Surviving and Thriving while Dad is Away

While my husband was away at a ministry conference a couple of weeks ago, I made a goal for myself to try to figure out how to have a fun, non-exhausting, meaningful week even though I was alone holding down the fort with all three kids.  Sometimes such weeks pass soooo slowly, but this time, with some intentionality, we had a great time!  Here were my ideas for making the week doable and even enjoyable:

1) Have fun! It’s just plain rough having to do all of the parenting work by yourself, so I tried to give my kids lots of extra reasons to be happy and fun to be around, as well as to give myself things to look forward to each day. The work doesn’t feel so hard when you’re having a good time! Your “fun” may look different than mine, but we spent lots of time with friends (the kids’ friends and mine too), made trips out for ice-cream, went to our mall with an indoor play area (since it was -20 degrees Celcius or even colder all week), and took a fun trip the toy store to spend some of the kids’ Christmas money that we had saved.

(My kids after spending their Christmas money from their great-grandma! Sorry for the poor photo quality, but my husband had our good camera!)

2) Minimize housework. I spent the couple of days before my husband left working a little extra to get the house into decent shape so I wouldn’t have to spend much time cleaning. And I also just let some tasks slide that didn’t matter to me.

3) Simple meals. I cooked larger meals for a few days before we were on our own, which meant I had lots of left overs. I then made a big pot of stew to fill in as an instant meal for visitors as well as a random lunch or dinner here or there when needed. Chicken nuggets and hot dogs also played their part!

4) Paper plates. We don’t have a dish washer, so dish-washing is always the most time consuming chore of my day. During this particular week, for several dinners we used paper plates that  I had left over from Christmas. It was so nice to just eat dinner and throw away the mess!

5) “Play and Pray!” Some friends whose husbands were also at the conference came over to our place Sunday morning with their children in place of church. Obviously, if you can manage going to church, wonderful, but in our situation it isn’t very manageable with all of our kids and without our husbands. In order to still have fellowship, we got together and did a little Bible story for the kids (my friend had the kids act out Jesus feeds the 5,000 and Jesus walks on water with toys), sang some worship songs, and then prayed with our kids. Then as the kids played, the moms and spent time talking and praying for one another. It was such a fun alternative to church!

(We had 9 great kids at our “Play and Pray!”)

6) Pray for your husband and the ministry event.  My husband was at a conference that I would have very much loved to have attended, but was unable to (with any sort of sanity) on the account of our kids. I love knowing that I can play a vital role through prayer and tried to be intentional about praying for the conference and for my husband and his various roles throughout the day.

Those were some of the things that really helped me to not just survive but honestly have a great week during my husband’s absence. What things do you do to survive and even thrive during those times when you’re left parenting on your own? Please share your ideas with us all!

(Post by: Ashley)


13 Responses to “Surviving and Thriving while Dad is Away”

  1. 1 jolenesloan February 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Sounds a lot like the way our home functions when Dad is gone!

    I LOVED seeing pictures of your kids and even a little peek at your house. Thank you for thinking to include pictures!

  2. 2 Melissa February 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    One thing i did this past month while my husband was away in a different city in North Africa was go stay with one of my local friends for the night. I figured instead of just staying at home (which would be far easier), I could take the opportunity to press into relationships and culture a bit more by going to spend the night with a friend. So off I went. I loaded up my pack n play and a small overnight bag in our stroller, put my 8 month old son in the baby carrier and off we went. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do with my young child but it was investment in a local relationship and in language. My son woke up about 5 times that night (it was SOOO cold in the house we were staying in and they didn’t have a heater in the room like we do at home) and despite his many layers i think he was just cold. But a quick snuggle with me and a bit to eat (he’s nursing) and he was fast asleep again. We did repeat that cycle many times that night but despite the long night, it was a good opportunity and I’m glad i did it. It gave me time in the evening with my girl friend after my son went to bed and then of course we had breakfast with the whole family the next morning. I packed up and went home before my son’s first nap so it really was just a quick overnight. It really did help the time pass quicker that my husband was gone and helped strengthen one of my relationships here.

  3. 3 Val February 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    This resonated with me. When my husband is away, I miss him deeply, but I can look back on our many long seasons apart, and see how my bonds with our kids grew while he was away. The load was heavy at times, but pressing into relationships with other women (thanks, Melissa!) is one of the highlights of every separation we go through. When he’s away, I look for ways to save energy so that I can be “there” emotionally for our three kids. AMEN to paper plates, home church, etc. Saying “no” is not my strong suit, but it’s necessary when you are parenting solo.

