- Stick to the "normal" routines such as same meal and bedtimes. This provides a sense of stability in the children's lives. While mom might feel the strain of watching the kids longer hours with no help, she might forget that the kids do notice when dad seems to be at work for longer hours and this might cause them some stress. Keeping to their normal routines might help ease everyone's stress-levels.
- Fill in the time that Dad normally would be home with fun activities to encourage the evening to flow smoothly and enjoyably. When you don't have to be preparing a meal or folding a basket-load of laundry, it might do you and the kids some good to break up your afternoon or evening with out-of-the-ordinary activities. If you are normally a busy, on-the-go family then maybe a slower-paced family game night or movie night might be a fun change. If you regularly enjoy relaxed evenings at home, then perhaps take the kids for a walk or to the park.
- Splurge a little on meals. No. I am not suggesting that since dad is at work, the rest of the family should go out for dinner every night! What I am suggesting is that you think outside of the box. Try a meal that dad might not care for but everyone else still enjoys. All the men I know prefer hearty "meat and potato" style dinners. It might be a fun and easy change of pace to try something new. Popcorn for dinner anyone? A bowl of cereal? Mini pizzas on english muffins? Just a bowl of
ice creammacaroni and cheese?
- Encourage the children to think about their dad and why he is not at home. Discuss how he loves the kids and really desires to spend time with them but explain how he is off working hard to provide for his family that he loves.
- Get the kids involved in the dinner meal-making process and the cleanup (if they don't normally do that already). Even if you are scheduling fun activities and keeping the children busy, boredom surely will set in as soon as you begin the dinner preparations. So, why not get the kids involved? Setting the table, whisking an egg, unloading the dishwasher, and fetching items from the refrigerator or pantry are all things that toddlers and preschoolers can do to help you. Maybe make a batch of cookies together. This is also a time for grace for yourself (see # 3 on making fun but simple meals).
- Make sure time when dad is at home is spent balancing his increased need for rest with quality family time. Be sensitive to your husband's increased work load and be willing to let him take naps or rest. Understand that he won't likely have as much energy as normal to hop right in and help out at home. Consider taking over his chores at home like taking out the trash before he gets home so he doesn't have to worry about that. Utilize the family time that you do get to the fullest by spending quality time together doing things the whole family enjoys instead of catching up on things around the house.
- Don't neglect your marriage. Take time throughout the day to remember your husband in prayer. Those moments in the morning, between jobs, or in the late evening when he comes home may be all you share together when the kids are in bed. One or both of you may be exhausted. But, don't neglect your marriage. Take a few minutes to share/listen about the day. Encourage him. Let him know that you are thankful for his sacrifices and are confident that he has the strength necessary for the tasks the Lord has called him to do.
My husband has had several jobs that have kept him out of the home for long, long shifts and many days in a row without regular days off. I have been guilty of feeling self-pity and allowing the stress to get the better of me. My tips above are all focused on making your home run just as smoothly while dad is away by focusing on sticking to routine and keeping your kids busy. If there are no kids, then stick to your routines and keep yourself busy. There are always books to read, movies to watch, people to visit, and hobbies to enjoy. When you focus on what you can do instead of what you can't do because your husband isn't at home then you will be happier and better able to enjoy him when he does come home.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Have anything to add?
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