Where’s My Welcome Home Hand Job?

I probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I’d just finished a conversation with a really lovely friend who shared the news of her philandering husband. She’s been busy with their one and three year old, he’s been busy with the housekeeper.

And if there’s anyone out there holding an image of a tired and needy housewife, please erase it now. My girlfriend has a great job, a small business, and is by far the wittiest woman I’ve met since moving to Doha. He on the other hand, is obviously just an arsehole.

After we’d said goodbye, I was standing phone in hand at the supermarket. My passionfruit didn’t have a price on it and someone had disappeared to the back of the store in search of answers. In the meantime a woman arrived with two trolley loads of shopping. I was going to be waiting for awhile. As I scrolled through my newsfeed I read the heading  “The Traveling Expat Father – Ideas for Mum“.

As a woman who has lived with a man who has travelled constantly in our nearly fifteen years of marriage, and as a mother of four, it was obvious I was going to click. Why did I need ideas? And why I wondered, were we focussed on fathers?

As the page opened my brow began to furrow. The heading.

“How mothers can help fathers stay involved?”

When the husband travels and is gone, there are a few things that Mom can do to help Dad be more involved, or to feel more involved with his children.

Yes, because that’s always top of the list. When you wake on that first morning to discover you’ve been hit by a family sized dose of chicken pox (oh come on, it’s Murphy’s law, the minute one parent travels we know there has to be an illness) your partner will be front and centre of your mind. You’ll dream of them being more involved, and they’ll try their very hardest from their hotel room in Rome.

As I made my way through the article I was told to be supportive. To not express my resent or frustration in front of the children because it may make them resent G and his job. Seriously? G’s travel means one thing to my children, an opportunity to start writing a shopping list. “Dad will they sell baseball stuff in New York?” “Dad, can you remember that book I really liked?” “Dad, if you’re at the airport do you think you could pick up…?” There have been times our children have suggested it was time for Dad to make a trip. “We’re nearly out of ribs, when do you think Dad will go away again?”

The article went on…

So, here are some ideas that the mother could do to help strengthen the relationship between the children and their traveling father.

Because that’s my responsibility of course. G’s way to busy to think about strengthening his relationship with his own children.

Passionfruit in hand, I made my way to the car, until I stopped, mid stride after reading this:

If your husband is coming home before supper from a long trip, then make his favorite meal. Get dressed up and have the home looking great. Get the kids to make posters or help to decorate the entrance. This will make your husband feel loved and missed…

I double checked my surroundings and looked for a local newspaper to check the dates. Hang on, was this the 1950’s?

The article went on to tell me many things. How I should co-ordinate the time and day best for G to chat. How I needed to be patient with him. It also suggested ways I could make him feel special. I could sneak little treats and cards from the children into his bag, but I should also remind him to be thankful because he might forget to. Also, in our spare time in the evening (you know, because there’s so much spare time when you solo parent) I should have the children write in a family journal that they can then share with their father.

By the end of the article I was feeling nauseous. I willed myself not to write a snarky comment, maybe I’d taken it all the wrong way? I got home and made a cup of tea, and began working on an article with a disappearing deadline. But it wouldn’t go away. Little snippets kept returning to my mind.

“…when the father travels so much it is important for the mother to help sustain the involvement”.

No, no it’s not.

Common sense will help sustain the involvement. A father will tell his children that he’ll Skype either before or after school. A father will ring the home phone. The father will send an email. Maybe the father will send flowers. The father will make a video. The father will take a photo. The father will be a father, and if he doesn’t?

That’s not the mother’s fault.

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