Jacqueline Kennedy once said, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much."
Raising children is a full-time job, and women married to over-the-road drivers pull a double shift in their role as Mommy and Daddy. Neither position is easy, but the distance increases the responsibility for the parent at home. This parent is usually a mom who has her own life, maybe her own job, and ultimately her own needs to balance with those of her offspring.
How can families of professional drivers maintain a positive relationship with a dad who's often away and a mom who's struggling to keep up? No one ever said it would be easy, but if you are determined to make the best of the situation, you can survive and even thrive.
There are certain times when Dad's absence seems to be more than we can handle
There are certain times when Dad's absence seems to be more than we can handle. The hardest situation is when "Junior" is in a ball game or a musical performance and you want dad to be there beaming with pride at his talented child, instead of sitting at a loading dock a thousand miles away. You watch the other fathers who encourage their children and then take them out for pizza after the game. You wonder if your son or daughter notices the other kids' dads in the audience and feels the same way.
A reader in Ohio writes about her fears that her children will be resentful of their dad when they grow up, and what kind of fathers will they become without the influence of their own dad. She writes, "So many times I have to rely on friends or parents to fill in the gaps that I feel my husband should be doing."
The key words in this statement are, "I feel." The question is, does this woman's husband feel the same way? Maybe he is content with the amount of time he spends with his kids, and is satisfied with their relationship. Or, maybe he feels that she is doing such a great job, and he is confident that they are getting more than enough attention from their mom.
As the stay-at-home parent, it is our job to make those gaps as small as possible. We may cheer louder than the other moms when our child hits a home run, or we might come early to the band concert so we can get a front row seat in order to videotape the performance. We schedule our own lives around practices, rehearsals, games, concerts, and recitals. Why do we try too hard? As Jackie Kennedy said, we wouldn't want to bungle our kids' childhood years, but more importantly, we want our children to know that they are vital to us.
So, it's our responsibility to provide for our children in the best way possible. This means that we don't point out the other dads in the bleachers. We make the most of the situation we're in because we are the ones who fill those gaps. We can speak positively about our spouses and remind our children that Daddy would really prefer to be at the game, but he's working hard so we can enjoy these activities. If we can be relaxed and project our positive attitudes, then our children will accept their dad's absence. They will follow our lead.
Instead of worrying about our child's relationship with their dad, we need to work on what we do have control over, which is our own relationship with our kids. We can't pretend that we aren't concerned, but we can concentrate on what we can do to make our kids' childhood years the best they can be, without bungling them along the way. So, stop putting a guilt trip on your dear trucking husband. He's got enough worries of his own. Just have as much fun with your kids while you can, and make the most of your time with them. Take them out for pizza yourself, and videotape them from the front row. You can tell Dad about the game later, and show him the film when he's home. Your children will remember how much you cared, but they'll also know that they were loved by both parents–the one in the front row, and the one at the loading dock a thousand miles away.
If you have suggestions in making your children's childhood as "bungle free" as possible, please write or e-mail me. In the next issue we'll discuss ways to bridge the gaps between a child and your truckdriver spouse.
Write Ellen Voie, c/o Land Line Magazine, P.O. Box L, Grain Valley, MO 64029, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org . We'll keep your identity anonymous, but please sign all correspondence or it won't be considered. Thanks, and keep writing.