When One Parent Works Away

LOVE & MARRIAGE, MOTHER OF ALL LISTS, MOTHERHOOD, MUST READ, TRAVEL, WORK & MONEY

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 20.44.31.pngBefore sharing this Jo was very concerned that it didn’t have the emotional tug of some of the other lists I’ve shared. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

There are plenty of people out their whose partners are away a lot and its TOUGH, really tough. Not just the ‘parenting alone’ bit, but the constant readjustment between them being around and not is challenging too.

Here’s Jo’s take on it all:


I am the wife of a television and film director, which sounds glamorous but really isn’t. Whilst it can be exciting and creatively eye-opening it can also be lonely, frustrating and hard work. This is because most jobs take my husband away from home for months at a time leaving me to be a *not actually single* single mum to our two children.

  • When a job first comes in we don’t think about where it is going to be based because as any other freelancers will know, it’s just exciting that a good job has come in!

  • This positivity lasts until about 2 weeks in when I have been home alone trying to keep the boys alive/the house clean/my work done on my own and it’s just. not. fun anymore.

  • When almost everyone else I know is having dinner with their partner and watching their favourite shows together in the evenings, loneliness becomes a very real feeling.

  • When he first leaves I get excited about Keeping Up with The Kardashian reruns and being able to do yoga in the living room without getting in the way but after a while those joys wear off

  • Not only does he have to work far away but the hours are incredibly long and very often he isn’t even available to talk at the end of the day.

  • I have learnt to note down some of my ‘less important’ thoughts throughout the week so that I don’t forget to tell him (what do you think of this colour for the bathroom, are you free on 1st June, do you want to see the new Star Wars film with me…) because it turns out those thoughts actually are important for a normal functioning life.

  • When he is available, FaceTime is the greatest invention ever. The boys love it because they get to see Daddy and show him their drawings/school work/new shoes and I feel like conversations flow easier when I can see his face

  • It is hard when sometimes the boys don’t want to speak to him, because they’re kids and Lego or Team Umizoomi are far more important. I can see his heart break a little and it’s sad to see.Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 20.45.48.png

  • Sometimes I get irrationally jealous of him. It can be over anything from the fact that he’s had a week of creative meetings, that he had Pho for lunch, quietly, without anyone tugging at his legs and wiping yoghurt all over him or that he got to sleep past 7 on the weekend.

  • The ‘who is more tired’ game is bad. It isn’t fun and there are no winners.

  • It helps to have incredible girlfriends who will leave their own babies at home with their partners in order to come and have take away and wine with me, or will look after the boys for me when I need to go somewhere last minute and haven’t got a sitter

  • It also helps to have parents close by to help when they can, and are a constant source of love and entertainment to my boys

  • Watching terrible chick flicks, eating chocolate and crying into a glass of wine helps when hormones, anxiety and loneliness do a triple combo on you.

  • Cooking for one is harder than cooking for two. Nigella and Nigel have done a lot to help in this department, shout out the whole of EAT by Nigel and Nigella’s Slut’s Spaghetti. Towards the end of a long run I can’t even be bothered to do that and usually end up eating pesto pasta for days on end

  • Keeping an entire house clean and tidy, on your own, with two small people who have absolutely zero ability or desire to help is SO hard and it’s ok to say so (took me a while to admit to that)

  • Weekends when he is home have taken on a whole new meaning. They are a precious time for the 4 of us and for me they start on Friday at 3.30pm and finish at 6am Monday morning.

  • When we are together we have to be really conscious of not bickering and making sure our time together isn’t wasted on bad moods and slanging matches! Which can be hard when you’ve both come to the end of a long week and are feeling tired and desperate for a break/lie in/some quiet.

  • When it comes to living and parenting separately and then together, occasionally the feeling of ‘oh I don’t do it like that!’ pops up. It can be anything from where we put the recycling, how long the boys are allowed screen time to what bread I’ve been buying recently. I get so used to running things my way that I feel a bit like he’s muscling in on my turf, and have to remind myself it’s his turf too.

  • The boys have grown up this way and don’t question it, and I’m so proud of us and them for that. They know Daddy has to work away from home and don’t realise that it’s not that common

  • Babysitters are invaluable to me and I have learnt that spending money on them is an absolute necessity

  • Apps that are life savers: Bubble for babysitters, Secret Spa so I can get my nails/lashes/brows done at home and Deliveroo for when cooking for one really is too much to ask

  • The more time I spend single parenting the more I come to realise that we had taken on very specific gender roles without realising it. When he is away and a light bulb needs changing, a new picture needs hanging up or a run to the dump is required I totally crumble and have no idea how to do it. This is something I’m very keen to change.

