Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Work Widows: Maintaining the Family Bond While Dad is Away"

Work Widows: Maintaining the Family Bond While Dad Is Away
By Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle
Canticle magazine

“I might as well be a widow.” I vividly remember my mother expressing her feelings about my father’s absence at family functions, leaving her to parent their eight children largely on her own. His long commutes—getting up at 4:30 AM each day—prevented him from participating at many events, sometimes out of sheer exhaustion.

“I might as well be a widow.” I sometimes use the same line with my husband when he has to work long hours. Then I wink and say, “Kidding,” so he won’t feel bad that he will be away. I know I will miss him, but he owns his own business and “his boss” is tough on him. He says, “Thank God I am not a Merchant Marine, like my Dad was.”
Being a “work widow” is no laughing matter. For some families absentee fathering takes a toll on family life. Husbands are often required to commute great distances to work, and to travel for business. How do the children and the wife maintain the bond with this integral member of their family? How can a family feel complete when one member is so often missing? How does the family reconnect, pick up where they left off, and continue living in communion when Daddy returns?

Routine Maintenance

For the sake of their family, husband and wife must work as a team to keep their unity intact when Hubby is away. Designated “check in” times, when Dad is in touch by phone to lend his support and advice with his familiar voice, can be comforting. The family can keep him abreast as to their current and upcoming activities, keeping him in the loop. He can even help with homework questions over the phone at times. When it comes to discipline, the parents should always utilize a united front with the children, not allowing the mentality that since Daddy is away, things will be a “free-for-all.” Daddy’s rules still apply even when he is not there to enforce them.

Breakfast, dinner, or bedtime routines are excellent ways to keep the family connected. Even when the husband/father is working long hours, he may be able to participate with a family tradition or routine at either end of the day. When this is not possible due to his traveling, Dad can do his best to participate in these routines over the phone.

Maintaining a regular routine is also important. Careful planning can help alleviate some of the stress in the “work-widow’s” life, advance meal planning and scheduling strategies can make life a bit easier. Cutting down on unnecessary trips with the kids, and preparing some meals in advance to freeze for easy “pull out” dinners are just a couple of ways to ease some household stress. Paper plates lessen time at the kitchen sink.

In some households, Sunday afternoons are used to plan for the week ahead. A dry-erase board posted in the kitchen keeps the family organized. Each person marks down activities scheduled that week to prevent extra trips across town to deliver a forgotten field trip permission slip. Of course, Mom is ultimately the “schedule keeper.” There’s only so much responsibility we can expect from little ones. They are young and they forget.
These strategies may require some creativity and an investment of time on the “work-widows” part initially, but the efforts will pay off when her household is running smoothly, meals are easy, nutritious, and most importantly—her sanity is intact!

When Daddy Comes Marching Home Read entire article here which includes other topics such as "Communication and Love," "Maintaining the Spiritual Bond," and "Self Care Tips for Long Distance Wives."


Anonymous said...

I think this is excellent advice. I struggle with the issue of my family coming second to his work. My husband works 14 hours a day and travels 50% of his time. I calculated the percent of time he spends at work, exercise, with the family as a whole, with the dog and alone with me. In a given week he is 58% work, 3% family 1.7% kids and 0.7% with me. I don't know how much longer i can be married to a man who obviously puts work number 1 and me last (the dog - 1% - higher than me). I lost my faith and not a practicing Catholic now. Is this how you are able to do what you do? through your faith. many men in my husbands position are divorced. I think i understand why now. Is our role in life supposed to be coming second? BTW, i too work full time and am raising three children.

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle said...

Dear "Wowplus5,"

I'm sorry to hear of your struggles. Yes, faith and prayer help so much in situations like yours. Do you think you can sit down with your husband and have a "heart to heart"? Family life has to be top on his list for the survival of a happy family. You need to work togather and plan together. See if you can get him to understand that you miss him, the kids miss him and he should work towards spending more time with you.

I'll say a prayer. I hope you'll be able to talk to him at a calm moment to express how you feel.

God bless you!