My husband is away on a business trip this week. I'm very lucky that he travels so infrequently. And usually when he is gone, it's only for a few days at a time.
But this time he's gone for an entire eight days. And because we don't have a car or regular childcare, it can be a bit of a challenge to manage when he's not around -- both logistically and emotionally.
I tried really hard to gear up for his absence before he left, and so far (Happy Hump Day!) things are working out pretty well. Here are five tips for managing your life when your spouse or partner goes out of town:
- Be relaxed but organized. That -- courtesy of my fabulous life coach-- is my mantra this week. As regular readers of this blog know, the "organized" part comes easily. I am, after all, a walking calendar. But relaxed? Not so much. Especially when the carefully carved out division of labor between myself and my husband goes awry. (There's a reason I'm not in charge of the kids' music practice...) So every time I find myself tensing up, I just repeat that phrase out loud. I also keep a stress ball located in various corners of the house -- my desk, the piano, next to the stove -- so that I can just squeeeeeeze the anxiety out when it arises.
- Do less. If, like me, you're someone who tries to cram all of the 65,000 things you normally do in any given week into a week where -- for whatever reason... school holidays... ill children... AWOL spouse -- you simply have less time, here's a radical proposal: do less. If necessary, pretend that you're sick. You'll be amazed how much better you feel.
- Bribe your kids. I suppose the politically correct term here would be "incentivize," but whatever. The point is -- if you have children -- you need to motivate them to get through the week despite all the changes to the normal schedule. In our case, because my kids attend different schools, the main hurdle is vaulting ourselves through the morning school run which is normally split between my husband and myself. This means getting up half an hour earlier, moving through breakfast at a brisk pace, and adding two additional 25 minute walks to my seven-year-old's day. The incentive? Because I have one of those daughters who really cares how she looks, I have secretly saved a skirt and "half-jumper" (sweater) that we bought last week and she thought we were returning. I will bestow it upon her this evening just in time for... Come Dressed As Your Favorite Book Character Day at school tomorrow. (Isn't it fortunate that Jane, the elder sister in "Pride and Prejudice," wears long skirts?)
- Treat yourself. Be sure to carve out time for yourself when your spouse/partner is away, where you can relax doing the kinds of things that you enjoy doing (particularly the ones he or she doesn't like). In my case, as a huge and often unrequited fan of the Oscars, I cordoned off all of Monday night to watch a special Oscar Highlights program (time change made it impossible to watch live), followed by "Glee." Imagine my delight.
- Appreciate the absent spouse. This is also key, for both partners and children. When someone's away, try to set aside some time to think about and talk about why it's sad that they're not there, beyond just the inconvenience of it all. What do they bring to the family? What do you miss when they're gone? (Be prepared that this may backfire. When I asked my kids the other day at breakfast "Imagine if Daddy was always traveling. Wouldn't that be awful?" my son responded: "Well, we'd definitely have a car.") Not exactly what I was looking for, but it's a start...