The 5 Phases Of Parenting When Your Spouse Is Traveling

by Alice Seuffert
Originally Published: 
A mother screaming on the floor with her children making a mess in the background while her spouse i...

Spouse about to travel? Prepare yourself for your own five-phase trip alone:

Phase 1: Super Parent

Phase 1 occurs one – maximum two – days into a spouse’s trip. Super Parent feels like she can tackle anything, and she does. She brings the kids to birthday parties, family gatherings and even grocery stores in decorum. The laundry gets done and clean dishes are available. Super Parent finds managing the household remarkably better than expected. In fact ,she might even be saying things to herself like, “This household runs smoother when it is just me.”

Phase 2: Break-the-Rules Parent

Break-the-Rules Parent is an easy transition from Super Parent. Coasting off all that success from being Super Parent, you decide to start breaking well-established rules. Bedtime starts getting later and later; you’re not even sure how you got to the point where your child is up until 10:30 p.m. But there you are, and you roll over in the bed and ask your child to share the blanket. Yes, you decided rooming in with your preschooler also seemed like an excellent parenting choice. Oh, and that whole squirting whipped cream in your kid’s mouth every time you open the fridge? Not a great idea either.


Phase 3: Desperation Parent

With all the rule breaking, the children start to plot and figure out they outnumber you. They have slipped their noses under the tent with all the rule breaking. You are weak, and they smell it. Extra television time? Sure. Cereal for dinner? You got it. You’ll do anything for a few minutes alone. A friend offers to watch your children so you can exercise? You’ve never been so excited to put your body through complete misery.

Phase 4: Resentful Parent

Resentful Parent starts getting really ticked about simple things like scrubbing yogurt from the kitchen table. What the heck is even in Greek yogurt to make it stick so well to everything? Resentful Parent starts documenting the horrific sides of parenting alone – like exploding diapers – and texts the details to the traveling spouse. Your phone was up on the conference table when the poop picture came through? Oh. Sorry about that.

Phase 5: Totally Done Parent*

Totally Done Parent sets in within 24 hours of the return of the traveling parent. Totally Done Parent has a countdown going; every time they glance at the clock, they are saying to themselves, “17 more hours.” The concept of trying to keep up with laundry and dishes has long passed at this phase. Totally Done Parent and the kids are pulling clean clothes from a pile on the couch. Totally Done Parent has stopped all forms of deep cleaning, because she doesn’t want Traveling Parent to think that everything is sunshine and roses when they are gone.

The minute Totally Done Parent sees Traveling Parent back in person, she’s so grateful because she doesn’t have to do parenting alone anymore. She is also thankful because she doesn’t want to do parenting alone either.

*Traveling Parent should know that Totally Done Parent quickly becomes Gin And Tonic Parent, which is followed closely by I’m Going Out With All My Besties Every Night Following The Return Of Traveling Parent.

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