What Works for Us: Coping when your spouse is away on business

For our first four years of marriage, Prince Charming and I were apart one night. Just one. And that one night was torture!

Big Brother had just turned one-year old when Prince Charming took a new job…a job that required a bit of travel. I wasn’t really pleased with the idea because I don’t like being alone at night. He is typically gone once a month for a couple nights…I know, it could be a lot worse and I am a REALLY big baby (and I am extremely thankful that he has a job in this economy).

Times that he is away are times that we typically have frequent moments of “intense fellowship” (as my friend Sarah would say). It has honestly been one of the biggest challenges in our marriage because these business trips tend to fall when something big is going on in our lives (Big Brother had H1N1, Little Brother had been born not even 2 weeks prior, I’m sick and so are both boys, etc). Prince Charming doesn’t like being either…he just understands it is part of the job while I am a little less understanding at times. Not only do I miss him when he’s gone, I also miss the help that he is with the boys. Being a stay-at-home mom with no relief come 5:45 can make my patience fly out the window faster than a speeding bullet!

These last few business trips, I have made an attempt to make his being away as positive as possible, for both me and the boys. Here are just a few suggestions that I have found helpful:

  • Take a break. Whether you hire a babysitter or recruit a friend or family member, you need a break while your spouse is away (regardless of whether it is 1 night or 7). Just take a few hours for yourself…go to a movie, go grocery shopping, or go to the bookstore and enjoy a cup of coffee. Take a break from the daily grind so that you will feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
  • Give yourself a treat. Go to your favorite restaurant and get carry-out. If you have something to look forward to while your spouse is away, it will make things much easier.
  • Do something special with your children. As hard as it is on us when our spouses are away, it is equally as hard for your children. Let them stay up late for a “movie night”, go to the park, or anything else that they enjoy!
  • Stay in frequent contact.  Let your children talk on the phone to their Daddy or Mommy. Share events from the day. Let your spouse be a part of your daily routine, even while they’re hundreds of mile away.
  • Send something special along with your spouse.  Sneak an “I love you” note into his suitcase or arrange for a note to be sent to her hotel room. Even though this should never be an incentive for a loving gesture, it might be reciprocated as well. There’s nothing better than a reminder of the love your spouse has for you!

We also bought this book from Amazon that we read whenever Prince Charming is away. It is one of Big Brother’s favorites and explains what Daddy does while he is gone (rides in an airplane, eats in a restaurant, sleeps in a hotel, goes to meetings, etc).

When Daddy Travels (Lift the Flap Story)

Does your spouse travel frequently? What ideas have you found helpful to make these times easier on everyone?


  1. My husband is in the military so he is gone a lot. In fact in the last 27 months he was only home 11. So often times I read articles from a civilian's perspective and am very critical. However, want to applaud you on it being "what works for us" and also stating that it could be worse. One thing I've recently starting do is traveling to see family (on the longer stents that my prince charming is gone) or friends who are just a couple hours away (on the shorter trips). Another thing that really helps the kids (not so much me – mostly because I think I'm used to it) is Skype and books on tape that my husband has recorded for them. Last but not least is a Daddy Doll. They tend to be pretty specific to military families, but it would be super easy to make your own. Ours have a recorded message from Daddy. My daughter is so attached to her Daddy Doll that there are often two daddies at dinner….then real one and the doll.

  2. CLEM- Thank you so much for sharing! I honestly cannot imagine what it must be like for wives (and husbands) of individuals who serve in the military. It is an extraordinary sacrifice for you both.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas! I love the books on tape idea and the Daddy doll!

  3. My husband is a recreation therapist so he goes on a 4-5 day campout, once a month. (so we can't talk during that time) In addition he is taking night classes so is not home until 10pm on every Monday and Wednesday. Good news? We get to play with him on the weekends!

    One of the things I like to do when he is gone is to go out to eat with my kids (like Del Taco). We rarely go out to eat (Fast food or restaurant) so it's a fun change. (plus Del Taco has a play land).

    Also I just keep it in perspective…I know a lot of Moms have a husband in Med School or Grad School and NEVER get to spend time with their husband. So I just look forward to the weekends!

