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 firstname.lastname@example.org.