I am not new to the nomad, on the go, agent wife lifestyle; Jamari and I have been together for years, but I am completely new to solo parenting with two children when he is away. Prior to having babies, when Jamari would travel for work it meant I could order take out, binge watch shows, treat myself to a spa day, go out with friends, and wait to hear about where he was and what it was like. Hard stop. Somewhere between kiddo number 1 and kiddo number 2…that ALL came to screeching halt and getting through the day while making sure their needs are met became priority.
Jamari can be gone for days, weeks, even up to a year in an unaccompanied assignment; all things I knew before we even started dating and I still hopped in with both feet. This lifestyle is not for the faint of heart, and you need to be an independent person to thrive because there will be many missed birthdays, holidays, and solo appearances. It’s so easy to get into our routine at home while he is home that sometimes the jolt of him being gone completely disrupts our household for a day or two until we get back into the routine. I am constantly being asked (mostly because we are currently posted stateside and people don’t understand his career) “how do you do it when he leaves?” or “I couldn’t do it”. The second comment makes me giggle because anyone can do it, and you have no choice when you have two other humans and a dog relying on you for survival. But the comment, “how do you do it?” leads to this post. Again, I am a newbie to parenting when Jamari is away, but I have a few tips and tricks to making the days flow better considering Maxwell is only 12 weeks and Jamari has been away three times already in that time frame.
Having a routine is survival in our house on a daily basis and that routine is essential when he isn’t home. My children and I rely on the structure of the routine and consistency of knowing what is next. It results in less tantrums, less stress, and less anxiety when we all know what to expect. Audrey has a few different activities she is enrolled in on varied days, but she still knows when we are in the house we follow the same routine. Wake up, nap, dinner, quiet time, and bed are always the same times. I currently have both kids taking their longest nap of the day at noon, and in bed for the night at 7 (Audrey) and 7:30 (Maxwell). That gives me time to prep and plan the next day and have some quiet time for myself to regroup. While some families notice routine doesn’t work for them but I would be completely lost without ours.
By the end of the night I am exhausted but I have to keep chugging on to make the next day easier for myself. My best friend Lisa, (who is a real life Super-Mom) has shared tips with me on how to survive this motherhood journey. One thing she suggested is planning ahead and I took that tip and ran with it. I prepare snacks, I pack the diaper bag, I put away all the toys, I lay out the diapers I will need the next morning, prep breakfast, think about outfits, and prepare anything that will be needed in the first 3-4 hours of the next morning to give myself a smooth transition into the day. I work well under stress and pressure but choose not to because who wants stress before they’ve had their coffee? Prepping (thanks to Lisa) has allowed me to get out of the house on time with both kids in tow. I can’t promise Audrey’s shirt won’t contain breakfast stains, and Maxwell might only have one sock on, but I am getting places and on time (usually).
Get Out of the House:
Easier said than done, and most days I try to talk myself out of leaving the house but those are the days that I feel crappy, have less patience, and time drags on. Getting out of the house is a reset button for all of us. My trips out are hardly exciting and I try to time it perfectly that when we return is around lunch/nap time. Audrey prefers the park trips, I prefer Target, but either way it is a different scenery and we get to reset and see new faces. I can’t stress enough that on the hardest days the best medicine is buckling everyone into their seats and getting out of the house for a bit.
Jamari being away is hard on everyone in our house, but I am grateful we are in 2019 and have awesome technology. Audrey is at an age where she realizes that Jamari isn’t home and that is difficult for her. So regardless of time zones or distance he always video chats with her. We try to make it a time where it works for her more than him, like a meal time or after a nap. He will set an alarm if he needs to ensuring he will be available even for a 5 minute chat so she can see and talk to him.
The first assignment he went on after Audrey was born was when she was 8 weeks old and for 30 days. He recorded himself reading books so I could play it and she could hear his voice. That has stuck and he continues to do that now. She will go get the book he is reading on the recording and sit with the phone next to her and go through the book as Daddy reads.
I try to take extra pictures of our days while he is away of what we are doing and although I am positive he doesn’t need 36 pictures of our day, he appreciates them (at least the first two) and Audrey loves the idea that we are sending Daddy a picture. It’s also very helpful for ending the “I want Daddy” cry session that is bound to happen at least once a day when she realizes he isn’t coming home at the normal time. I can always offer to take a photo or video to send to him and then we wait for his response. She also loves looking at photos he sends to her of where he is and what he is doing.
We are big on celebrating, so welcome home celebrations are no different. I don’t do this for quick trips because our neighbors would think we are loony, but anything more than 2 weeks I have Audrey create art work and signs that we hang and celebrate his arrival home. She loves walking him around the house to show her artwork the second he walks through the door and being the good sport that he is, he acts like each picture is the first finger painting he’s ever seen.
The day can be overwhelmingly long when you are home with two small children 24/7 and have no relief walking through the door in the evening to help out. I mentally break the day into sections to help avoid that overwhelming feeling. I focus on getting to nap time and then I have a small window of getting things done and prepping for the evening. I strongly believe in doing whatever needs to happen to get to the next day, if that means ordering Door Dash, hiring babysitters, or extra screen time, then we do it. My children rely on me to be happy, healthy, and calm, and I need to make sure that I am doing whatever makes my day easier to be the mom they deserve, while the duty of meeting all their needs falls solely on me. During Jamari’s first trip away from home is around the time I stopped judging other parents for their choices and realized we are all just trying to survive the day. So if Audrey wants to have a birthday candle in her breakfast, a dance party with a picnic lunch, and I run through the Starbucks drive-thru twice in one day…don’t judge, it is survival parenting at it’s best.