With Globalization on the rise and the world of outsourcing now an integral part to the success of many companies, people find themselves spending more of their year traveling abroad to developing countries to meet the demands of their careers.
My career is in a global company that requires that I travel extensively to suit the needs of my position. Part of what makes this job so perfect for me is that my lifestyle is such that I am actually able to do it. I am a divorced Dad with a son who lives with his mother most of the time and with a job that offers me a good income I am able to offer my son a lot of benefits I couldn’t otherwise give him.
On the other hand, it is my son whom I miss terribly when I travel and who misses me too. I am about to embark again on a trip to India for an unspecified amount of time and I am dreading parting from my son again.
I would really love to get some advice from people who do this regularly on how they manage this time away from their children and how their children are taught to manage it on their end as well. Maybe some tips will help make it less emotionally challenging than it has been for us until now.
Alone in India
As “Alone in India” brought to my attention here, not only is it challenging for the children of those parents who travel regularly since they feel a sense of lacking in their lives, but it is also hard on the parents themselves.
Some of the factors that make this an even greater hardship on kids is not only their obvious dependency on their parents for daily support and care but also the fact that when someone goes away, it is the people left behind who feel the loss even more than the person who has left. There is a gap in their regular schedules and they feel it!
Surprisingly enough, there are actually unique pros and cons to being a traveling parent in a single parent home. On the one hand, children from a divorced home might make the separation a little bit easier than kids from a two parent one. When one of their parents travels abroad for work these kids have already gotten used to not having two parents available to them full-time as is and the adjustment is a wee bit easier.
The downside to this situation is that the single parent reality for these kids can also work against them especially if the primary caregiver is the one who needs to travel. All of a sudden, that little added benefit of single parenthood becomes a huge liability. Now, not only do the kids miss having their main support system available to them but they also have to deal with a surrogate caregiver during the time that the parent is away.
Some useful tips for “suitcase parents”
Skype is one of the most handy dandy tools today that can offer live interactive video and voice calling through the internet from anywhere in the world. Most smart phones have two way cameras and Skype applications on them that allow for calls from your phone even when on the go.
Smaller kids have a hard time understanding the concept of time and so Daddy or Mommy going away to them seems like an abstract terminology for eternity undefined. Put a calendar in your kid’s room showing the day the parent left and the day they are returning in bold colorful letters and let your kids mark off the days every night or morning signifying another day down in anticipation of their parent’s return.
Let’s not call it a bribe but when the kids know that Daddy or Mommy are going to be coming home with gifts for them it not only softens the blow but also reminds them that their parents are thinking of them even when they are not right there beside them.
When possible, try to integrate other members of the family into the kids daily care so that they get some extra loving and attention from someone other than their own parents. Setting up play dates with grandparents guarantees a good time for the kids and and a it offers a break and some respite for the care-giving parent who needs it desperately.
The parent who is away should also try to communicate as much as possible with the kids on a daily basis (even though when on the road this isn’t always possible) since not only does it make the kids feel loved and missed but it keeps them connected. Children change so frequently and rapidly that even periods of a couple of weeks in kids lives can seem like forever. If you don’t think you will have time to speak, send them an email saying hello or a quirky comic strip you thought you would both like to laugh at together-apart.
One final point. I would just like to remind all of you traveling spouses out there that if your spouse is the one who is keeping the home fires burning while you travel don’t forget to apply all of the above tips to his/her care as well! Don’t forget to skype each other. You can also video chat in a more “adult” environment once the kiddies are off to sleep (hubba-hubba). Don’t forget to call when on the road and remember, nothing says “I love you” like gifts from your trip abroad. You have a chance to show that you know and care about your spouse by buying them a personal gift and, if possible, even having it delivered to them while you are away.