You may have heard it said that behind every great man there’s a great woman. Perhaps that is nowhere more true than for men who spend much of their time on the road, away from home, in difficult conditions. It’s true for men in the armed forces. It’s also true for men who drive a long-haul truck. Our country’s economy depends on trucking. Successful over-the-road (OTR) drivers often depend on a supportive woman at home.
Carolyn Mantor is one of these women. Melanie Borden is another. Josh-the-Dad and I recently spoke at length with both of them about what it’s like for them to be in a committed relationship with a man who drives an eighteen wheeler. Carolyn and her fiancé have a blended family with 12 children between the two of them—three are hers, one is still at home. She has been involved with the transportation industry for eight years personally; and in a relationship with her fiancé, a driver, for two.
“You get made for this sort of thing,” she says. “Our relationship has grown very well even with the distance between us. You learn to communicate over the phone and get closer that way. You can pick up things from his voice and you learn to ask, ‘What’s the matter?’”
Melanie has been married to her husband for 40 years and he’s been driving over the road since 2004. She’s worked for Steelman Transportation since 2005. The couple has adult children and four grandchildren. “The honeymoon happens,” she says, “when he comes home. In between times, I can get my house clean and my life in order. Then he comes home and we have wonderful chaos.”
Both Carolyn and Melanie appreciate trucking for the good living it has provided for their families. They also recognize the difficulties. For example, the lack of respect accorded to drivers concerns them. Different gun laws in different states create some scary situations in which their loved one is very vulnerable. “You hear horror stories. They’re out there alone and there are some bad people there.”
They also note the danger of distracted driving, something their guys see every day. Both report their husbands see drivers on their phones almost constantly. “If you cannot see their mirrors,” they note, “they can’t see you. It takes them 500 feet to stop—don’t tailgate them.”
Carolyn and Melanie also know how critical they are to their partner’s success on the road. It’s vital to their partners to have a strong person at home, a person who is also strong and able to manage in his absence. Melanie takes care of all her husband’s banking, paperwork, and contracts. She also takes care of the house but draws the line at climbing up on the roof or crawling under the house. She says she understands the transportation industry and does her best to do everything she can for him while he’s on the road.
“We talk every morning on my way to work,” offers Melanie. “We also touch base throughout the day. We are on the phone a lot.”
“It’s the same with us,” remarks Carolyn, “We’re on the phone all day long.” Apparently, those countless calls have made an impression on their kids, as Carolyn’s 19-year-old daughter has been known to say, “You guys are like teenagers; it’s ridiculous.”
“You’ve got to keep that sense of romance,” Carolyn affirms. “They’re alone out there and it’s hard. There are times when we don’t say anything on the phone . . . when there are just 10 minutes of silence, but he knows I’m there. That’s the important thing.”
When He Comes Home
Yes, there’s a “honeymoon” of sorts when he comes home, but it can be challenging to adjust to another adult in the house. A lot depends on your perspective. Carolyn describes her fiancé as “the glue” for their blended family.” When he comes home,” she says, ”he does a great job of trying to keep up with everyone. There are lots of family members nearby and he often goes where he’s told with lots of input from family. He makes the time even if it’s only for an hour . . . it’s a group effort.”
Melanie, her kids, and grand-kids stay connected by video chat when her husband is on the road, but when he gets home they get together often. With four grandchildren and five dogs is a crazy time, but they love cooking out in any kind of weather and enjoying lots of good food together.
Advice to Wives and Sweethearts of Truck-Driving Dads
Melanie and Carolyn clearly know a thing or two about how to make a relationship with a truck-driving man a success, so I asked them what words of advice they would give to other women with over-the-road partners. Here’s what they said:
Melanie and Carolyn agree, “These are really good guys who are doing a hard job. They deserve our respect and support.” We, at Good Dads, agree and we know their employer, Steelman Transportation, agrees as well.
Russ Gosselin is the founder and executive director of Elevate Lives. He is also a husband and father. Elevate Lives equips and mobilizes good-hearted people in Springfield, Missouri to come alongside those living in low-income neighborhoods, helping them to thrive in every aspect of their lives. When you learn about the work of Elevate Lives you’ll notice that their serious mission is accompanied by fun and celebration, the kind that helps people build relationships. Russ sees this perspective as key to being a good dad.
Russ and Sharon, his wife of nearly 35 years, are the parents of two grown children, Joseph, 30, and Janell, 27. When it comes to laughter, lecture, and love, Russ describes himself as an “80/20 kind of guy,” with a strong focus on squeezing every ounce out of life (80%), reserving only a small portion (20%) for serious moments of possible “lecture.” He claims, “I couldn’t be perfect, so I decided to be loving and fun.”
When his children were young, Russ frequently introduced love and laughter into their night time routine. Kneeling beside their bed he talked to them softly about how important it was for them to be quiet and fall asleep while, at the same time, he surreptitiously tickled them under the covers. The children loved it, but Russ admits their uncontrolled laughter sometimes caused Sharon to call, “Gosselin, what are you up to?” from the adjoining room.
When things weren’t going well, i.e., when a lecture or some other kind of serious discussion was needed, Russ often invited his kids to join him in the truck. Together they would make a quick trip to a fast food place, because—as Russ puts it, “Ice cream fixes a lot of things.” In a more serious vein, Russ noted, that in addition to planned “dates” with his children, spontaneous trips to Chipotle with his daughter were often the foundation for more serious discussions.