    One major benefit of TM’s deployments has been a renewed commitment to love one another as husband and wife…. to create a space that is US, and not just “co-parents” or “army couple” (makes me cringe — he’s active duty — i’m his bride — we are separate people!!). When he hangs it up one day, and we move into the next season of our life together, I want the love and connection to be there… and spending time apart has actually deepened that tremendously. We spent last summer apart, but our last long separation (15 months) ended three years ago. A part of me misses that season, as wicked hard as it was. God wastes nothing.

  4. 4 Phyllis February 21, 2012 at 7:46 am

    How did you know? My husband is away right now. Only over night, but I can’t believe how crazy everything has been without him! Usually we just enjoy a little bit of a quieter and simpler time when he’s gone. This time? I don’t know what happened! (I should write up some of it, because it’s all just so hilariously crazy!)

  5. 5 Ashley L February 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Jolene, I’m glad you liked the pictures, even if they are such poor quality! There are some better ones on our family blog ( if you wanted to see a bit more of our family life! =) I love all of the stuff you have on your blog and had such a blast “touring” your beautiful home!

    Melissa, what a wonderful way to make such great use of your time alone! I absolutely love it and your ability to look over the challenges to see the great benefit of that special time! Your desire to really be intentional to know and love the culture/people/language more is such a wonderful inspiration!

    Val, I was so inspired by your perspective and ability to see the good in even such long separations. I feel like a week is a long time, but you have by the grace of God not only survived but even thrived in far more challenging separations. Thank you for sharing how God has used those times in your relationship with your husband and with your kids too. Such great and helpful words to hear!

    And Phyllis, I am sorry that things have been crazy, but I love your sense of humor about it! I’ll be looking out for a blog post about your adventures. =) I’m praying for you today!

  6. 6 Phyllis February 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Like Melissa, I also used to go have sleepovers with a friend when we were in Russia. Her husband and mine were usually gone together, so we’d put our babies to bed and spend time together. It was great Russian practice for me, because back in those days I really relied on my husband for language help. Now I have too many children to really pull that off well, and I haven’t made close enough friends. I have thought that maybe I could invite someone to stay with us sometime, but my little ones need to grow up a little more first, so that I’m not quite so much in survival mode. 🙂

  7. 7 jolenesloan February 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Well, where have I been?! Thanks for sharing the address to your family blog (which I had no idea you had)! Would it be possible for you to add a “subscribe by e-mail” option to it? I don’t see one like that here on this blog, but somehow I get your posts delivered to my inbox each time you post and I love that!

  8. 8 Ashley L February 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Actually, I don’t think I have ever really officially mentioned our family blog here, Jolene, so you haven’t missed anything! Sadly, as you can tell, I don’t get much time to keep it very up to date (I wish I had even more time to post more on THIS blog too, but such is life!). And I’ll see about the subscribe by email option. I have no idea about this, but I’ll see if it can be added. =)

  9. 9 jolenesloan February 22, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Thanks, Ashley! I’ll check back soon to see if you were able to add it. Thank you!!!

  10. 10 Ashley L February 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Success! I added the “follow by email” function to both blogs. =)

  11. 11 jolenesloan February 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks again, Ashley. I am now subscribed to both. 🙂

  12. 12 Sarah February 23, 2012 at 2:36 am

    Oh, this comes at the PERFECT time for me! My husband is leaving this weekend leading a team in another country for nine days. He is gone a couple of times a year for 7-12 days each time, but because of being on furlough last year, this will be my first time with two little ones for this long. I’ve been working to plan ahead for the time and many of my preparations are very similar to the ideas you shared! It must work for missionary mamas all over the globe. =) It’s encouraging to me to know this at this time! Something I would add that might be more specific to me is I’m trying to guard my thoughts and not think of too many “what if?” situations of various emergencies, etc. that could happen, but to be in prayer about the time and to know that there are friends to call on if needed. That is something else I would add – to ask for help if you need it… or to accept help when it’s offered. Sometimes it’s hard to feel ok with that for some reason, isn’t it? I too love having a vital role praying for my husband and for the ministry he’s part of while he’s gone. I ask him to write up specific prayer requests for the week and it’s always fun to hear how God answered those prayers when he returns.

  13. 13 Shilo February 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Great ideas, Ashley! Another thing we do is my kids are allowed to “sleep over” on the floor in my room when dad is gone. This makes bedtime FUN instead of a time they miss dad who is usually a big part of their bedtime routine with reading/devotions/prayer.

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