  4. Oh! Thanks so much for posting this! I will look for this book right away! And also I am taking into considerations the great ideas that the other shared….My husband is doing his Psychiatry residency at NY and we live in NJ, so he has to go early morning and comes back very late at night. It has been 3 very hard years…also there are conferences and meeting on other states. I understand all the things he has to go through but it's hard for me being alone with a very hyper toddler and without family nearby. In a few weeks he's traveling to China for more than 2 weeks and I am not ready for that time to come, yet. We tried to talk on the phone as much as we can and I tell my daughter how much dadda loves her and the things he's doing, but when he comes back after a few days, she's acting out and only wants her mommy…and keeps saying ALL the time: Mommy I miss you!….OMG! She stays the whole day with me…I really need a break…For the coming trip I was thinking to get some shorts videos of daddy talking and reading to her…and see if she gets to feel better….since she LOVES books I 'll get this one! Any others recommendations are more than welcome! Also I know there are family who stay apart for more time…maybe that's what makes our families stronger!

  5. First of all, I LOVE your blog! I found it a week or two ago and have found so many great iddeas. Yesterday we did a nature walk (my newborn, my 2-year-old and I) looking for leavse, then made our "L" project. Today I went through the recent ads and cut out all the pcitures of candy I could find (and there were tons, with Halloween coming up) and we made a "C". As she glued the pictures on, we walked about candy-starts-with-C and C-is-for-candy. She loved it. Anyway … my husband travels a lot and I love your ideas. Last night we went to CiCis. My daughter wanted to play in the arcade. I wanted to say no, but thought hey, why not? I didn't give her any money but she didn't know the difference. :o) Every day I try to help her make some special memory, even just playing at the arcade. If she's having a good day, I am too. If she's bored and cranky, I am too! I also make sure to get out of the house as often as I can. We don't necessarily need to go anywhere – yesterday's nature walk was great – we just need to get out of the house. The fresh air does us all good, and we don't just sit at home thinking about Daddy. :o) And finally, I try to make bedtimes special. Evening are when I miss my husband the most, so when I put my daughter to bed, we have lots of cuddles, a scripture story, and songs. If I have great interaction with her, it warms my heart and helps my evening to go better.

  6. Things that keep me sane while he's away are planning an outing (even if it's just to the store) for every morning and every afternoon – that way the days don't 'drag on' when I know he's not coming home for dinner. I also make sure I have a few special things to do just for myself after the boys are in bed – things I don't usually get to do when hubby is home – like reading a silly novel in the bath or watching a girly tv show on the computer. And saying bedtime prayers for Daddy while he's gone always helps make the boys and me feel a little less alone.

  7. My husband is in the military, and he's actually been gone for much more of our daughter's life than he's been home for. Do you know of any books out there about a parent who's deployed for toddlers? I find it difficult to find something her level to read to her.

    1. I found this website after a quick search on google for “book for toddler of deployed daddy” This was the first link that popped up. Hope this helps. Looks like there are some activity books too.


      This second link has 4 specific links to books or dvds that help when a dad is deployed.


  8. I second Cat's comment! I especially liked to plan outings around mealtimes, because I got very bored eating 3 meals and 2 snacks a day with no adult interaction. I'm lucky that my parents and my sister live nearby, so we would often head to their houses for dinner. Or I'd arrange a play date over lunch with one of my friends. And I, too, tried to turn the time alone in the evenings into a positive thing – maybe I'd watch a chick flick or enjoy my favorite ice cream. Also, I tried to take a photo of my daughter every day to send to my husband (and sometimes I'd let her "write" an email to Daddy). He loved to see what we were up to each day, and she loved it when he would send a photo back to her.

  9. " brandeesims "
    My husband is active army, finishing up his 3d tour. We have a 2 year old son, I was given two books at our deployment fair.

    " I'm here for you now" by Janice Im, Claire Lerner, Rebecca Parlakin, and linda Eggbeer
    – on each page of there is a pocket to put in a picture that goes along.

    "Over There" by Dorinda Silver Willams
    -there is a daddy version & mommy version

    I used these books, the dvd of my husband reading a book from the uso, daddy doll (from " Hugs to Go" ) & laminated pictures he can carry around.

  10. This article came at just the right time for me. My husband left for a 3 week work trip 3 days ago: the same day I got the flu. I have a very active, mobile 10 month old and it was a difficult last three days. But what kept me going was just enjoying my baby girl. I had several offers from family and friends to watch her till I got better but honestly, I enjoy her so much. She was my the brightness of my day. Even when she got into my kitchen cabinet and spread all the dishes and plastic bags all over the floor, I couldn't help but laugh. I figure, as long as she's not creating permanent damage, why not let it go. It can always be cleaned up later. I mean, it's not like my husband will be coming home to a messy house. Once I was feeling better, I cleaned it all up, no harm done.

    I guess for me, I've just learned to enjoy my days away from my husband and make the best of it. Also, I learn to let things go that don't really matter.

