Yesterday I got back from a 10 day vacation. We were at a lake in the middle of nowhere, and my kids and I had a great time. It was a wonderful trip, full of sunshine and no connection to the outside world. The only downside was that my husband could only make it on the weekends, which meant I was by myself for 5 1/2 days while he went back home to work. It was the longest we have ever been apart, and the longest I have parented by myself with absolutely no help from our community of family and friends.
It was actually easier than I thought it would be, as the kids loved being able to go outside everyday and play in the kiddie pool and sprinkler we had. They ran around the deck and we went for walks to the lake regularly. Despite this, the days are long and I was pretty exhausted by the end of the day after chasing my 1 year old twins and 3 year old. Props to single parents out there. You are ROCK STARS!
The hardest part of the vacation was not that I was by myself, but it was explaining to the kids that while their Daddy wanted to be there, he had to work. It’s not easy answering a 3 year old when he keeps asking “When’s Daddy coming?” We counted sleeps, but it was still hard on Jack not having his father around.
On the flip side, Jarrett, my husband found it equally as hard being away from the kids. I’d like to think that no parent wants to be away from their children unless they absolutely have to. He wanted to be on vacation with us, but we were out of vacation time. Unfortunately, that is a reality of life as many parents do shift work, go on leave in the military, travel for work, or live separated lives from their children due to divorce or sickness. The reasons are endless. It doesn’t stop the empty feeling you get when you want to see your kids and can’t.
While Jarrett is lucky enough to have a ‘normal’ day job – 8 hour shifts, Monday to Friday with weekends and holidays off, it wasn’t always the case for us. As a nurse, it’s more common to work night shifts, 12 hour shifts and weekends than it is to have a typical 9 to 5 job. Before Jarrett got this new position, Jarrett being absent from Jack’s life was a very common occurrence. He would work 12 hour days, and that meant he was leaving before Jack woke up and getting home after Jack went to bed. Jarrett would go days between seeing Jack. As a co-parent, it was heartbreaking when Jack wouldn’t want to see his dad and only wanted me. I can only imagine how it would feel as the parent who isn’t recognized or wanted.
Finding A Solution
Seeing my husband struggle with the weight of providing for our family and dealing with the guilt of not being able to spend time with his son (this was pre-twins), made me want to find a way to help him and my son feel connected even though they couldn’t be together and bridge the distance between father and son. It took a while to find a solution, but I ended up wring a series of books called the “Missing You” series that allows Jarrett, and other parents, to feel like they are involved with the parenting process even when they are unable to be at home. The books go through everyday activities that a parent would be involved in and tells stories of how the missing parent does the activities with the child. Instead of illustrations, we added pictures that we took of Jarrett and Jack so that when we read the story, the book shows pictures of the parent and child together, telling the child that they are loved, and missed.
The first book I wrote, “Missing You at Bedtime”, was about a child pretending that their missing parent was putting them to bed, and I’m thrilled to say that the book worked. Jarrett starting feeling better about leaving the house, knowing that Jack would be reminded how much he wanted to be there. In addition, Jarrett felt like he was part of the parenting process because the book had pictures of Jarrett going through the bedtime routine. It may be something small like a book, but it definitely made a world of difference with our family.
When Jarrett got his new job after we had the twins, the book didn’t come out as much because Jarrett was home every night to do bedtime. Jack still pulls out the book and loves looking at the pictures, but it hasn’t really been necessary to pull it out. This past week was a great opportunity to bring out the book again since Jarrett wasn’t with us, and I forgot it at home. I felt really bad, because once again, Jarrett was missing his family and did not feel like part of the parenting process. It may only be a book, but for a parent who can’t be with their family due to distance, it is a lot more. It’s the reassurance that their child will know that they want to be there, that they care, that they as a parent will be remembered.
It’s funny that this past week I was reminded of these things, because after 2 years of work, I am finally sending my bedtime book to be published this week. The book should be out before Christmas! So, if you are a parent who misses spending time with your children, afraid you aren’t a big part of your children’s lives, or feel guilty that you aren’t home enough, I urge you to check out this book when it comes out! It made a huge difference in my family’s lives, and I know it will change yours too. Stay tuned for updates on the release date!