Coping when your partner is traveling

My husband often has to travel for work. I used to love having a few days for myself before my children were born! And I began to dread them when he started traveling again after the end of the pandemic. Alone with two kids, while working. Help.

If you’re a single parent, I truly admire you. It’s a very different story at home when you have noone to take some weight off your shoulders. Even on the days where my youngest only wants to be next to me(and they are many), I can still let my partner answer my eldest’s question or help with preparing the food, or unload the dishwasher. When I’m alone, I need to literally run the show all by myself, with no breaks. Nevertheless, because I’ve had lots of practice, it has become easier and definitely less scary. Here are some strategies that have helped me cope and that you might find useful:

1. Plan ahead. As much as you can, plan every single moment of the days where you’re alone. That includes the meals (using my family meal planner), the clothes, and all the activities. When you’re alone you really don’t have time to make decisions, and not much headspace to reflect on things.

2. Fill the fridge and go for easy meals. On top of having a “menu of the week” planned ahead, I make sure our fridge is stocked up with all of my easy snacks and dinners. For example, my girls love cucumbers and red bell peppers. Putting them out as a snack saves me some time if dinner isn’t yet ready and they are getting cranky.  It’s also the time when I use frozen pre-cut onions and other vegetables, and I might just cook pasta more than once. I accept that it’s not the right time for anything special.

3. Ask and plan for help. This is a big one. Don’t expect others to think of helping you just because you casually mentioned you will be alone that week. If you’re not used to it, asking for support can feel uncomfortable at first. It is, however, essential. Ask the babysitter if they can do extra hours (or find one if you don’t have one yet!), ask your child’s friend’s parents if they can take them for an afternoon. You would be surprised at how many people would help you with great pleasure. I like to say that I’m doing others a favor by allowing them to help me.

3. Don’t get carried away in the evening binging on shows. I’m so guilty of this one. The first few times I was alone, I ended up feeling exhausted not because of my children, but because I was staying up late watching Netflix. For some reason, being alone had become equal to giving myself permission to do the things I normally wouldn’t do, like a teenager who’s home alone. Resist that temptation and think of the next day.

4. Allow for more screen time or other activities that you wouldn’t normally allow. More than one audiobook a day, screen time during the week. The circumstances are special and you are allowed to ‘give in’ for your sanity. Nothing will happen if you don’t follow the rules exactly for a few days. Remember, perfection is the art of never being satisfied.

5. Show gratitude to yourself every evening for everything you’re able to do. Find a couple of minutes to look at yourself in the mirror and appreciate everything you were able to do that day. Thank your body for allowing you to move, your mind for allowing you to think and your heart for allowing you to feel. You can use my 5 day/5 min prompts to wind down, or anything else that makes you feel good.

6. Reframe the experience as an opportunity to bond with your children. When I’m not alone, I don’t get to have both my children sit to my right and left in the evening to read a book. They don’t need as many hugs from me. And we don’t get to create memories just the three of us.

And most importantly, make sure you take some time one once your partner comes back. Whether it’s with a pampering session, a long chat with a good friend, shopping, a walk in nature, you deserve a break of at least a few hours. My break is planned – you guessed it! – tomorrow.

Do you know someone whose partner often travels for work? Please forward them this blog post!



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Hi, I'm Annie!

I’m a mum of two and a coach with a mission to help fellow mums prevent burnout, eradicate stress and overwhelm and live their best lives.