Top 10 Tips When Dad's Away

This one is for Lissa...

1.  Set a time every day for a phone date.  Even with the time difference, make it happen.  What works for us when we're on different coasts is 6 AM for him in the west and 9 AM for me at home.  Breakfast is finished and I plop people in front of Signing Time for half an hour, after explaining that I'm talking to Daddy and it's very important.

2. Remember the minutia.  Some study, somewhere, proved that couples who remembered to tell each other little details of the day remained much more closely knit, despite the distance.  It's the little things that nurture the intimacy of really knowing what your life is like.  If you stop sharing the little things, eventually you stop sharing all the little thoughts.  Then, it's harder to share the bigger thoughts and suddenly, you're back together in the same state and you each have separate histories.

3. Really work a private blog.  This one goes with #2.  Before I ever had a public blog, I set up a private blog for the sole purpose of sharing the little things with people close, yet far away.  It was a place for all the silly things that our children say when Daddy is in a meeting and can't be reached by phone but you just have to tell him.  Then, when it's a really late night on the west coast and it's already the wee hours of the morning on the east coast and he misses you terribly wants to check on his family, you're there on the blog, preferably with pictures.

4.  Let your kids blog.  My children love to post things they know will be read by Daddy and they absolutely live for his comments. This is a really precious means of communication for families who are apart geographically but want to stay tightly connected.

5.  Have "Daddy rituals."  Our three-year-old calls my husband's cell phone from her bed every night to sing him the song from Love You Forever.  And then, no matter where he is or what client is sitting with him at dinner, he sings it back to her (I've never quite figured this out). On the very rare occasion that his phone doesn't work, she sings to his voice mail.  We have precious recordings of our then two-year-old lisping "As long as I'm living, my Daddy you'll be..."

6.  Make dinner every night and make yourself sit down and eat it with the children as a family just as if Daddy were home.  Our meals are noticeably simpler when Mike's not here, but they are still family dinners.  I fight the urge to get something done while they are occupied because it really seems important to them that I sit.

7. Consolidate trips out into "the real world."  My children are older now and I can usually leave them home with my eldest when I have to run errands, but not so long ago, it was the errands that killed me.  It's exhuasting to do all the running and you long for someone to call and ask if you need him to pick up a gallon of milk. See if you can trade off with a neighbor to go solo.  Otherwise, get really organized and don't let yourself run out of milk.

8.  Try to maintain social bonds.  One of the hardest things about having him gone on the weekends is that everybody, everywhere is paired up.  Your children feel his absence in the presence of everybody else's Daddy and you really feel alone in a crowd of couples.  But if someone is kind enough to invite you over without your husband, take her up on it.  It's nice to hang with grownups every once in awhile.

9. Acknowledge that you're it.  You're all alone caring for the physical and emotional safety of a small crowd.  There will be things you can't do because your time is very different from your neighbor's.  And there will be things only your husband understands because no one else can empathize so well.  Write it all down and talk about it during the next phone call.  And then, be sure you sleep.

10.  Seriously consider a twenty decade rosary.  Take it from me and the lady who was pregnant with her eighth baby the entire time her husband was in Iraq, there is no other way to survive. Play the CD as you go to sleep and fall asleep praying.  It doesn't matter if you don't finish your decades and it's way better than crying when your head hits the pillow.

*11. (sneaking this one in) Phone a friend.  You've got the number.