“We had an agreement,” he said. “I buy the food and you talk.” It worked and it stuck. Although Janell is grown, married and gone from home, she recently called her dad from Georgia and told him a new Chipotle had just opened in Augusta.
“Dad,” she said. “Let’s both go to Chipotle at the same time—you there and me here—and we’ll FaceTime each other.”
Not a bad idea for a dad and kid who want to stay connected, even when they’re miles apart.
Russ Gosselin is the founder and executive director of Elevate Lives. He is also a husband and father.
To say that parenting is a crazy mix of emotional mountains and valleys is an understatement. There is nothing better than celebrating with your child in the good times, and nothing worse than grieving with your child in the bad. When I think of tough times and raising our sons, I boil it down to two categories: general and personal. As to the general, these are the challenges that face most all children in this modern age: peer pressure, unrealistic standards set by Hollywood or the media, and somehow building healthy relationships in a society that often offers very unhealthy environments. Then, there is what I feel is the personal: challenging or heartbreaking trials that are specific or unique to our individual children.
How to we help them through the hard things we see facing all of our children in the 21st Century? School shootings, racial divisiveness, political unrest? As trite as it may seem, we need to take the time to really communicate. We make ourselves as parents available, approachable, and unflappable. We talk about the news, and we talk about digging deep for facts. We encourage them to not just have the boldness to speak their own minds, but to also respectfully listen to what is on the minds of others. Make dinner conversations around these things, though not just dwelling on the daunting problems, but also focusing on how we can be a part of the solutions. As important as a good education is, such as having strong grasp of the subjects taught in school, life problem solving skills are perhaps even more vital to the development of our children. Of course, one night of lively debate over a tater tot casserole will not solve all of the tough problems in this world, but it will help your child become more aware of what is going on around them and how they are an integral part of not only the universe they live in, but perhaps a piece in the puzzle that could make it a “less tough” place to inhabit.
As challenging and scary as it can be to face world problems, the personal giants that shadow our children often can prove even more frightening. Unexpected medical or developmental diagnoses, being bullied by peers, family moves, and death of a cherished pet or relative, are some of the things that can make up very tough times for our individual children, as well as their parents. These are the heavy times that a talk around the table alone will not greatly lighten. It took all of the strength and self-control my wife and I could muster when our boys faced specific, personal challenges. It was hard for us not to want to be angry at what appeared to be an unfair circumstance, an overbearing coach, an inflexible teacher, or a three-foot-tall bully in pigtails. But, part of helping guide our children through these inevitable experiences was remembering that we were the grown-ups. And as grown-ups, and in order to see our young become successful, happy, productive grown-ups themselves, helping them learn how to go through – and grow through – these tough times was the best thing we could do for them.
I feel like a broken record when I say this, but modeling for our children is so important. They are watching us, and watching us not just in the good times, but in the tough times. Quite possibly, even more so in the tough times. How do they see us deal with frustration at work? How do they see us handle the death of a dear loved one? How do they see us stand by our convictions while allowing for others to freely stand by their own? Talking, guiding, modeling, and in our house, a whole lot of praying, were some of the tools we used in trying to be good parents for our kids in those tough times.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
When Tony Capraro says driving a big rig runs in the family, he’s serious. Both his mother and father, his grandfather, his sisters and younger brother all drove an 18-wheeler at some point in their lives. “It’s in my blood,” he claims. “It’s what I know how to do. Even as a very young child, when my dad came home I ran and sat in his seat with my hands on the steering wheel.”
Like many drivers, Tony likes the freedom of driving a truck and being his own boss in terms of how he spends his time. He also says, “The money is good, but you’ve got to keep moving.”
Tony drives a flatbed truck for Steelman Transportation. He’s been driving for at least 8 years since he turned 21-years-old. He hauls many things and enjoys his work, but doesn’t much care for “tarping” a load. He probably has company in that area.
Today Tony’s boys see him behind the wheel. He is the dad to Matt (7) and Clayton (1). It’s not always easy to stay in touch with young children while driving over the road, but Tony makes it a priority. “I call and talk to my son every night,” he explains, “and every morning I get photos from my son’s mother. He hears my voice every single day.”
One of the biggest challenges Tony faces is the fact he’s not in a committed relationship with the mothers of either of his sons. One boy’s mother makes it very easy for Tony to stay in touch. It’s more difficult with the other son’s mom. It’s a difficult thing to talk about, but Tony was willing to share his story because he knows many over-the-road truckers face the same challenge.
“A decent relationship with the mother of your child is critical to a dad having access, especially if the child is young,” he says.
Tony does his best to get home to his son every two-four weeks. “When I get to my house,” he says about the mother of one son, “she’s there as soon as I hit the driveway, no questions asked.” This clearly means a lot to Tony.
Tony admits having dad gone a lot is not easy for kids. He should know since his dad was a trucker as well. At the same time, many children have fathers who cannot be with them as much as they like, e.g., children with fathers in the military, or who travel a lot for business. Some fathers live in the same home with their children, but rarely give them focused attention. Fathers who travel might be encouraged to know that their desire to be with their children is the most important thing, i.e., even if they can’t be present in person, their interaction via FaceTime, texting, etc. reassures a child of his value and importance to his dad.
Advice to Truckers on Broken Relationships
When it comes to staying in touch with your children when you’re driving over the road, especially if you’re not in a committed relationship with the mother of those children, Tony encourages:
Tony Capraro is a Steelman driver and a father of two.