A roving mum's guide to keeping her chappies happy
I have been fortunate to live in various places in the world, from a very small town in Papua New Guinea to the over-sized, over-populated Mecca of Jakarta, Indonesia. My husband is an insurance broker who has to travel heaps. Since having a child this has had different complications on our relationship, and most importantly the relationship of my husband and child.
In order to deal with his continuous departures, my husband and I have agreed on a few guidelines when he’s in town, such as:
- No late nights out on the weeks he is away (in other words, he will go to work early in order to be home for dinner and spend time with our son and me)
- If he’s away a week or more he will be home to do family stuff for the whole weekend he’s back (no golf, sporting events etc unless it’s a family outing).
- When he comes home he doesn’t disappear into our study to read our home computer emails, etc until after bed time. It’s amazing how much of our son’s evening time he was missing by reading a couple of emails, as it’s so easy to get absorbed.
- I no longer gripe about jobs needing to be done around the house. I get a workman in, or put it on a list for when he’s been home for a few days, this effectively frees up time to enjoy reuniting as a family.
- I don’t schedule too many get-togethers with friends on the weeks he’s been away, as all he wants to do is relax at home and enjoy not working, rather than keeping to a social agenda.
- We aim to go out as a couple once a fortnight, although sadly it’s usually only once a month. I am lucky to have a nanny here in Jakarta but I have friends who have lived in mining towns so they organize weekend lunchtime play dates or sleepovers and return the favor to other couples who are no doubt in the same boat.
Missing daddy is always tough, especially after a family holiday as the bonding that takes place is just amazing. I try to keep our little fella busy with playgrounds, water parks, horse riding and play dates. I find that he is very attached to me but no surprises why, I don’t change that as he is still young so I try to give as much of my time as possible. Now that our son is old enough to vocalize that he misses his dad I try to talk to him about why Daddy is away and what he’s doing. I also make a point of lots of phone calls.
Relocating is always tricky as the stress levels on everyone are tough. I have friends who have moved for the second time in 1.5 years and their four-year-old has been angry with them for three months since the move! I’m not sure how to overcome this but I do know it’s always a great idea to keep the kids busy and active, even when you don’t know anybody.
One thing I have always made a point of is helping any newcomer with information about activities for the family, play dates, meeting up for coffee mornings etc, as you would hope the same kindness would be forwarded to you when it’s your turn to move. I know some offices have a relocation liaison but as my husband is usually the only expat in the office, help isn’t normally available. I’ve often thought it would be a great idea if each company made up a welcome pack of maps, takeaway menus (no-one wants to cook when you’re unpacking) and a guide to local sporting teams for kids and adults. Also, often the local community centre will run craft meetings or coffee mornings – you might not meet your future best friend but it’s nice to have an adult conversation.
- Vanessa, Jakarta, Indonesia