What Parenting Feels Like When Your Spouse Travels For Work

by Ashleigh Wilkening
Originally Published: 
Mother taking her kids to the school
Kikovic / Getty

When your husband is away traveling for work or for whatever reason, it sucks, plain and simple. Beyond the mushy “a part of me is missing” feeling and a desperate sense of loneliness, when you have children you’re pulling double duty. And when those kids are little and ultra-dependent, it’s next to impossible to keep up with everyone and everything.

Add in a layer of extreme anxiety, and you wish you could crawl into the deepest darkest hole and wait out the storm until it’s over, except you can’t because your littles and life’s demands depends on your existence. Pushing on is the only answer.

The simplest actions seem so much harder when you’re alone. In the mornings, in addition to getting myself ready, I must get three children up, changed, ready and out the door to school. As I race to get to work on time, I’m thinking about everything depending on me and only me. An overwhelming sense of failure can’t help but set in as the worst case scenarios race through my mind. What if I get a flat tire or worse, I get into a car accident, and my partner isn’t home or even in the same state to help? If something were to happen to me, what happens to the kids? I’m the last line of defense and that scares the living shit out of me.

While working, my mind is already in fast forward mode preoccupied with plans of school pick up, dinner, bedtime, and routine household chores that need to be done — because I’m the only one. I’m on guard for any calls from school requiring my immediate presence and regardless, I must leave work early to beat the bus drop-off and pick-up the other children from school.

School pick-up is no picnic as I’m shuffling three children and their never-ending bags of shit out the door, praying they all comply and don’t run off to chase a butterfly. As soon as we arrive home, after-school madness commences. I make everyone dinner, pack lunches for the next day, bathe three uncooperative tiny humans and get them all to bed while somehow managing to squeeze in a load of laundry, take out the garbage, and pick up the tornado of chaos, only to repeat it all the next day.

And when the kids wake up in the middle of the night? Mom is on it.

I’m also the sole provider of comfort, love, caregiving and everything else we as parents provide our children. I’m their only source of security and discipline, dividing my attention more than ever. Three littles require all of me and, even with my best effort, I always feel like I’m failing. The weight of it all can be suffocating as I’m drowning in it all unable to breathe. And me? There is no me, or any ounce of self-care during these times. I’m in pure survival mode, and anything beyond isn’t given a second thought.

When nighttime is upon me, that’s the worst, as the quiet and solidarity gives way to some serious emptiness and sadness. This is when anxiety creeps in and has no intent of lifting. What if someone breaks in? What if something happens to me in my sleep and no one is home, leaving my children all alone crying out for their mommy? What if I don’t hear the baby cry in the middle of the night? What if the furnace goes out or car stops working? There is no check and balance when you’re by yourself and although, I’m independent and resourceful by nature and more than capable, it’s an additional stressor I carry the full weight of by myself.

No, I’m not this damsel in distress incapable of doing things by herself. I don’t need my husband, but rather life feels more complete and full when he’s around.

So, in addition to feeling exhausted, I’m a wound up stressball that won’t return to normal until my partner is home. The sleep I so desperately need is nowhere to be found as my mind won’t calm. I’ve been through this on more than occasions than once and will again many times in the future, because that’s our life and the reality in which our family operates. Regardless of how many times I’ve experienced these periods of semi-solo parenting, it doesn’t it make it any easier. All I can do is count down the days until he returns and pray nothing bad happens.

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