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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Comments

  1. Amen!!

  2. Elizabeth Foreman says

    As the child of parents who did the opposite (Mum worked 2 hours away and Dad stayed at home) I find this so SUPER FUNNY! My Mum would probably have fainted flat on the floor if any of that ever happened when I was little, my Dad too for that matter when he did work for a year or 2 when I was like 6. My Mum and Dad would fight all the time about my Mum working so far away, it was the usual friday night fight. We lived in the middle of nowhere and I wouldn’t have had my Mum change her job for anything, including getting rid of the fighting. That being said, making my father a little more empathic when his children got sick would have been a valuable bonus… 😛

  3. Oh Kirsty, it’s like you downloaded my mind. I had the same reaction when I read that same article….. I resisted a 1950s comment too. *sigh*

  4. Clelia Douglas says

    I do so enjoy your posts, I find myself nodding and giggling along – because at a very basic level it is just so wonderful to hear someone I can identify with so strongly.
    The most ridiculous thing I asked my husband to haul back from one of the endless destinations was composting materials, yes, composting materials! Admittedly I was 7 months pregnant and thought composting was a good start to self sufficiency on a small island! Needless to say husband almost arrested and visa revoked at airport, crisis only averted by very good friend in high places!
    Fathers will be the fathers they want to be.

  5. Strange that there are no comments on the actual article hey? Sorry – I’m stuck with the vision of G carting back ribs in his luggage!!!

  6. Jo Carroll says

    Some men, as you say, are just arseholes. Others make great dads – and ring the family because they love and miss them, not because there’s a woman promising to take her knickers off if he comes home soon.

  7. Evelyn Simpson says

    Love it, love it, love it! I read the article (and it’s partner article) and had a similar reaction to yours. So when I saw your headline this morning, I cheered! There is an assumption in the article that fathers have to be made to maintain a relationship with their children and it’s somehow our responsibility as mothers to make sure it happens, so well done for calling it out and, as always, in a way that made me smile.

  8. TokyoJinja says

    I have to go find the original article because I can’t quite believe you didn’t make it up!

  9. Ruth Harper says

    We are ex-pats with a travelling husband and honestly I pat myself on the back if the kids are alive and well and not emotionally scarred from a big busy up over breakfast! My job is to cope and keep things normal when he is away. To try to find a time to talk to Daddy with the kids but it isn’t always going to work out with time differences. It’s my job to send him on his way and tell him we will be fine but to also sometimes be honest and admit it’s really hard work when he is away. We welcome him home with excited faces and hugs and kisses it we cannot make banners every time he goes away!!
    Thank you so much for posting this 🙂 x

  10. Fantastic post. Love it!

  11. OMFG! You’re right. The 50’s??? Your response is golden. Keep up the excellent work Kirsty.

  12. Linda L Petersen says

    Absolutely love it!!

  13. I can’t believe this rubbish still gets perpetuated! Great response.

  14. Oh god yes! Yes to everything you just said. Same goes when some women I know say that their husband is ‘babysitting’ their kids. He’s not babysitting, he’s PARENTING!

    I really do try to strike a balance between my own thoughts/ideas/beliefs and others’ opposing ones, but for some reason anytime I see or hear something that sounds like a 50’s ‘good little wifey’ throwback I just find myself (silently) saying “Nope nope nope”. Especially difficult to bite my tongue when one friend claimed that it really is important to get yourself back in shape quickly after having a baby, otherwise your husband/partner will ‘go looking for it elsewhere’!!!

    Love your writing Kirsty!

  15. It’s funny, I’m technically an introvert, but I’m usually the one who breaks the silence too… and yes, usually something socially awkward and inappropriate as well 😉

    But, it depends on the setting too… if you’re sitting on a bus with a bunch of strangers, or a Drs surgery, then I think the social norm is to keep schtum… but if you’re stuck in a lift, or waiting for a bus that’s not turned up, or standing outside a shop that hasn’t opened yet, you feel more inclined to break the silence – or at least I do…

  16. It will come as no surprise to you Kirsty that I am a space filler too. An observant male commented to me last week that sometimes the space between the words is sometimes more meaningful. I should try. Maybe.

  17. I fill the space with too much talking and I hate that. Is there a therapy? I need help

  18. Apple Gidley says

    Great response! And I remember the days and nights of solo parenting, of frantic midnight trips to hospital, slammed doors and verbal jousting.

    However to balance things out I also know of toddlers, and teens, who would not go to their returning father, in the days before cell phones, skype and so on, because the mother had been so disgruntled a wall had been built a wall between father and child, with an element of hubris coming from the mother at the outcome.

    It is a given things will go wrong when we are solo parenting but there are some occasions, for example when a spouse is on an oil rig working in difficult conditions, when distracting them with issues from home can in fact become dangerous for them.

    That is why the sisterhood of STARS (spouses travelling and relocating successfully) is so very important!

    • Hi Apple,

      I agree, times have changed, we now have wonderful technology available for traveling parents. Now anyone on an oil rig/airplane or back of a camel, can take the time to call, email, or shoot off a video to their children at any time they like.

      Yes, long live the sisterhood, I wrote this post with them in mind. I think it’s very important that we don’t guilt trip women into thinking they could be a doing a better job at solo parenting or that they’re responsible for their partner’s relationship with his own children.

      Thanks for your comment, so lovely to see you here.

  19. Agree fully with John’s comments as I am also an introvert but after growing up the youngest with 6 older brothers I learned to use my voice… and often use humour to bridge the gap,
    Obviously having never met you Kirsty I do not know if you are a “hand talker” – think Italians with their expressive hand movements as they talk. If you are, and I am, I have found that if I sit on my hands or clasp them, or cover my mouth (kind of like a pistol grip with thumb running along my chin and index finger over my lips) then I literally can not talk! Has worked many times for me in coaching roles.

    You will also probably find that others will draw to you in slightly weird social situations as you will ‘lead’ the way and they don’t have to put themselves out there… because you will.

  20. Filling the space can sometimes be like reaching out. A way of meeting people. You never know who you might meet. A person never to be seen again or a friend for life.

  21. Corinne Basmaison says

    Yes! Thank you! Let fathers take on their role as fathers. Let us allow the space (i.e. the time, during our girls nights out maybe) for them to do that. They shouldn’t need us to act as surrogates.
    Not if they are true fathers.
    We are already taking on all the jobs of parenting when they are away. We don’t need any more on our plates.

    Thanks for writing this.

  22. I don’t see the big problem? (ducking with tin hat on, lol)

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