  • This experience has made my respect for single parents sky rocket. I have to do everything alone but I still have the emotional, financial and loving support of a partner even though he isn’t here physically. I will never take that for granted

  • This is the reason I really try to keep my moaning to a minimum. In the grand scheme of things I’m fucking lucky.

  • There is only one mum on Instagram who I know has a similar experience to me and that is @portiaportiaaaa. Following her makes me feel better on the crappy days but I’m always keen to find more!

  • And finally, after months and months of not so subtle hints, I got a kitten for company and I cannot tell you how huge a difference cuddles from a fur ball make to easing the loneliness. Cats for everyone I say!

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16 Comments

  • Reply Kim Hill April 23, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Oh god, I so so so hear you, thank you for writing this. My husband is a location manager and we are just about to finish a very very long and tough run. It’s such a difficult one as I’ve found there’s not much support around and not many people who understand. It’s very hard to deal with the feeling of being the one running the ship day in day out without getting resentful – I’ve made leaps and bounds with this, but still work to do. It’s also then really difficult to slot back in with each other – the reintegration stage, which is often the worse bit!

    I have honestly made great strides on this job with not hating it as much, but it’s not easy. I have often thought about setting up a facebook group to talk about this, except my husband would probably kill me if I did knowing the industry!

    Anyway, I hear you, loud and clear. I’m on instagram @kimbo_fran_hill if you want to say hi – I’m always on the look out for others in the same situation.

    • Reply Celia April 29, 2018 at 9:41 am

      Hiya! This is so true, reintegration and resentment! These are totally my demons in life.
      Xx

  • Reply skg April 24, 2018 at 7:52 am

    This makes me feel a lot better and for me in the same boat massively has the emotional tug! My partners is a musician and although works in london we can be ships in the night for long periods. Thank you for allowing me to realise the feels/wants/needs/adjustments are normal. The vent I have to have is when you’re both invited somewhere and you have to say your partners working and can’t make it and it’s feels like an excuse. But yes to the sneaky kuwtk reruns!

  • Reply Emily Brant April 24, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Thank you for writing such an honest, intelligent heartfelt article and, thank you even more for not saying that you now know what it feels like to be a single mum! Thank you for the acknowledgement. Parenting, no matter what the circumstances is both amazing and hard and I’ve discovered that each set up produces its own set of challenges & difficulties, as well as respite and perks! Good luck and well done 💜

  • Reply Jenny April 24, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Hey! 👋🏻 I’m a long time follower but have never commented before… my husband has just started working away quite a lot. I am lucky that he is usually back for weekends but as he is abroad and on different time zones during the week it can often be difficult to talk. I also then feel pressured for that talk to be a nice positive chat rather than me moaning about my day.
    It’s new and it’s a huge adjustment for us so thank you for writing this list as it really spoke to me, made me feel better about sometimes feeling shit and gave me some ideas to make the time a little easier.
    So thank you 🙏🏻

  • Reply Kirsteen April 24, 2018 at 9:14 am

    This post made me feel so much better. I can relate to so much of it. My husband works in the Middle East and gets home roughly every 8 weeks but sometimes only for a weekend. I have 3 boys (the eldest two are 16&14) but my youngest is only 3 and he often questions why everyone else has their daddy at home and he doesn’t. I find weekends the worst and we’re on constant countdown “how many sleeps”’until daddy is home again. FaceTime is our saviour.

  • Reply Lizzy Heafield April 24, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Oh wow. Yes yes yes to all of this. I haven’t got brave enough to go down the babysitting route yet but I do have the good friends part to help out occasionally, as do my parents wheb I have dentist appointments etc. Cannot explain how similar all of this is to my life. I have 3 girls 5, 3 and 5 months, and we have always worked this way (2 months on, months off). I have always been on a mission to try my best at the ‘man things’, putting up the pictures, changing a tyre, jump starting the car. But more often than not it goes wrong and I feel even more like a girl. 🤣 so lovely to ready this.

  • Reply Alice April 24, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you for writing this and power to you for you being so positive, I hope I can do the same. My husband works in tv too and has been freelance most of his career, almost always working away from home – sometimes abroad and for long stretches. He has taken a staff job near home while we’ve had two boys (2 & 3 mo) but is keen to get back out there. I’ve loved having him around these last few years and am nervous for him to freelance again. I also can’t imagine a job which allows me to do drop off and pick up at nursery and still progress in my career. There are lots of big question marks and I know we’ll figure it out as we go but it’s daunting.

