With an on-call, traveling spouse, our schedule is often up in the air, just like his. We don’t usually know his schedule from one moment to the next, and so our days are different: Daddy’s here, Daddy’s gone. (Where is Daddy, anyway? And when is he coming home?)
I certainly live best when I follow along a general routine or rhythm from the morning on, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The lifestyle we live brings its own brand of insanity to home and family management, but there are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Use interim, or unexpected time. Maybe you have a list of phone calls to make, emails to send, or other quick jobs you can accomplish in 10-15 minutes here and there.
After coming home with kids from a recent gymnastics lesson, I found my husband making lunch for us. He was preparing to head out for a multi-day trip, but didn’t leave until mid-day. You bet I used my normal lunch-making time to get some quick jobs done, something I’ve been bad about in the past (you know, the old if-I-don’t-have-lots-of-time-I-won’t-even-get-started trap).
I’m learning to use that time. Sometimes I make a phone call, other times I sneak in a quick clean-up in the home office or fold a load of laundry. It’s unexpected extra time (in other words, a gift!) and I try and take advantage of it.
Use a flexible meal plan. I admit that I sometimes cook a little differently when I know my husband will be home for supper. He’s low-maintenance with meals, but I like something that will help keep us at the dining room table for a bit longer than normal. Also, I tend to fix things I know he especially likes when he’s going to be home.
But there are times I’ve made a plan on Sunday, and changed Monday’s plan three times due to his changing schedule. This may be why I’ve never kept a consistent habit of meal-planning. (If I’m going to fancy up a meal, I kinda like it to be appreciated, and I just don’t get that from the kids. You know what I mean, right? It’s not them, or him. It’s me).
Decide what needs to stay the same, and what you might want to change up. Whether my husband is home or not, the boys have quiet time (and you better believe so do I). We keep the same general meal time, chore responsibilities, and bedtime. And it isn’t like we sit around and wait for him to come home. We go to ball practice, and church, and birthday parties.
(I don’t get out much, but that is a different blog post entirely).
If Daddy’s been gone several days, and tensions are high, and I’m worn out, we might stray from the schedule a bit: go out for a treat after school, watch a movie with some popcorn in our laps – anything to take the edge of off all of us. Which apparently normally involves feeding our bellies.
If you live with this kind of uncertainty in your family routine I want to hear from you. It’s a hard home management problem to understand unless you’re living it. Are you?
Flickr photo, “Doug’s Daily Planner” courtesy of Doug Belshaw. I’m impressed with everything he has crossed off his very cool-looking list at the end of the day. And all those Paris clocks? Flickr photo #2, folks, courtesy of Nick.