It’s not easy when a good dad travels for work. He misses his family and they miss him. Yet, millions of dads travel or work away from home for extended periods of time. Some must travel as a requirement of their employment. Many like what they do, they just wish it didn’t require them to be absent so often. Those who do it successfully often credit the importance of their “home team,” i.e., their wife, their significant other, or the caregiver for their children.
Experts tell us that couples who go the distance together have a number of important characteristics. These include making the couple relationship a priority, taking the long-term view, making healthy sacrifices for each other, and preserving time for fun and friendship. After all, you didn’t really get married to solve problems—though that is part of life. You got together because you had fun, talked like friends, and enjoyed each other’s company.
At Good Dads, we have a special heart for husbands and fathers who travel and “dad at a distance.” We recently reached out to a number of women whose husbands drive over-the-road to ask about how they stay connected as a couple. What follows are words of wisdom from women who live the life and are happy to share what they’ve learned with other “home team” women.
The Importance of Regular Connection
Staying connected as a couple can be a challenge, but Melanie Borden says technology made it easier. Even so, establishing a regular routine is important. She notes that she and her husband, Paul, “talk every morning by phone, sorting out the day’s business and touching base to make sure everything is good. We will usually talk or text a couple of times a day and we Skype with the dogs and grandkids on the weekends, when he is not home. We weather the ups and downs of marriage and always end a call with a laugh or something upbeat.”
Brandy Howe, married for eight years to her driver husband, reports something similar and stresses the importance of making each other a priority. She says, “This is the most important to us. We start and end our day with each other. We talk first thing in the morning and end the day talking. No matter how crazy my day gets, I always stop and call at certain times throughout my day just to say ‘Hi’ and ask how his day is going. He’s the first person I talk to and the last person also. No matter how stressed or busy we get, we always make each other our top priority.”
Some technology may work better than others, especially in remote locations. Theresa “Alika” Radloff says her and her husband, Alan, prefer to use the phone app, Duo, to stay connected. She says, “Duo is a phone app that has a better video/audio as far as video chats go. We talk on that at least once a day so that we can see each other and somewhat feel like we are together under the same roof.” Sometimes this approach extends to a three-way Skype video call between Alan, her and the children who live with their mother in another state. This way all of them can communicate as a family.
Alika has some health challenges which interfere with spontaneous conversation, so she texts Alan about times when she will not be available so that he does not worry if she doesn’t answer the phone.
Brandi urges couples to “be unique and creative in finding ways that work” for them. She and her husband enjoy very similar interests, so while he is away they share links to videos or articles about hunting, archery and other interests. He listens to podcasts when he is driving, so they have conversations on the phone about what he has learned about upcoming elk hunting, archery, and other topics. Sharing interests and staying connected through those interests plays an important role in their successful marriage.
Solving Problems Together
One of the more difficult aspects of being apart from each other involves handling problems or potential areas of disagreement together. Some suggest these kinds of conversations take place in person, face-to-face, but when a driver is gone for several weeks at a time, this may not always be practical. Couples may also want to avoid using precious home time for handling potential conflict. For this reason, Alika recommends email. She says, “When there is something of importance that needs to be addressed, then we email each other. We do the email or text thing for two reasons: one, it’s in black and white; and two, if we need to go back to check on something that was said, neither of us can forget. Silly, I know, but it works.”
The Home Routine
Finally, Brandi underscores the importance of establishing a routine for when her husband is home. They typically have one full day a week together, so having a routine helps them “make the most of every hour. She says, “I know about what time he will be home each week, so I will be there to greet him and have made it part of my routine.” She says the couple also makes a practice of having a once a month date night or date day.
Love the Man Who Loves His Work
It might be easy for a woman to be angry or resentful when her husband is gone from her so much of the time. However, we didn’t find a shred of bitterness or self-pity from these “women of steel.” Perhaps Alika summed it up best. “I have been asked time and time again why does he leave me home alone while he stays out on the road all the time. The answer is simple. He has his dream job and I would never take him from that, at least not unless I am completely handicapped where I cannot do anything on my own. I know not many people nowadays get that opportunity. He is one of the lucky few able to achieve his dream before he is too old to do anything at all. I am proud of him and will stick by him through this adventure of life. We will always talk and keep in touch with each other no matter what part of the USA he is at the time.”
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.
In this blog, Joel continues to explain many helpful things about gaming which he began in last week's blog. For a refresh or review, see the blog post associated with March 7, 2019.
