One member asks the PSP Dads Group…
“I'm starting business travel back up and wondered if anyone can share any tips for balancing the extra pressure it puts on my wife while I'm away. My job involves ~25% travel which has gone to zero for nearly the entire time I've been a dad. We've got an 18-month old who goes to daycare full-time during the week, and my wife and I both work long hours so we split up the childcare duties in the AM and PM. Now that I'll start travelling again, we're both worried about the impact to her and her career when she has to pick up so much solo time while I'm on the road.
Her parents are an 8hr drive away and can come stay with us to lend a hand if I've got a longer trip, but that doesn't fully solve the extra responsibility and can only happen so often.
If anyone has advice or suggestions you can share in this area I'd really appreciate it.”
Take care of things in advance. “We used to be in the same boat as I used to travel a lot.
Ultimately you’re still not around and your wife is on her own. All I can recommend is trying to take care of as many things in advance as possible before you go to help your wife out.
Get all the laundry done
Make sure there’s a set of clothes ready for everyday you’re not there
Things like that so she can focus on just the bare necessities each day.”
Give them a day off when you return. “I've been in this boat as well, as the traveler and the one at home. There's no easy way to do it, but J. is right: everything that can be done in advance, do it in advance. Make a few batches of meals, including some that could be frozen. Or just buy them. But everything should be strictly heat-and-serve. Do all the laundry before you leave. And then give her a day off when you come back to help recover from all the stuff she had to do on her own.”
Consider additional childcare help. “If you can afford it, a morning nanny offloads a lot of stress (at least for me). I have a nanny that comes every morning at 8am, gets the kids ready, prepares their lunch boxes and backpacks, and walks them to school at 8:40. I walk them sometimes when my schedule allows, but there is a big difference in stress when walking them is a luxury rather than a need. I truly only need her ~2 mornings a week, but the reduction in stress is well worth $100/week. It also takes a lot of repetitive work off my plate (lunch prep, getting kids dressed). On days where she can't make it, I end up doing all the prep work at 11pm the night before.
I thought it would be hard to find a nanny for just one hour a day, but I got 40 applications within 24h of posting on care.com. Seems that there are a lot of students who like the morning schedule, before their classes start.
(And of course, adding an afternoon nanny helps a lot too, but quickly gets a lot more expensive.)”
Leave surprises behind for your family. “Hi all, it's a little cheesy but you can do things like hide sweet notes around for your wife and child to find during your time away. It doesn't replace being there but it can make it feel less lonely for your wife. I also started taking a toy of my daughter's on trips and taking pictures of it all over the place, started a shared folder so her mom could show her all of the places her Daddy Pig had been lately.”
If your kids are old enough, they may be able to help out while you’re away. “Now that they're older, they know that they have to pitch in more when mama is away. Her last two trips were a few weeks before the pandemic and a few weeks after I broke my back skiing. I was quite laid up but managed fine by having the boys do most of the work. (That's much easier said than done, but totally possible.)
So as the travelling parent, I would encourage you to help teach your kids to be as self sufficient as possible (It's good for them too.) and be present when you're here.”
Last but not least, re-evaluate whether your work situation is still a good fit for you. “Lots of great advice from other dads if travel is unavoidable, but if I may offer something more glib: consider quitting your job. I'm in the same boat as you in that my job usually involves a lot of travel then went fully virtual for the last 15 months, so between that and parental leave I really only had about 2 1/2 months where I was traveling a lot as a dad (my son is 22 months old). But now that I have a second child on the way in July and I would be expected to travel pretty often again once I return from that parental leave, I am looking very hard for a new job that involves limited or no travel. Being away from home 3 or 4 nights a week for four months out of the year just isn't worth it to me, and my wife having to be a solo parent on those days would absolutely have a negative impact on her own career.”