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Feeling Disconnected: Managing Your Partner’s Business Travel

For the past few years I’ve jokingly referred to my husband as the traveling salesman.  He actually is not in sales, but he his job does require business travel often.  He’s been with his current company for a little more than two years.  He landed an excellent position with a growing company – much to our relief, as he’d been downsized twice in the previous three years.   

In my opinion, the “idea” of business travel is much more glamorous than the reality.  The first few times I traveled on business, it was somewhat cool.  I felt like such a grown-up! What an important professional I was!  But before I knew it, it wore out it’s welcome.  For the most part, you are in and out of cities that you are initially excited to visit, but in reality, often there’s not much time to go sightseeing.  And I soon realized that the ultimate goal of business travel is to try to get on an earlier flight home! 

My husband’s typically travels every other week – pretty much from Monday through Friday (or Saturday morning if returns on the red-eye from California.)  Recently there was a travel stint of three week in row, excluding the weekends. As the norm, he left on a Monday morning and returned home Friday evening – times three.   Luckily, that’s the exception and not the norm!

Often folks ask if his traveling is tough on our kids.  In some respects, I’m sure that it is – but we talk about it often and overall they’ve adjusted well.  Whether their dad is traveling or not, the kids have their routines with school, afternoon activities and homework during the week anyway.  Sure, he has missed a few events – as have I – but that’s not any different than most families.  I’m lucky enough to work from home and as a result, I believe that I’m a present enough parent that hopefully the kids do not feel his absence too much. As my son enters his teenage years, maybe he will sense my husband’s absence a little more. So if I were to quickly answer the question – “is it tough on the kids?” – my answer would be “not so much.”

Other queries, which are asked less often, do give me more pause when I answer.  Such as:

  • Is it tough on you?
  • Is it tough on your husband?
  • Is it tough on your marriage?
  • And then there’s the “Oh, but it must be exciting (wink, wink) when he returns?”

If I were to quickly answer all of those questions – my answers would be “All little tougher than we thought.”

Shifting Family Dynamics

It’s not so much that I need help or that I’m exhausted.  We carpool a bit and friends/family are available to help, if needed.  Of course, there are plenty of times when I feel like I’m managing Grand Central station with approximately 6 hours of down time when I’m sleeping.   And as the one who is at home, I’ll admit to a little jealousy, as when my husband’s work day is done, it’s done!   I’m not even speaking of loneliness – cause really, with 2 kids, a full time job and some blog gigs – who has time to be lonely?!   But it’s not that “stuff”……

The part of the gig that I find most challenging are the frequent and constant transitions.  The definition of transition, according to Merriam-Webster is the passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another. Synonyms, according to thesaurus.com, include shift, turning point, flux and upheaval! Those are some strong words!

When he travels, my husband leaves at the beginning of the week and my son, my daughter, and I manage as a little trio until he returns at the end of the week.  We have a daily routine of work and school, with those after school activities of Hebrew School, Girl Scouts, piano lessons and sports all thrown in for good measure. We do our thing – it may not always be pretty, but we get through the week!  

As Friday approaches, I see the finish line! My husband is excited and ready to come home as well.   But, upon that return on Friday night/Saturday morning, the routines don’t fall back into place immediately…..it takes a few days, believe it or not.  “I’ve” made all of the daily decisions to get us through the week – and all of a sudden there’s another adult’s opinion here to consider! Really? 

For me, it’s almost like he is in and out of the family routine.  There’s a sense of disconnection to our routines.  When my husband is home he does his share – no question, no doubt – but then he asks questions about school schedules, events, activities, etc… where I know I have this look on my face like “How do you not know this stuff already? Don’t you live here?”

My son, daughter, and I have been getting through the week with certain rules and processes, which admittedly are a little more lax than my husband’s. So when he comes home, things aren’t as “natural” for the first few days.  Sometimes I feel like he adds an extra step in my process. Or even throws in a roadblock.  It’s caused some angst and I need to be more cognizant of my reactions.  Some miscommunication, some misunderstandings – and sometimes I may have neglected to share upcoming plans I’ve arranged for us.  It takes a few days for all of us to settle back in….and just when we have our groove going again…he’s off on another trip.

Here are a couple of analogies for a comparison.   A temp that comes back every few weeks to work at a company might be a little rusty and need a little refresher. Or think about coming back to work after a few weeks of vacation – don’t you feel a little lost?  Doesn’t it take a couple of days to readjust?  It’s bound to result in some hiccups.  Think about it as it relates to family dynamics.

Marching On…

We’ve been married almost 20 years (together for about 30 years) , so not doing “all the things” together, including making daily decisions, feels a little off.  The difference in time zones can cause a little snag when my husband travels and don’t offer ease of communication.  We have to commit more an effort there, but thank goodness for texting (no judging please!) 

On the positive side, I have definitely become more of an independent, well-rounded, and confident woman. I sensed that I’ve grown a bit. I’m no longer anxious when he leaves.  I can handle silly things like cleaning off the car after a snow storm or eating out at a restaurant with just me and the kids, to much more important things like flying solo at my son’s IEP meetings.  And besides a steady paycheck, there are some material perks as well, like those hotel and airline points.  

I’m not asking for sympathy or empathy here.  By no means do I believe our situation is the most trying.  It’s just a newer part of our relationship for us to continue to tackle.   It’s far from “all bad” — we’ll have to continue to make it work.  The travel isn’t going to tear us apart, but there is no shame in admitting that it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. (And obviously, it’s much better than the alternative of no job.)   It’s just a little taller of an order than initially anticipated.

To conclude, I know that for my second act I should ask my husband his thoughts.  Does he feel disconnected and out of the loop?  And how’s that reentry going?  Maybe I will – if he stays in town long enough for to chat….

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