Which leads me to my next topic Fortnite. One of the reasons that Fortnite (a first person shooter) is so popular is because of the social aspect it has incorporated. Both kids and adults are getting online and playing with their friends in groups with the sole purpose of beating everyone else in the world. One other reason that Fortnite is so popular is because you can play it on just about any device that has an app or can download a game. Kids and adults are playing Fortnite on everything from their phone to their PlayStation or X-box. Fortnite has built on the success of other franchises such as Call of Duty and Halo which incorporated a social aspect into their online play modes. They give players the ability to customize their characters and even do silly dances after defeating an enemy. The developers are constantly changing the game so that it keeps the interest of their customers and their work is paying off. Last year Fortnite grossed 3 billion (yes that’s right BILLION) in profits. You can buy Fortnite shirts and backpacks both in the store and online. It is quite literally a billion-dollar brand which is staggering considering that the game has not been out for more than a couple of years.
For my last topic (Spring Break) I am going to leave you with what I hope are a few helpful tips and or reminders. The first is this, when it comes to kids and gaming the two are drawn to each other. Most kids do not have the developmental capacity to set healthy limits for themselves when it comes to forms of entertainment such as video games. They need you to lovingly help them to know and understand what is both healthy and helpful. If you are not sure, do a little research or ask your child’s School Counselor. I can personally guarantee you that they have answered that question before and should be able to suggest some good articles or books on the topic.
Second, as spring break approaches start setting expectations now for what healthy limits look like for both video game and media consumption in general. Research some activities that you would be comfortable with them doing over spring break and give them some options ahead of time.
Third, for your sake and the sake of their teachers force them to get some physical exercise somewhere (gym, park, backyard, etc.). Unstructured time doing some sort of physical activity is important for both their mental and physical health. Ask any teacher who has taught for more than a week and they will gladly share with you the benefits they have seen when kids can get out and play.
Lastly, whether it is playing video games with your kids, taking them on a walk, a hike or even a trip to the mall. Spend some quality time with your kids. There is absolutely nothing that can serve as an adequate substitute for the love of and time with a parent. If you want your kids to be successful in life there is a mountain of research I can show you that says a loving, secure relationship with their parent or guardian is the most important factor. It doesn’t matter whether or not you understand the game they want you to play with them or activity they want you to do. The time and connection you build during those games and activities is what will make the most difference.
Joel Hunter is a father, school counselor, and a video gamer. He shares insights about responsible gaming with your children and provides perspective from the sides of the parent, the counselor, and the gamer.
Betty Clendening was a force to be reckoned with and our son was experiencing the full extent of her indignation. The two of them stood in front of my desk – Mrs. Clendening with her hands on her hips, Andrew red-faced and sheepish.
“Tell your mother what you did,” she demanded.
“I didn’t mean to. I did it ‘on accident,’” he stammered. “I was trying to kick the soccer ball over the school roof and it went through a window.”
“On accident.” There’s a phrase I knew wouldn’t fly with his father. According to my Main Man, very little really happens “on accident.” Rather, while you don’t actually want something bad to occur, due to impulsivity, force of habit, or poor judgment, something you didn’t really intend, does.
I thought of our son’s long ago incident while preparing for a presentation I was making on “Living with Purpose.” It occurs to me many of us fail to live a considerable portion of our lives with intentionality or “on purpose.” Rather, much of what materializes seems to befall us “on accident.”
But does it really?
For instance, many people complain about being “too busy.” It causes me to wonder, are our schedules slammed from stem to stern because we were thoughtful about our choices? Or did we, perhaps, fail to say “no” when we should have? Did we graciously decline without the “maybe-if-you-push-me-hard-enough-I’ll-say-yes” in our voice? Do we contain our children’s schedules, or allow others to make us feel guilty when we limit our commitments?
Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose, identifies three key skills for those who want to be more intentional about their lives. First, living on purpose or requires reflection on our current situation or choices. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Who am I trying to please or make happy? What am I afraid of? Whose life am I trying to live, mine or someone else’s?
Secondly, living on purpose requires courage—not the kind of courage needed for sky-diving or white water rafting. Rather, it necessitates the sort of bravery associated with being more real, vulnerable and authentic with others. It means letting others know who you really are.
Finally, living on purpose means answering questions like these: Who am I? Why am I here? What do I need or want to accomplish? When I think about living with purpose, I’m encouraged by advice from a cancer patient.
