When Dad works away from home
“There are no great men, only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.” William F. Halsey
It has become more and more common for mom’s to take on the mother and father role. Besides the high divorce rate, fathers are often away as it is sometimes more financially beneficial to do so, than to be working from home. Sometimes even the moms have to travel too.
A child could be acting out as a result of feeling like the father is absent, often away from home, or not taking the rightful place as head of the home.
My friend was shocked when her husband came home from a business trip and her young son said,
“Look mommy, that uncle has come to visit again”
Here are some dynamics to watch out for when dad travels often:
• Mom struggles to share the responsibilities once dad is home. She has had to cope making all the decisions and being in control of the running of the house and single handedly coping with the discipline. On dad’s return, it becomes a mind-shift to adapt to the different roles again.
• Dad feels guilty and wants to compensate for being away so tends to indulge the children.
• Mom has ‘had enough’ and wants to hand over the responsibilities and have a break, while dad has preconceived ideas of ‘resting’ because he ‘has been working so hard’. And so the clash begins.
• Dad comes home bearing gifts, and mom is seen as the ogre.
• Mom allows children to sleep in her bed while dad is gone. They are chased out on his return and he becomes the ogre.
Unless these issues are raised and discussed ahead of time, conflict can arise. The excitement and anticipation of his return can become a disaster with unmet expectations causing a blow up.
Set up clear agreements of who is responsible for what in dad’s absence as well as when dad returns. Try to resume the same routine every time dad is home.
Discuss issues and routines like:
• Does dad do the bathing every night?
• Does he take the children to school?
• Does he help with cooking?
• Who takes over paying the accounts,
• Is the role of disciplinarian shared?
When boundaries are established, then there is less chance for unmet expectations, which lead to disappointments and stress. The goal should always be to create “Peace in the Home”
How to keep in touch
Skype sessions are a great way to stay connected and be remembered. If your children are still under 8, you can tell them adventure stories on Skype instead of just asking, “how was your day?” It could be an adventure story that you make up as you go, with interesting events that could carry over to the next time so that they wait in anticipation for your next call. Or, remember an event they shared with you, like their friend’s dog that died, and ask them about it. With older children, show an interest in their hobbies or sports. You could ask questions like, “What was your highlight and lowlight this week?” “What was the best meal mommy made this week?”
Also with the younger ones, you can record something before you leave. Whether it be a story that you have read or a message that you want them to listen to. They will enjoy hearing your voice.
A count down calendar, like an event calendar, will help them look forward to the day you come home, with excitement.
Resist the temptation to come home with presents as you walk in the door. Otherwise the tune you will hear is “What did you buy me?” instead of, “Hello dad!”
Try not to over compensate because of your absence but rather step right up to the plate of being the parent in the house and insist on first time obedience and respect. Do not hesitate to dish out a consequence when necessary, then you can enjoy the rest of your time together. Otherwise they know they can get away with murder as soon as you arrive home. This can be extremely frustrating for your wife as she has had to handle the disciplining on her own and it then seems as if you are the friend and she is the “meany”. Let the children realize that you missed your wife as much as you missed them – this will give them a sense of security.
“Remember to be nice to your children because they are the ones that choose your old age home one day” – Anon