Are you or your spouse an elite member of an airline loyalty program? Got there due to the thousands of miles spent aboard a plane? If so, the person left at home probably inhabits the role of the Accidental Single Parent (ASP).
As a working expat, frequent and extended travel is a necessity rather than an option. With cookie-cutter hotel rooms, the necessity of living out of a suitcase, and choppy Skype calls to the family, it’s a relief to just get back and relax. But often, re-entry means a turbulent landing.
The load on single parents is enormous. They juggle work commitments, childcare, homework, school, and extra-curricular activities, along with domestic chores and personal time. In other words, they must be able to manage their affairs single-handedly. The ASP, on the other hand, has all the conditions of a single parent but see-saws back and forth between single and double parenting, with little choice or control over time.
Good communication is key to any successful relationship, but with varied time zones, all-day conferences, and demands from both work and children, it’s no wonder that distance, rather than make the heart grow fonder, only makes the person frustrated and cranky.
Whether you’re the jet-setting parent or the one that’s keeping the home fires burning, here are a few tips to deal with the ASP problem:
- Prior to a trip, discuss any concerns you have about family or household matters and agree upon a plan of action. Save complicated concerns for your return.
- Don’t announce unilateral decisions that will affect the entire family without first discussing it with your spouse.
- Talk to a good friend if levels of frustration or resentment at your spouse are building up. A different perspective can give you insight into handling matters constructively.
- Don’t unleash your aggravation on your children or unload negative feelings about your spouse on them. Value your spouse and the family order.
- Protect time with your spouse even when separated. Book a time to call and make it a priority. It’s better to order room service and talk without time pressures than leaving matters unsettled just before bed and feeling tired.
- Don’t allow guilt to demoralize you or become another stressor in your life. Accept, acknowledge and be proactive in scheduling time with your family and spouse.
- Ease into re-entry. Respect how the home has been run in your absence and work within the established parameters rather than expect conditions to suddenly change.
- Don’t get caught up with work or social commitments your first week home. Re-establish intimacy with your spouse.
- Skype frequently. It’s free, it’s simple and with a webcam, it’s one step closer to being there in person.
Frequent separation is a downside of the expat life, but with planning, communication and the support of family and friends, it can be an accepted part of a successful family
relationship. And don’t forget to use all those frequent flyer miles for your own trips together.