Staying Connected When Your Partner is Away

Facetime with Daddy helps us all feel connected!

My doctor gives me a funny look when she walks into the exam room— I am sitting on the table, undressed to the waist with that flimsy paper coverup and a one-year-old on my lap.

“I’m sorry,” I stammer when she asks me to put my feet up in the stirrups for my checkup, “I can put him on the floor…”

She shakes her head and tells me I can hold him on the table. So I do— feet up in the stirrups, doctor examining me, baby squirming uncomfortably trying to get off the table. I apologize again as she tells me to stop moving so she can do her exam.

“I’m so sorry… my husband is out of town.”

“My husband is out of town,” is probably my most uttered phrase these days.

My husband is an airline pilot. He’s gone three to five days a week. Before our son Nolan came along, I was used to it. He would go off to work and I would enjoy my time as a “bachelorette” — I kept a clean house with no mens socks scattered around, I ate salads for dinner and I went to the mall after work without a bored husband tagging along. His trips gave me the opportunity for “me time.”

Enter Nolan.

There was no real way for us to prepare for the realities of parenting this way. As much as innovations like Skype and Google Hangout can do to connect our family while he is away, the reality is that three to five days a week I am, for the most part, a single parent (though I think full-time single parents must be absolute rock stars).

Every diaper change and feeding falls in my lap. Keeping Nolan happy and occupied? Me. Bedtimes and wake-ups? Me. Baths? Me. Discipline and tantrums? Me again! Cleaning the house, paying bills, grocery shopping, taking care of our three pets, mowing the lawn? Me, me, me. On top of all of this, I still work a full-time job to keep our budget afloat.

I get asked quite often how I manage to do it. The most basic answer is that I don’t have a choice. Failing to keep Nolan happy and our home in order aren’t an option. “Just getting by” isn’t really the greatest option either, so here are some ways I’ve found help me keep more of a balance when daddy (or mama!) is out of town:

1. Stay Organized: My morning routine consists of waking us both up, feeding Nolan and myself, getting us both dressed and making sure we’re both clean and presentable, packing our things into the car, packing lunches, feeding our animals, dropping Nolan off at daycare and driving myself 45 minutes to work… all before 7:30 a.m.! The evening routine is the same, in reverse.

It’s easy to get frazzled and I’m here to tell you that doing so will only make it worse. A little organization goes a long way. Pack lunches and diaper bags the night before. Lay out your clothes. Make sure his morning bottle is cleaned and ready to fill up at 5:30 a.m. when we wake up. All of these little things can shave minutes off of our morning routine that will allow us more time to snuggle in bed or play before we leave for daycare, rather than run around trying to get things together.

The extra time to just breathe and be together, even if it’s just for ten minutes, makes a huge difference in how our days turn out.

Keep a family calendar on Google, or Share schedules and to-do lists with your traveling partner so you’re able to keep track of one anothers’ day-to-day if need be.

2. Teach Independence:  Try to teach your little ones to be independent. This goes for all parents everywhere, but especially those who are single parenting either part-time or full-time. It’s much easier to take care of yourself and your household activities if you don’t have a child who needs to be entertained by you 24/7.

We gated off the parts of our house where Nolan won’t be safe and baby-proofed the rest so I am able to set him down with some toys and run to the bathroom or take a phone call without worrying. Nolan is used to it — he’s capable of playing quietly by himself if I need him to. I’m sure this will evolve as he gets older, but I intend to try to always foster that ability in him and any future siblings.

3. Ask For (or Hire) Help: On a basic level if you can afford it, it’s not a crime to hire a babysitter for a friend-date with a girlfriend you haven’t seen in a while, or just so you can go to the store or run some errands. This also applies for little things too —when my husband is out of town I lean on my neighbors, coworkers, even random people to help out if I need it. I’ve been surprised to notice that the kinds of things I take for granted are easier when you have two adults around (especially when you’re not buff or mechanically-inclined like me!).

For instance, helping me open a jar if it’s stuck, helping me install a new mailbox, helping me turn on my weed-eater or move furniture… I’ve lost any fear of reaching out.

My neighbors and friends know my situation and they’re always glad to pitch in. Even things as small as asking a stranger to hold a door open when your arms are full can make you feel less burdened!

4. Have Fun: I make a point to find activities that Nolan and I can do together. Be creative! We hike in the woods, go to the park, watch movies, people-watch at the mall, go out to dinner together… anything to get us out of the house and spending time together! When I make sure to set aside time for us to do fun stuff even when daddy is home, it feels less like I’m going through the motions and more like a privilege that I get to spend so much one-on-one time with my baby. I want him to grow up thinking his time with mama alone is fun, not all chores and rushing around!

5. Banish Guilt: Try your hardest not to feel guilty about the things you find that you cannot accomplish when your spouse is away. Housework is a good example, as are home improvement projects and even getting the lawn mowed. You can only do so much, and your little one and yourself should be first on your priority list! Don’t feel bad about saving some projects for your partner when they’re home. Having them pitch in while they’re home will help your relationship feel more balanced.

6. Stay Connected: I saved the best for last! Don’t forget to stay connected to your partner. My husband and I make up for the lack of physical time spent together by constantly keeping in touch throughout the day. We use Google Chat, text messages, Skype, Google Hangout… anything we can do to reach out to one another.

Always make sure to set aside time to put your little one on the phone or in front of the video camera. I like to let Nolan and daddy “chat” for a little while every night. We call in the morning and we call before bedtime.

All in all, I feel comfortable with our family’s arrangement so far. It’s all Nolan has ever known so he’s used to it! He knows just what to do when I open up the laptop and pull up his daddy on Skype!

I’ve only been doing this “part-time single mama” thing for a year now, so I’m sure my list will change in the very near future as we add sticky subjects like discipline and school to the mix!

Are you a part-time single parent? Or a full-time single parent? Share your advice in the comments below!

2 Responses to Staying Connected When Your Partner is Away

  1. Such great advice! We Facetime and do Google Hangouts a lot when my husband travels for work. TJ always wants to see what his hotel room looks like. :-) When TJ is missing his daddy, we also count down the days until he is home again, “3 more bedtimes!”

  2. This is such a great post!!! I have to 100% agree with the staying organized bit…that is KEY for me when I am flying solo ;)

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