  11. My husband has never been away for more than a couple days. He's gone on retreats when we were youth leaders in our old town (and I couldn't go after we had kids), but other than the rare retreats once every two years, he doesn't go away overnight. But he does work two jobs so we can make ends meet. His full-time job is Monday-Friday, and he leaves at 5:30 am (before we wake up) and gets home at 3 pm. When he gets home, we have a very quick, early dinner, and he leaves at 3:15 (MAYBE 3:30 if he's running late) for his second job, and he gets home from that job at 10:30 pm. Then he eats a snack and goes to bed by 11 so he can get a solid 6 hours of sleep (5 if he has to work early in the morning). He does that Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday he leaves for his second job at 10 am and comes home at 8 pm. He has most Sundays off though, so we at least get to see him on Sundays in addition to the Monday and Tuesday evenings! So although he doesn't go away overnight, he is gone a lot, working 65-70 hours a week plus 2 hours a day total of travel. This is a fairly new arrangement, so I haven't figured out exactly how to cope yet, except that I hire a 15-year-old girl (for $5/hr) to come over once or twice a week for 2-3 hours at a time and play with my kids while I cook, clean, blog, or just curl up in the fetal position in the corner… I'm just excited I get to do whatever it is I choose to do ALONE. I sure do miss my husband though!

    I do have to commend military wives… I'm too much of a wimp, I wouldn't last a week as a military wife!

  12. Thank you so much for posting this!!! My husband is traveling more for work…although we are very thankful as he actually doing this in a temp. positon until the beginning of the year!! I really am thankful for the perspective you ladies have given. I want the house in order and as you know having one child that is not really possible, but having 3 under the age of 4 it really is not possible. He has been traveling a while with his other work as well, but I have not really figured out much to do when he is gone except breath!!! I am going to try out many of your alls ideas!!!!Thanks for the encouragement and THANK YOU to the military families!!!!!

  13. I just wanted to say thank you for this article along with the comments from the military wives. My husband will be leaving for 7 months of training in about a month. The books and doll ideas hopefully will help me to explain to my three young children and cope with why Daddy is gone. Thank you so much for your blog. I know will help me keep them busy with fun activities :)

  14. I know a lot of military wives commented on this, and yes it is hard reading a civilian's perspective. I can only imagine how "nice" it would be for my husband to only be gone a couple nights a month! How blessed you really are!

    I think you know that though. :) And I really think anyone who has not been through it, who hasn't had to be separated from their spouse for months or even years, just praying every day they will come home safe, really can't even begin to imagine what it is like, for the spouse or for the kids.

    One thing that has helped us is the Operation Kid Comfort program. They make quilts with pictures on it for children of deployed military members. My five-year-old loves his quilt and all the pictures of him and his dad on it and sleeps with it every night.


    We also have a routine of saying goodnight to the moon every night while he is gone, and his dad says goodnight "to the same moon" too. It is a neat thing that makes them feel close.

  15. Ah, yes! I also NEED that break at 5:00 and even though I understand it's not my husband's fault that his job doesn't always allow that, I still need a break at 5:00! I've learned to always plan something fun for me and my kids when he's going to be gone overnight. First, I never cook- I take the kids out or bring something yummy home. Watching a fun program together helps the evening go faster. Sometimes we go out to the play area at the mall or to Barnes and Noble. We've even been to the playplace at McD's a time or two (which never happens in our normal lives)! This way I actually enjoy being with my kids and make memories instead of being a resentful Mom, which is NOT how I want to be (or how I want to be remembered)!

  16. My husband works away from home for six or seven weeks during the summer and is often gone for a weekend or two each month during the school year. A year and a half ago, our daughter was in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant during his six weeks of working (he actually had to fly home for a week when a heart came available, since we had only about 10 hours of notice), so this summer seemed like a breeze in comparison! But, my friend stayed with us for most of the six weeks and that helped a ton. I also found that having things planned – like a library visit for story time or a play group or something else fun around town helped us to get through the weeks. I love the idea of hiring a sitter though. Because of her illness, I really had not had a sitter (my friend and my sister had done it on a limited basis, but I didn't feel comfortable using them for frivolous things since they won't accept payment). I found a nursing student this semester and have used her while doing events with my Mother's Club like Bocce Ball and a pedicure. It was wonderful and I think my daughter enjoyed it and the sitter loved her. So, if you can do it, do it! I also think joining a local mother's group does a ton to help one feel less alone in whatever their situation is. I can't always make it to all the events or every week to playgroup, but I know its there when we can do it! I did order the book suggested (and the other – When Mommy Travels, since I travel for my job every once in a while as well)….thanks for the suggestion!

    And thanks to all the military families who make such sacrifices for all of us. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family members who are serving!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *