Having a baby is a wonderful and magical event. The weeks after are shrouded in a time-warp of snuggles and sleepless nights. And before you know it one, or both, of you are back to work. Commuting to the office can bring its own stress - but travel further from home is becoming the norm for a lot of working parents, and it can be terrifying to consider the idea of handling all that’s involved with infant care while your partner is away for days or weeks. Similarly, the idea of being the traveling parent, and leaving your family behind, can be stressful and sad.
Luckily, creating a plan and taking advantage of modern technology can turn a scary, miserable time into a manageable and even exciting milestone for a family. FaceTime, Skype and Google Talk are fantastic ways to stay in contact with your family. But it’s the time in between the virtual good mornings and good nights that can be hard. So, here are three tips for how to survive when your partner has to travel - as well as tips for your first trip away from your little one.
3 Tips for Survival When Your Partner Has to Travel:
Keep it Simple
This is survival time. This means you don’t need to be Martha Stewart while they’re gone. Simple meals are great; takeout can be even better. Clean as minimally as you can, and make playtime simple. Try not to make any elaborate plans while they are away. The last thing you need is a super playdate at your house, since you never know how the night will go and how much sleep you will get.
Thinking through how the day and evening will go is important. If one parent normally does bath while the other parent does dishes, or one parent does bed while the other showers, you’ll need figure out a new plan that will work for solo parenting: maybe baths are given on a needs only basis, instead of every night; if you have older kids you may need to give them new responsibilities or need to shift bedtime routine order. Once you have that all planned out, practice a few days before your partner leaves. This will help the children and you work out all the kinks. Be as flexible and kind to yourself as you can. Some nights, one quick book may be all you have time for. If you feel older kids aren’t getting as much attention in the evening as they use to, consider working that special time into the morning routine - five to ten minutes of connection time can be all that it takes.
Also, if your partner is the primary person who feeds the baby, make sure to work out a feeding plan and practice that as well (see below).
Have a Support Team and Take Care of You
Planning ahead to have friends or family help you out during this time is a great strategy. However, if you are like many new parents these days, and don’t have family in town or friends that can help out at night, look to hire help.
Postpartum doulas can be a great resource and support team. Postpartum doulas answer questions you have about yourself or the baby, help with overnight feedings so you can rest, help with sibling support during bedtime, and will often do light housework, including straightening up the house and taking care of laundry. Postpartum doulas will also prep and even cook meals to help relieve some of your responsibilities.
First and foremost, having postpartum doula support at night allows you to get a good night's sleep, and we all know how important that is to staying on top of your game as a parent and as a professional. Second, having a postpartum doula will free up some time to “fill your own bucket” while your partner is gone. This is a time of constant giving to others, and making a plan that includes time and space to take care of yourself will help you to survive with grace.
3 Tips For Your First Trip Away:
Prep Baby and Other Children for Change
Similar to mentally preparing for when your partner travels (see above), you’ll want to do the same when you are the traveling parent. Have your partner take over as many tasks of your normal tasks as possible in the several days leading up to travel. Talk to your children and the baby about what is going to happen, and give older children something to look forward to when you get back: “I’m going to be traveling to (place) for (x amount of time). Mommy/Daddy will be here to take care of you… I love you so much and can’t wait to do (x activity) with you when I’m back.”
Make a Feeding Plan
If you are breast/chestfeeding, you will want to think about how and when you will be able to pump. Note, do not check your pump in case your flight gets delayed. There are some amazing new pumps on the market that are fantastic for wireless pumping (see Resources, below). Think about how much milk the baby will need while you’re gone, and whether you’ll be able to have that stored up in advance. If not, what does your plan B look like? A lactation consultant is a wonderful resource to help you create a plan.
If you are using formula you will still want to make sure there’s enough formula on hand, and enough bottles, as well - there won’t be two of you to keep up with bottle washing, so purchasing a few extra may be a good idea.
Have a Support Team
As mentioned above, having a support team is key to survival. Not only will it help your partner, but it will help to increase your peace of mind while you’re away, too. Parents and friends may be able to help out during the day, but evenings and overnight are likely to be when the most help is needed. Postpartum doulas can make these transition times run more smoothly. A postpartum doula can provide an extra set of hands for feedings and diaper changes, read to an older sibling, or tag-team on the evening fussy times; or she might make dinner, clean up while you get the kid(s) to bed, and do the laundry once everyone is asleep. Just as you would need to take care of yourself while your partner is gone, your partner will need some adult time, too. Arranging to have support, like postpartum doula services, can help to make sure your partner can “fill their bucket,” too.
Traveling can be difficult and stressful, but with a good plan and a good support team it can be a successful adventure for everyone - with a happy reunion at the end!
Resources for Pumping on the Go:
Easy to use. No small parts. No assembly required. Simply suction to your breast and let the pump do the work for you as it draws your milk using suction.
An in-bra, wearable breast pump - quiet and spill-proof.