3 Powerful Ways to Parent as a Team, Even Apart
One of the things that weighs most heavily on me when my husband is gone for long periods is the pressure of being the "only" parent. I can wear almost all the hats during the days apart, but I can never be Mom and Dad to my kids, nor would I ever want to be. Even if Dad is far away, he's earned his role as co-parent to these kids. But how to keep him in the loop when the kids are so young and communication can be scarce? How do you approach parenting as a team effort when one half of the team is limited in their daily participation? As we approach another extended absence in our family, these are the 3 practical action items we're going to set in place:
1. Set a mission. Our goal for the next few months apart is getting ready for a new baby this summer. There are a lot of things we need to do collectively as a family to get ready, and each family member is playing a part in this preparation. My husband's job is to stay safe and get through his course as quickly as possible. My kids are learning how to play together and independently, and we may do some potty training if we're feeling really driven...ha! My mission is to keep myself and the baby well, and everything else is just...extra! Our whole family is working toward the goal of being as prepared as possible for the big changes when Dad gets home and the baby comes. Feeling like we're all in this together helps maintain a sense of unity even when communication is limited, and it takes the pressure off of me as the one at home to do anything more than keep myself and the kids as healthy as possible.
Even if you're not getting ready to welcome a new baby, what's something your family can work toward together while one parent is gone? Try setting a savings or fitness goal, doing a family devotional, reading through a set number of books, or planning toward a big trip! Be creative and have fun in thinking of ways your spouse can contribute!
Learn more about the concept of a mission or "rallying cry" in Patrick Lencioni's book, The 3 Big Questions for Frantic Families.
2. Parenting Pain Points: We're talking about them! Speak honestly before your spouse leaves and as much as you can while they're gone. Even if your spouse can't actively help you with the tough kid stuff you're handling at home, just having someone to morally support you is a huge help. Be truthful: what's not working for you with your kids right now? Are they still waking through the night? Are mealtimes stressful? Is there a recurring issue at school or maybe a health problem that keeps you up at night? Now's not the time to keep these things to yourself. Before they leave, brainstorm ways you're going to approach improving these areas and ask them to keep checking in on you while they're away. Let them be involved to every extent they can.
3. Save the Good. Have a special place to write down or otherwise document the funny, happy, silly things that go on while your spouse is away. Whether it's a jar with post-it notes, a piece of paper on the fridge, or a string of Snapchats that you send to your spouse to open as they're able, keep passing along the happy, everyday things. I have this journal and will break it out now that the kids have reached an age where they can share more funny thoughts! Not only does this practice give you a visual reminder of what's still good through the difficult days, but it gives your spouse a taste of home and snippets of the kids being themselves. Bonus: if you can physically keep a record of some of the best moments, you'll always have their one-liners or memories captured to look back on in years to come!