You must stop and reassess your priorities and values. You must be willing to be yourself, not what people want you to be because you think that is the only way you can get love. You can no longer be dishonest. You are now at a point where, if you truly want to live, you have to be who you are.
If we are to live this kind of life then we will have to make choices. We will need to be intentional. We will need to sort and sift through our options.
What happened to our “on accident” son? The window cost about $200 to replace—a lot of money for a 12-year-old of limited means. Fortunately, the school had a lawn measured in acres, something that allowed a young man with few resources to do a lot of thinking while walking behind a lawn mower. No doubt the experience allowed him plenty of time to reflect on his actions and plan the future with greater intentionality. He certainly never tried to kick a soccer ball over the school roof again.
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are truck drivers romantic? That is what we asked Thomas Miller when we talked with him a few days before Valentine’s Day.
He assured us, “I am a romantic truck driver,” but gave much of the credit to his wife, Misty, and their two daughters – Mackenzie (17) and Kylie (26) for keeping him on the right path.
Thomas must know something about romance because he has been married more than 25 years to Misty and driving over-the-road at the same time. He started driving three months after his oldest daughter’s birth 26 years ago. He has been driving for Prime Inc. the last 20 years.
“I have a couple of well-rounded kids,” he says with pride. “The oldest attended college on an academic scholarship. The second is still in high school. They’re both good kids.”
“It takes an incredibly strong woman to raise two kids, essentially alone,” he remarked about his wife, Misty. At the same time, Thomas says he believes the secret to their strong relationship lies with “constant communication.” Calling, texting, emailing and using FaceTime are all part of their routine.
“What happens when the two of you disagree?” we wondered, knowing some people avoid uncomfortable conversations or areas of conflict when they have so little time physically together. Unfortunately, this strategy of avoidance is not usually healthy for relationships and can create resentment and erode good feelings over time.
Thomas assured us he and Misty sometimes do have “excited conversations.” “If things heat up too much,” he said, “we wait until I can pull the truck over because she doesn’t want me driving when I’m upset. Likewise, I would not interrupt her day as a teacher to discuss a disagreement. We don’t put it off for days, weeks, or months at a time because that’s a disaster.”
“The number one thing is that Misty keeps me informed. Sometimes she burns up the phone with FaceTime. Being apart can be tough on a marriage. It takes a lot of teamwork.”
Words of Advice to Would-Be Romantic Drivers
A lot has changed in the last 25 years to help drivers stay more connected with those they love. Here are some specific suggestions from Thomas Miller:
Communicate, communicate, communicate – use every means you can to stay in touch.
When you go home spend as much time as possible with your wife and children. Thomas emphasizes what his wife wants most is one-on-one alone time with him, e.g. dinner together and maybe a movie.
Do not forget your daughters on Valentine’s Day!
Do things you enjoy together when you are home. Thomas and Misty enjoy riding motorcycles and love going for a ride together whenever possible.
Get to know your partner and what makes her happy. She may not be the hearts, flowers and chocolate kind of woman.
When we signed off Thomas was heading off on an adventure with his 17-year-old daughter. He again emphasized the importance of giving time to people you love. “No amount of money will replace your presence with them.”
Not every stepfather is so lucky. Chad Carleton admits he’s a blessed man, but he thinks some of the magic may have begun in the kitchen. “We bonded,” he said, “when we started cooking together.”
Chad got to know Jewel, his step-daughter, when he started dating Emily, her mother. She was 12 when they married; today’s she almost 16. Any parent will tell you, the pre-teen and teenage stages are not always easy. For step-parents they can be particularly difficult. It takes time to get to know each other, to learn what to expect. The biological parent, who has been around since birth, usually has an edge. That’s why Chad so values his relationship with Jewel as they work side-by-side in the kitchen, preparing meals for the family. He sees it as an opportunity to build their relationship and enjoy time together. He sees it as “incredibly rewarding” to be a positive, significant role model in a child’s life.
Chad is very candid about the importance of being intentional about the relationship with a potential stepchild. He insists, “Any man pursuing a woman with children should recognize the significance of the children out of the gate. You can’t come and go out of a woman’s life because it has a dramatic effect on the children.”
Chad explains, “I knew I wanted to be with my wife and I knew she had a child, so we were very intentional about me building that relationship. Over time it became less intimidating and it didn’t take long before I wanted another (child).” That child is their eight-month-old daughter, Isla, who loves to wheel her walker close to her parents and big sister when they gather in the kitchen.
