For the SAHM whose man travels frequently or has long hours at the office, the days can feel monotonous or lonely and isolating. She may feel as though she’s lost a part of her identity or be overwhelmed, worn down, and even battle jealousy of his time with adults (okay, maybe that last part is just me).
My husband and I have spent almost half of our 10 years of marriage away from one another due to his intense traveling schedule: 10 months after we married, he left for a one-year deployment before shifting out of the military into a private sector job. His new job requires weekly travel; every Monday morning at 5 am, he’ll kiss me goodbye and won’t return until late Thursday night.
I wish I could say I aced those years of parenting my girls alone with flying colors, or that my attitude always landed in the cup half-full camp. The hard reality is that I spent endless hours simply soldiering on, merely surviving, rather than thriving. I was depleted and disillusioned about our family’s situation, that is, until I started to shift my perspective and make small changes that ushered in drastic effects in my day-to-day life.
If you’re a SAHM whose man works long hours, here are a few words of hope and advice:
1. Put on your oxygen mask.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the flight attendants’ directive to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others. As moms, it’s wise to heed this advice because we won’t be able to consistently pour into our families and others if we’re not taking care of ourselves first. Parenting out of an exhausted headspace doesn’t benefit anyone, so devise a plan and schedule time just for you before burnout strikes. It may sound easier said than done, but even making minor shifts in your schedule—such as putting the kids to bed 20 minutes earlier, saying no to commitments that will overextend you, or meditating first thing in the morning—can produce enormous benefits to your mind, body, and overall disposition.
2. Keep the ties with your man strong.
My marriage wasn’t at its healthiest state the years my husband traveled; we had a number of stressful factors working against us in between post-deployment readjustments, geographical moves, grief over the loss of loved ones, not to mention our own individual heaps of baggage. Basically, the travel and time apart was just a cherry on top for everything else that were major barriers in our relationship. I have enormous empathy for anyone struggling in marriage, and if I can encourage you to do anything, it’s to keep the lines of communication open throughout your day: send each other funny texts, updates, encouragement, and pictures of the kids. If he isn’t home by bedtime, let the kids FaceTime him to say goodnight. Try not to let resentment or anything that might poison your relationship take root, but rather remind yourself that you’re both working hard for your family and the two of you are a team.
3. Find a tribe of other women.
For two years, I hosted a group of ladies at my house every Tuesday evening. These women became a source of support and strength during a difficult season of my life, and our weekly get-togethers allowed me space to feel like my old social self. Be intentional to seek out others by inviting them into your life and investing in those friendships. Moms of Preschoolers (MOPS) and Meetup groups are great places to start seeking out friends with whom you can relate. Having a tribe of other women in your life can make the unbearable, bearable.
If you’re a SAHM whose man works long hours, here are a few words of hope and advice for thriving, not merely just surviving.
4. Give thanks for the ordinary.
I had hit a breaking point in my life and decided that I couldn’t continue to keep the negative attitudes and thoughts about my situation swirling in my mind. I began to learn more about practicing gratitude and giving thanks for the easily overlooked and ordinary parts of my life—for what I saw, for what I heard, and for the experiences, people, and tasks I encountered throughout my day. My circumstances didn’t necessarily change, but the shift in perspective helped to dull the loneliness and the anxiety I felt. It enabled me to become attuned to the many blessings I’d been discounting, even the endless cleaning, wailing tantrums, and mile-high laundry. Be on the lookout for the everyday, simple joys—they’re all around you!
5. Give yourself permission to be a kid.
One of the most profound changes I made during the years my husband was gone was a small one that’s stayed with me to this day: giving myself permission to be a kid with my kids. I’ve discovered more and more that when I’m present with my kids and engaging in ways they find meaningful (i.e., playing on their level), I am the one who walks away refreshed and feeling lighter. I’m better able to remember that I’m making deposits in my girls’ lives and it’s in these small moments that I’m showing them the love they crave. Forget the dishes and the laundry for 20 minutes and enter your child’s world. Allow them to lead playtime—they’ll love it and so will you!
What you do each day is enormously hard, and it takes inordinate amounts of grit and grace. But I’m a firm believer that out of hardship, we can rise and grow stronger. May all your days be filled with thriving, joyful moments, and lasting unity in your family during this season of your life.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Dear Mom! Be Encouraged on Mother’s Day (and Beyond) – 039!
Don’t miss these related articles: Dear SAHM: I See You and Want You to Know These 8 Things, In Need of Mom Friends? 7 Ways to Reach Out, How I Find Time for Me (Even As a Mom), Struggling to Balance It All? 3 Helpful Tweaks for Moms, Tired? Overwhelmed? 4 Guilt-Free Ways to Say “No”, and Mamas, You Need to Maintain Your Identity While Momming.