as normally as possible, otherwise there will be a gaping hole and make life even more miserable.
So while the distance can be hard, we do manage, because we need to. At the end of the day, the most important thing to do is make sure you both are there for each other for emotional support and know everyone is doing their best to make it work.