Working together is especially important because Chad and Emily are co-owner of Everything Kitchens, a primarily on-line store for almost anything a person might want in his or her kitchen. Chad credits his wife with the store’s success and praises her ability. Given that Chad grew up in a family of all boys and admits to having very little experience with the female perspective, his understanding of how to be important in the lives of the females in his life if commendable. Though he’s young, we could all learn a lot from dads like Chad.
In May 2013 Sean Murphy watched Forks over Knives and made a decision. He would no longer eat meat, fish, poultry or any other animal products. In short, he would become vegan. Many people go from eating meat and fish to becoming vegetarian, but Sean decided to go all the way in one swift step. It is something he has stuck with to this day, so much so his handle is now “Tofu.” (Tofu is a plant-based food made from soy beans; it is often substituted for meat in a vegan diet.)
Becoming vegan is understandably challenging for the average person, but for Sean it proved even more difficult because he works as an over-the-road driver. Sean earned his CDL in 2010 and worked in the transportation industry for a few years before he joined Steelman Transportation, a flatbed transportation company, in August 2016. He lives in upstate New York and typically drives the “Steelman triangle” from Boston to Chicago to Texas and back.
Given his occupation, Sean is wise to think about his health. According to research about the health of long-haul trucker drivers published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a over-the-road driver can be particularly challenging. The study revealed that over two-thirds of respondents were obese (69%) and 17% were morbidly obese. In contrast, only one-third of U.S. working adults were reported to be obese and 7% morbidly obese. Obesity is a concern because it increases the chance for type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, cancer, joint and back pain, and stroke.
The survey also revealed that more than half of long-haul truck drivers were current cigarette smokers —over twice the general working population (51% vs. 19%). Smoking increases the chance for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Although most drivers averaged over 6 hours of sleep per 24-hr period, 27% of drivers averaged 6 hours or less of sleep compared to 30% of working adults. . . .
More than half of long-haul truck drivers reported having two or more of these health conditions or unhealthy behaviors: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, limited physical activity, high cholesterol, or fewer than 6 hours of sleep. These factors increase the chance of developing preventable, long-lasting diseases.
Good Dads believes being a “good dad” includes caring for one’s self in order to set a good example for other family members and live long enough to enjoy children and grandchildren. Sean stuck with the dietary changes he began in 2013 and started to notice the difference. He developed “increased energy and great blood work.” Propelled by his success, he joined a gym in 2018 and started working out. More recently he also gave up smoking when his 15-year-old daughter, Kyra, agreed to become vegan if he would quit.
Sean’s family, which includes his wife, Frederica, a daughter, Kyra (15) and a son, Devin (4), are very important to him. For this reason, he does his best to take care of himself and spend every other weekend at home. He encourages drivers to use the best time management skills possible to help them stay connected with their loved ones. He also credits dispatcher at Steelman for caring about him and his family. Driving for a company that cares about your family, using every technological advantage you can and managing your time—all these help Sean “Tofu” Murphy be the best dad and driver he can be.
Sean can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com
Our Good Dads podcast recently received feedback from a listener who wondered about how a dad could be engaged in his child’s life when the child’s mother, with whom he is no longer on good terms, makes it extremely difficult for him to do so. Sadly, there are many dads dealing with this heart-breaking concern. We frequently hear stories from men in our New Pathways program about this issue. Their feelings of frustration and powerlessness are understandable.
For more than two decades I’ve also heard stories of parental alienation from men and women in therapy. It’s one of the reasons I started Good Dads. Here are some considerations I typically share with my clients and other men associated with Good Dads.
1) Take the long-term view. This situation will require considerable patience. It will not be over quickly. It is essential you view the actions you are taking each and every day as moving you even a little bit at a time in the right direction. One dad recently said to me, "We didn't get here overnight. I know I need to be patient."
2) Act with dignity and respect. You never move yourself closer to your chosen goal by behaving in angry and aggressive ways intended to intimidate or negatively impact your ex-partner and, as a result, your child. I'm not saying it's easy. I'm not saying the other party deserves it. I'm saying your child benefits when you do this and that is the most important thing.
3 Do remember your child with notes, cards, and occasional gifts even when you can't be together. Our New Pathways dads make Christmas cards, valentines, birthday cards, etc. and put them in a box they will someday be able to share with their child even if they don't have contact at this moment. What children want to know is, "Is my dad thinking about me?" This box, filled with evidence from over the months or years, can go a long way toward healing a relationship as an adult.
