3 Thoughts To Help The Parent Who Travels Cope

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Arnold Lee / Unsplash

Here you are once again. Two months in and things were going just fine. The kids were adapting, the household seems to be holding together. You feel the usual pangs of missing your little loves striking again and again. You are used to it by now. Another deep breath and you immerse yourself in the mission, the work, the “why” you are even away. Phone calls when you can, video calls if you are lucky. All of which are just barely enough to keep you connected. The days drag on. You focus on the next job, maybe work extra hours; you do anything to keep your mind off the emotions and missing home. It works…for the moment.

Being a mom who serves actively in the military and deploys, you probably want me to assure you that it gets easier? It does NOT get any easier. YOU get better. After two deployments, six months each before my twins turned four-years-old, I had to learn, adapt, and face the emotions and challenges we experienced as a small family while functioning from thousands of miles away. You learn patience and how to effectively communicate. You reveal a strength and courage you never imagined. You discover independence, resourcefulness, and resilience. This life changes you, shapes you, and challenges you. Not only professionally more so, personally. When work takes you away from your family, you will face circumstances and trials that few will ever have to endure.

How do you do life while having to spend so much time away?

1. Feeling insecure and vulnerable.

It will happen. You want to be together, to share in life experiences. Distance is not a natural part of any relationship. Knowing you will not be able to hold and see those you love, or be there for them when they need you most can become excruciating. Emotions run deep and you barely keep them at bay. Can you trust everything is handled okay? What about the kids, the house, did they start the car like you asked? We can only control what we can control. You have to find a level of trust and confidence in those you leave in care of the matters at home.

You surrender so much control and so much of yourself to leave for months on end. That is powerlessness, weakness, and vulnerability at its core. You begin to fill out a Will and Power of Attorney, maybe even make a plan for where you want your remains returned. Add a move to this mix. These emotions and decisions are difficult. Kids know Mom or Dad is leaving. Things are changing so they may act out. Once you can acknowledge these insecurities, recognize these are major life decisions that everyone closest to you has to face, you can identify the source of so many struggles. Insecurity is likely the root of many conflicts you will have before you even head out on your travels.

2. The only way you and those you love will even being to survive this lifestyle starts with appreciation, respect, and communication.

There will be challenges, struggles in communication and days you may not even speak. Respect and trust are the foundation of distance. Appreciation and gratitude mean so much and can make all the difference. Not just respect to the family, but also respect for yourself. If this is too much or too difficult, say something and recognize the why behind the struggle. Are you, exhausted, bored, overly tasked, and simply miss being with them? Communicate this!

You realize quality time is much more important than the quantity. Communication should have value, impact, and purpose. The day to day may get mundane and dreary. Try having a list of things that made you happy and made your week; of course, include the important things to discuss. By having a source of topics will help keep the conversations more positive, flowing, and supportive. Be patient. If there is conflict and upset, try to refrain from accusations and anger. Find the core of the problem, emotions, or fears, and do what you can to help or just be the active listener when necessary. Be vulnerable and open to discuss problems without blame.

Often we are most comfortable with those we love and tend to vent our frustrations out with no expectation of solutions. Is this conflict one of those instances? Just ask! If you are feeling attacked, ask something along the lines of, “are you just venting?” or “is this at me or to me?” Sometimes you may just need to get something of your chest, but the person receiving this may be taking it personally without you even knowing. Don’t forget the power of a simple ‘thank you.’ You will all grow and change during this time, but in keeping appreciation, respect, and communication in mind, you can forge bonds stronger than ever before.

3. Change your perspective.

You see the long hours, hard work, packing up for yet another stop or destination. The kids are growing before your eyes in pictures. The home that you love is getting painted a new color or relocated altogether. The air conditioning took a dump, or the car needs new tires. What happens at home affects you because you have no control, no way to help. You see all their stress and frustration. You may feel powerless, tired, overworked, and just trying to get by. They see the beautiful places you go, the perception of no responsibility and the freedom from the kids. Not having to deal with all the details of the home.

It is easy to get absorbed in your reality at that moment, the struggles of being apart, the loneliness, or the challenging assignment. They may not understand how hard this is for you. Nor, can you fully understand how challenging it is for them. Getting caught up in how you think things are supposed to be or how you would have handled that situation is easy. Take a moment to see where all sides are coming from. It is frustrating the increase in demands placed on everyone. Do your best to communicate. Let them know if you just need to vent, or are providing a recommendation, maybe you have resources to help. Then be receptive to the same. Know that there may be nothing you can do but simply listen. If you recall all the points above, perspective will come easily when you listen.

You will get through this. In the end, it is only a short period of time and more than likely a once in a lifetime experience. You will test your resolve, patience, and strength of heart. You will learn to share your love from thousands of miles away with strength like no other. View this as an opportunity to grow and develop as a person, partner, parent, or simply within yourself. You chose this path for a reason that only you can know. You took an opportunity to learn, change, grow, or maybe to explore. Remember why you are doing this and be sure to make a goal to accomplish while you are gone. And listen…just listen! Know that you will not be able to solve everything, but have trust in those back home, or know it will be there for you to handle when you return. It is a true test of self having to be away from those closest to you. Create your story, your adventure, and find yourself along the way. TC mark

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