Pilots, clergy, law enforcement, doctors, reporters — these professions tend to require some kind of on-call work, often unpredictable. When Mom or Dad has to head away from home and back to the job, it can be a difficult gig, not just for the one who had to leave the soccer game, but for the spouse and young children left behind as well.
Giving up a job isn’t usually an option, but changing up the way house and home are managed on a shifting schedule is doable. With a pilot for a husband, our weekly (and sometimes daily) schedule changes at a moment’s notice.
1. Plan with lots of flexibility, and perhaps backup, in mind.
It’s difficult to plan fun family outings when you know that plan is subject to change. Is the outing something easily handled if a parent is left on her own? Would it help to have a backup babysitter or family member available to keep the baby? When we’re able to have that option, it opens up a whole new possibility for sticking with the plan.
2. Add special occasions to the traveling schedule.
When Daddy is gone for a few days, it helps us to break up the monotony by tossing an event that’s out of the ordinary. I might grab a pizza at a place the children have been begging to go, call friends and meet at a park for a supper picnic, or work on homework together at the local playground. Anything that adds even a little variety to our week is a huge help.
3. Put together a jar full of fun.
Write down several activities or fun events — each on its own small piece of paper. Place these in a jar and pull it out when a parent has to leave. Ideas to include: children get to skip a chore that day, one sibling gets to “be in charge” for the bedtime routine, or everyone gets an extra 20 minutes of outside play before supper. Being able to skip a chore in our household is a huge hit.
4. Keep tabs.
Whether you put it on a post-it note, write in a journal, or take a bunch of photos with your phone, capture special moments the traveling parent may have missed: a field trip, a recipe children helped with for dinner, or just a favorite bedtime story they read. My children love sending photos to Daddy and drawing pictures about what they did while he was gone. Would yours?