For some of us, going away for a few nights for our work is unavoidable. In fact, I’m writing this on day 2 of 10 away out of our home city. It can be a stressful time for your wife with the kids, and it can be stressful for you, always wondering if everything is ok. I dread each day getting a text from my wife saying that the kids are going mental and that she is having the worst day ever — quite simply because I’m so far away that there’s nothing that I could do even if I were there.
The worst time I had away though was when I got a call at 11.30pm, after I’d gone to sleep in my accommodation while at a work conference. My wife was a little flustered, as our first daughter, 1 year old at the time, had her first bout of gastro and had vomited everywhere — multiple times. It was enough that she needed to see a doctor, but all the locums were busy so no one could come to the house. To make matters worse, my wife was also feeling ill (and she also vomited after hanging up) to the point where she couldn’t drive her to the hospital. I was utterly powerless, trapped in a remote conference centre 16 hour drive away and with no plane flights home till morning. After learning this, contact with her ceased as she realised I could do nothing to help, and I heard nothing of what happened till morning. Suffice it to say I didn’t sleep well that night.
Aside from these worst case scenarios, it’s pretty important still to be on the same page as your wife, whether it’s you travelling away for work or her. I won’t say I’ve always done this well, but here’s some things that are helpful to think about when it comes to thinking about nights away:
1. Discuss possible trips early
I even know people who plan all their trips for the year at the start of the year. Their wife knows exactly how many nights they’ll be away, and when. Now this isn’t possible for all of us, but it makes sense that the more time you have to prepare together for it, the easier it will be. Don’t kid yourself that if you drop it on her that you’ll be out of town tomorrow for a few nights that she’s going to be excited for your work opportunities. Being at home looking after the kids when your spouse is out of town is far rougher than the most gruelling work trip. Give her the best shot she can at having a good time.
2. Make it easy for her to have a good time
This isn’t always in your control, but get to know what helps her best while you’re away. It may be that finishing all the washing, tidying the house and cleaning and putting away all the dishes helps her feel like she’s all set to bunker down for the time you’re away. Maybe it’s helping her plan what to do each day so that she doesn’t feel alone or abandoned. Maybe she likes you leaving her notes telling her you love her. I don’t know what works for your wife — but you probably do! Work it out and do the best you can for her.
3. Keep in contact with her
Text and call her as much as you can. Work trips are always busy and generally the schedule is packed pretty tight. Make the most of every minute of down time you get (even if it’s a toilet break) and let her know how your day is, that you love her and that you’re thinking about her. You can also tell her that you’d love getting texts and pictures of the kids and their day from her. My wife does this and it’s really lovely seeing what they’re up to, and helps me to stay a part of what’s going on even when I’m away.
4. Agree on how often you travel
This one seems obvious but I think it’s actually rarely discussed. If you just expect she’s going to be ok with you being out of town for 3 days every 2 weeks, don’t be surprised if you cop some extra sass from her. Talk about how often you need to go away for work, and if she thinks it’s too much, be prepared to renegotiate with your boss. If it’s only for a short period of time it may be ok, but if it’s going to stay like this and she’s not ok with it — maybe start looking for a new job or an alternate role in the company. Your wife and kids are much more important than your job, no matter how good it is.
5. Pray for your wife and kids while away
I must admit that I’m not the best at this one, but don’t forget to keep bringing your wife and kids before God in prayer. It’s a habit we should bring into life every day, however it’s pretty easy to forget these simple things when you’re out of your normal routine. Ask that God would protect them and grow them, and ask that he would give you strength and wisdom to keep being a better husband and father!