You love your husband and cherish your relationship but recently his job has taken him away from you and the kids for weeks at a time, while you’re left playing single mom. In between single-handedly doing third grade math problems, dealing with a colicky baby, a prepubescent tween who thinks she knows more than you, lunches, nighttime potty breaks and laundry- you’re feeling completely overwhelmed.
Sure your husband calls every night and the kids get to chat him up on the phone, but his long absences away from your family are taking a toll. In fact, when he finally does make it home after a business trip, every fiber of your being feels like pouncing on him the minute he walks through the door (and not in a sexy way). In fact on several occasions you’ve felt compelled to throw the laundry basket at him; grab his car keys and take off.
While you’re well-aware that is not a mature, viable option, your patience with his increasing absences is beginning to take its toll on you physically and the hostility you’re feeling is beginning to taint your every interaction with him.
So what’s a stressed out wife and mom supposed to do?
According to Craig Malkin, PhD, Director YM Psychotherapy & Consultation, Inc., the most important step a frenzied mom can take is to devote less time to being angry at her absent husband and more time thinking about what will make things better.
“Our tendency is to find the nearest person to blame when we feel like we can’t escape a bad situation and in marriage that’s usually our spouse, “ says Dr. Malkin. But no amount of anger at your husband will change that being a full time mom without enough help is overwhelming. Only taking steps to reduce the load can do that.”
4 tips to help women deal with frustration when their husband is away and they’re on their own
#1 Send an SOS.
Call out to anyone and everyone, especially extended family, who might be able to pitch in. You need breaks. If you can find anyone to relieve you for just a few hours, or help out with laundry. The stress relief alone might save you from one more fight with your two-year-old over giving boppy-the-bear a bath.
#2 Pay for a break.
If you can’t find support around you, consider working a few hours just to get a break from the house and hire a sitter; even if you break even financially, you’ll find that the time away from home lightens the load of being a single parent.
#3 Ask your husband for ideas.
It was your choice to marry him, but it was also his choice to marry you and have kids which means even if he’s away, he can and should be a part of parenting by generating solutions.
If you stop blaming and just tell him you’re trying to figure out ways to get a break, he might at least pitch in with some ideas. For that matter, involve him in other child-rearing problems, too by asking advice. It’ll help him feel less absent and more like a father.
#4 Anger can be a cover for feelings of sadness and loss.
You have to ask yourself are your really mad that he’s away, or is it just too hard to feel sad right now? You might need to talk with friends and family about missing him and seek support to reduce the sadness that’s driving the frustration.
Once your husband returns home try these suggestions instead of getting locked in a battle of wills and dumping your frustrations onto him:
Connect first, talk later. Being able to relax and enjoy time together is a stronger predictor of marital satisfaction than solving problems which means you don’t need to hash things out to feel close. Plan walks, movies, dates, maybe even some mindless fun, and you’ll find that many of your frustrations fade when you’re having a good time. You may feel less need to talk about what irks you, but even if there’s something still on your mind, you’ll have and easier time talking about it if you’ve both connected first.
Keep in mind, practice makes perfect. You’ve spent a lot of time learning how to run the house while he’s away, so however smart and capable he is, he can’t hold a candle to your efficiency. He may even feel inept. Invite him to do chores with you, gently pointing out your tricks.
Touch him while you’re helping. It’ll put him at ease and help you feel closer. If he picks up enough, he may even be able to do a few tasks while you take break, but don’t expect him to keep your pace. He’s new to this.
And when he’s gone to keep your long distance marriage from dissolving under the weight of the distance, Dr. Malkin suggests, trying to follow current events or stories together so you can talk about them.
“These are the little things you used to share, says Dr. Malkin. Keep him in the loop so you can keep sharing them. And if you have the chance, throw in some sexy phone or internet chat, to keep the home fires burning.”