  • Reply Laura Holmes April 24, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    It’s so refreshing to read your blog, our lives are very similar. My husband generally works away Mon-Thur and I’m single parenting our three boys at home. Like you I know financially I’m very blessed and I shouldn’t moan and don’t 90% of the time. I find writing things down help with my emotional explosions.
    What I can’t shake is the loneliness, I’m feeling more and more miserable.
    We’ve lived like this for 11 years but the last 1 to 2 years has felt hellish.

  • Reply Caitriona Brown April 24, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    So happy to read this! Let’s start a club! My husband is a musician and is currently in Australia. It’s so difficult at times and the loneliness in the evening is one of the hardest parts for me. Would love to connect on insta with other mums in a similar situation. @caitrionabills

  • Reply Laura Thomson April 25, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Hi Joanna,
    Thank you so much for sharing. Although I don’t have kids yet my husband also works away. He’s away over 6 months of the year and I work away during the week. So when he is home I only really get to see him about 50/60 days a year. I spend the whole time he’s away resenting that I’m on my own, running our house and making sure the cat doesn’t die! We’re also renovatin our house ourselves so I’m doing that on my own most of the time too. There are some weeks where I live on beans on toast because anything more than that and it would end me. The further into his trips it gets the harder it is. And then when he gets home it’s so hard to begin with because I’ve been doing it all myself and part of me feels it’s his turn so he should have to do it all now. But then there’s part of me that thinks, no that’s not how it’s done. I find it really hard to not get annoyed at him.
    And I forget to tell him stuff. It’s always the little stuff. But he gets so annoyed as he feels he doesn’t rank high enough for to warrant telling him things. But it’s not that, I just forget! And he works midnight to midday, and his Internet is by satellite so sometimes nonexistent. We can’t facetime and calls break up so we rely heavily on whatsapp messages. But he finishes while I’m in work so if I’m busy and can’t talk right then, then we can go days without speaking to each other.
    It’s the loneliness. It’s a bitch. We have a cat but I only see him at the weekends, so it can be incredibly lonely .
    Anyway, sorry, I’m rambling. Just want to say thank you for sharing. It’s made me cry, mainly because I realise it’s not just me. And I don’t feel as alone anymore.
    He’s home friday and I can’t wait. But I’m go g to try extra hard to take a leaf out of your book be kinder to us both.
    Thank you x
    Insta: @ms_laura_lou

  • Reply Olivia April 26, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you for such a great post – So much of this rings true with me too. It is very reassuring to know there are others in a similar situation that have the same emotional highs and lows that go with single not single parenting!

  • Reply Natalie April 27, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Hi Jo, I am the wife of a gaffer also working in TV I’m film so I totally understand your situation and feel tears prickling as I read your list because like you, I don’t know anyone in the same position as me and this can feel as isolating as the lonliness does every evening. When my husband leaves on a Monday morning and I know I won’t see him until the following Saturday I always have a feeling of dread. We are still trying to find the balance it sounds like you have and I actually wrote a post on Instagram yesterday about solo parenting, someone commented that I should read your list so here I am saying hi, me too…I get it, it’s hard and I feel guilty for saying it’s hard but it is. So thank you for writing, you’ve made me feel much better. Natalie x

  • Reply Celia April 29, 2018 at 9:34 am

    This is my life too! Reading this was so reassuring and comforting, sometimes I feel like I’m the only one at the mercy of a shoot reschedule or a last minute location scout.
    The bit about being a single mum is so prominent for me, it has made me respect real single Mums without the financial back up. I’ve also given in to just getting babysitters whenever needed as sanity back-up.
    Thanks for writing this. ❤️

  • Reply Vic April 29, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Yes! Five years married to a musician, the long tour periods are hard. We got 2 kittens to help with the loneliness (kitten hugs really are the best). We’ve just had a baby and I’m dreading the next tour which is when our little guy turns 6months. My husband will be away for 6 weeks and it’s the first time in his life he is wishing he had a ‘normal job’ and stay home. It’s hard for me, but at least I have the kitten and baby hugs. He just has to put up with a hard schedule, no time off and a stinky tour bus (hugs from his tour manager aren’t quite the same).

  • Reply Lola April 29, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    So lovely to read this and the comments as instantly I feel supported knowing others in the same boat. Any yes will never compare to what the super hero single mummy and daddy’s do but sometimes means we bottle up just how tough and lonely it can be. I have 3 under 8 and Work FT so it’s constant and I feel so much pressure especially trying to keep our relationship healthy when living separate lives.
    I’ve just started listening to mindfulness tutorials in the evening and find this helps my mood and sends me off to sleep as I hate staying up late alone when he’s away. Sounds like we all have partners in similar industries – TV and music!

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