4 Your child will never thank you for speaking badly of the other parent. Again, it may be true. They may deserve it, but that is the only (in this case) mother the child is ever going to have. Let your child draw his or her own conclusions, which they will do over time.
5 As they become teens or young adults, children are often quite bitter and resentful toward one parent who tried to turn them against the other. This is encouragement for you to "hold on" and also not reciprocate with negative, caustic words of your own.
6 Pay child support. If this is an issue, always pay something, even if you can't pay everything. Consult with Child Support Enforcement. Through their New Pathways program, Good Dads has a special assistance for dads struggling in this area.
7 Do seek legal help for issues that cannot be resolved with time and patience. Also expect the legal option to take time and money. Nothing moves quickly through the courts.
8 Seek supportive relationships, i.e., other people who will encourage you, not just attempt to bring you down. The "ain't it awful" approach rarely moves anyone forward.)
9 Consider using mediation. MARCH (Mediation Achieving Results for Children) is a private, not-for-profit corporation governed by a board made up of representatives from participating judicial circuits, mainly mediators. Other members include a state legislator, judges, a family court commissioner, representatives from the Missouri Family Support Division, and a member of the Family Law Section of the Missouri Bar. Board and Advisory Committee members share a common goal in promoting mediation as a first alternative to be utilized by separated families in the dispute resolution process.
Dr. Jennifer Baker
In addition to serving as the Executive Director of Good Dads, Dr. Baker is also in private practice as a clinical psychologist specializing in work with couples and families. Questions ore comments may be addressed to Dr. Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org
For this blog post I was asked to write about Spring break, gaming and Fortnite. When I saw the topic(s) my first thought was that the academic in me could easily write a 10-page paper on each of those topics and still probably not do any of them justice. That said, I am a proud child of the 80’s and 90’s. I grew up during a time when most homes where lucky to have a TV and a VCR. Video games were something extra that not everyone had. Nowadays video game systems or platforms seem to be as common place as having a TV or a Cell Phone. I actually have three systems myself (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Wii & Nintendo Switch). When I sit back and think about how far video game systems have come from when I was a kid it seems crazy.
As a School Counselor I typically encounter two kinds of parents.
The first is the parent who is completely clueless about video games in general and gaming culture specifically. The other kind of parent is the kind that is as excited (sometimes more) as their kids every time a new system or series of games is released. I am going to attempt to write this post so that there is something helpful for parents in both categories.
For parents in the first category who know little or nothing about video games and or gaming culture here are a few basics to get you started. First, there is such a thing as gaming culture. Over the years as gaming systems have become more powerful and even more complex a subculture has developed around video games and game systems. Some people are die hard fans of specific systems also known as platforms (X-box, PlayStation, Nintendo are the big three) and some are die hard fans of specific franchises (yes I said franchises) such as Call of Duty, Halo, Final Fantasy, etc.
Second, two of the most popular genres in gaming are First Person Shooter - a type of video game whose game play involves shooting enemies and other targets and in which a player views the action as though through the eyes of the character they are controlling. Halo, Call of Duty and Fortnite all fall into this category although there are hundreds if not thousands of other titles that also fit into that category.
The other genre that is as popular is Role Playing Games also referred to as RPGs – these are games in which players take on the roles of imaginary characters who engage in adventures, typically in a particular computerized fantasy setting overseen by a referee. Final Fantasy and Zelda are two of the most popular titles in this genre.
Third, every video game that comes out will have a rating assigned to it. These ratings are similar to movie ratings in that they are designed specifically to help parents decide whether or not it is appropriate for their child or children to play. If you would like to know about a specific game you can also look up reviews on sites such as Common Sense Media to get more detailed information beyond just the rating.
Fourth, with advancements in technology and gaming, specifically online gaming, parents need to closely monitor not just what games their children are playing but who they are playing and or communicating with (especially if they are engaging in online gaming). One of the most frequently used tools by child predators these days is video games.
Fifth, online gaming has become one of the primary ways in which kids are socializing these days. It is becoming increasingly common for kids to develop their social life around not just playing video games but playing specific types of video games. These days even sports games such as NBA2K2019 and Madden 2019 are or at least can be played online. So even if your child is really into sports chances are he or she is playing online with their friends when they aren’t with each other in person.
Check in next week for Part 2 where Joel gives specific suggestions for healthy gaming options with kids.