Partner Travels During the Week? Lower Your Standards

Here’s a shout-out to all the parents whose partners travel during the week.   Jeff’s traveled since Sadie was about a year old, so I’ve amassed some advice to share.

Basically, I’ve finally learned to have two different sets of standards: one for when Jeff’s in town and one when he’s not.

Example: When Jeff is here, we do family dinner at the table and you are 99% likely to find proteins, vegetables and a whole grain starch on the table.  On those nights, we all sit in chairs and have discussions that begin thusly: “Sadie and Simon, what were your favorite parts of the day?”

However, on the nights when I solo parent, you are more likely to find me scraping food off the floor to serve to my children than to find a bona fide protein source that I cooked by hand.  I actually haven’t sat down to eat a meal since Monday night, right before Jeff left.  Come to think of it, Sadie ate her “dinner” while riding atop our rocking horse (which she dressed up like Yoda, because why not?).  Not to be outdone, Simon found his digestive bliss while sitting on the potty.  Me?  I stood at the island checking the weather, thinking that if a snow storm or weather system was on its way and likely to deter or delay Jeff’s flight, then I was going to make a run for it.  On foot.  In the rain.  Without a sports bra.

Mama, I'm hungry!

Mama, I’m hungry!

For years, I’ve tried to run the same ship when we were down one parent.  I’ve berated myself for being more short-tempered, for cutting corners, and being less playful when Jeff was gone.  The guilt of turning to the devices of Apple, Inc. to entertain the kids so I can get the dishes washed or take a shower before work has eroded pieces of my soul.  (And the soul doesn’t grow back overnight.  It’s not a goddamned earthworm.)

It simply doesn’t work to keep the same standards on the weeks that Jeff is gone. Period.

 And it’s Jeff’s fault.  If he were just a figurehead or a pop-in-right-before-bedtime dad, I wouldn’t miss him as much.  But he’s busy when he’s home: he does most of the cooking, half of the bedtime routine, half of the morning routine (and how fucking soul-destroying can that piece of the day be?).  Come to think of it, he does at least half of everything.  He’s not perfect– he’s not great with washing dishes and doesn’t seem to realize we have a dirty clothes hamper, but he’s super involved in the big stuff.  Like parenting.  He also must do all of lots of stuff I know nothing about since I am busy doing none of it.  See changing light bulbs, killing rats in the mini-van, explaining to the children how ice gets into the ice maker, and balancing the check book.

My point is that parenting is like a table and if two legs are knocked off it, then the table can’t stand up straight. It’s going to wobble and shit’s gonna slide off of it.  And that’s okay, because there won’t be anyone around to see you scoop stuff off the floor and serve it for dinner.


14 thoughts on “Partner Travels During the Week? Lower Your Standards

  1. Our table is always kind of wobbly, so when my husband travels, we just spread a picnic blanket and eat in front of the t.v.
    I pretend it’s an adventure. Just like the part where we’re fishing laundry out of the hamper because it all waits for him to get back to be washed and put away.
    Adventure. Practice that.
    And good luck!

  2. This article really struck a cord with me. I think as women we still try to do everything and do it well. We sometimes forget to cut ourselves some slack, be kind to ourselves, lower our standards, and ask for help when we need it. That village everyone talks about sure comes in handy. Remind me to tell you about the times I walked out on my kids when Marc was traveling…but took my phone with me so that they could reach me in an emergency.

  3. i think eating a proper dinner at the table is fantastic, but i also think having one on a hobby horse is great too. i think you’re kids will appreciate both realities. but please don’t go running with out a sports bra. that’s just madness. 🙂

  4. My husband traveled 4 days per week for the first 5 years we were together. It really is tough when you have to go back and forth between single mac n cheese mom w/bed times at 8:30 to dual parent protein/vege mom w/bed times that include extra snuggle time for dad. I will say his travel was awesome for our relationship though. I missed my husband every week and got the opportunity to be really excited to see him every week. Love the quote “it’s going I wobble and shits gonna slide”….perfect.

  5. I really needed to read this today. My husband runs a theatre company. When he is in the midst of a run he is home for morning routine only, I beat myself up for my inability to be perfect, the kids wonder why I am such a weirdo and life still moves on. Thanks for sharing, you made me feel so much more normal, and your table analogy was perfect.

  6. Can I have permission to cut myself some slack on just any old day? My son threw a temper tantrum on the bus home like I haven’t seen since he was two. He pounded his fists into me the whole walk home, in the lobby and in the packed elevator. It took an entire lifetime of my willpower to remain stone faced. I came in the house, ordered a pizza and locked myself in the bathroom hysterical. My husband rarely travels but I could use some slack…

    • You could have described my son (he’s 6) right there, so I’d say you have permission. Granted, he has autism, and he headbutts as well as fist-pounds, but you still have permission.

  7. Wow, you just described the last four weeks of my life–my partner just got home from working out of town. The novelty always wears off for me around day four, though I do like having the bed to myself. The nice thing about having two sets of standards is that I’ve learned that, in a pinch, the lower standards work any-old-time.

  8. he does most of the cooking

    That’s me

    he’s not great with washing dishes and doesn’t seem to realize we have a dirty clothes hamper

    That’s not me

    My point is that parenting is like a table and if two legs are knocked off it, then the table can’t stand up straight. It’s going to wobble and shit’s gonna slide off of it. And that’s okay, because there won’t be anyone around to see you scoop stuff off the floor and serve it for dinner.

    Eww– why would you want to scoop stuff off the floor when shit has slid off the table onto it? Just sayin’.

    then I was going to make a run for it. On foot. In the rain. Without a sports bra.

    *boing boing boing boing*

    (Yes, I’m incredibly immature.)

  9. The timing of this is perfect because I’m about to be single momming it for the next 3 days while Bill is out of town. If we eat microwave quesadillas every night , I’m still a good mom, right?? At least I’ll have the remote all to myself 🙂

  10. Table metaphor was perfect. Also the soul not being an earthworm! Have to say even with two of us home dinnertime and mornings during the week are desperate affairs.

  11. Here here! My hubs travels a lot. At least 2 days a week and sometimes in week long spurts, like this last week. I am a completely different mom then. Grab take out on the way home? Yep. Scramble some eggs and call it a day? Sure. It is the danger of having a husband that is an equal parent in every way, as you said. Sometimes I think about being a stay at home mom, just so that can be my JOB and when he’s gone, it remains. But I know that’s now how it would be. And I come to my senses!

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