My husband started a brand new job at a small company the same month we were married 7 years ago. While I am incredibly proud of the growth he has fostered in the company and his senior executive position, the price for it has been high; paid out in the currency of precious time. This wasn’t that big of a deal in the beginning, but fast-forward with me to today where we have four small children and it has become an enormous challenge. He works 70+ hours a week, including several hours from home or office on the weekends and has perpetual late nught meetings that forever run right past bedtime. Bedtime. Alone. Again. Oh the horror; oh the despair. But it doesn’t have to be horrible.
Here are a few things that have helped me and my tiny crew while we hold down the fort:
- Recognize you are not alone. For a while it felt like my husband was the only one. I was surprised when it came up in conversation with a close friend that her husband usually missed bedtime too. We started calling each other for spontaneous late afternoon play and dinner dates with our kids. One afternoon out of desperation for something to do with my boys, I randomly knocked on a neighbor’s door and found a new mom friend whose husband worked evenings at a restaurant. We began inviting her and her girls over for dinner once a week. Another friend of mine has a husband who is usually home from work early, but plays kickball one night a week. Knowing we are often alone in the evenings, she invites us over for dinner on those nights regularly. I give my kids a bath at her house and put them straight to bed when we get home. It makes it so much more bearable and fun when you have camaraderie, but you will likely have to seek it out!
- Speak positively to your kids. They will ask “when is daddy coming home?” a lot. Especially at bedtime. While I fully believe it is okay to speak honestly with trusted girlfriends about how hard it is to parent while your husband is bombarded by work all the time, your kids don’t need to hear that. Saying things like: “Daddy is working hard to provide for us” and explaining how we spend the money he makes on food, clothes, toys, and how we give some of it away to people in need not only instills pride and respect for dad in them, but helps boost your mood when you are feeling frustrated about your husband being gone.
- Invest in help. Cleaning service, a mother’s helper, easy meal prep, grocery delivery, yard maintenance, you name it. My husband and I decided that because his hard work earns us enough income, some of these splurges are worth it to make things easier on me during the week and free up more time for us to spend together on the weekends. If it isn’t in your budget, find a friend to regularly swap babysitting or do a meal coop with!
- Find creative ways to connect during the week. While my husband consistently works late, he typically does not schedule early morning meetings. My kids wake up before the sun, so instead of family dinners we have family breakfasts together! We all LOVE breakfast and try to make it special by cooking something savory like scrambled eggs or french toast, sitting around the table together to eat. Other ideas include lunch dates at his office or work site, scheduled facetime calls, or sending along hand-written notes in his brief case.
- Talk about it. It’s hard and if you’re like us, you will find yourself frustrated with each other sometimes. Bring it up, talk about how hard it is. Then remind each other what you are working for – what is your goal? Get back on the same page. Dream together, plan together, pray together. It really helps.
- Reserve lots of grace… for yourself. You are human and you are doing a lot. If you totally lost it with your littles, ask them for forgiveness (which they will be quick to extend) and just as importantly, forgive yourself and keep going. If it’s been a long day and bedtime was like scaling a cliff in a blizzard with a gang of baby monkeys clinging to your back – don’t think twice about giving yourself a break. As for me, my dishes will soak in the sink a little longer and I will be on the couch with a book and bag of M&M’s!
What are some ways you manage the long hours while your spouse works or travels all week?