Tuesday, 22 November 2016

How to Cope in a Commuter Household


Five thirty on a cold dark Monday morning and an alarm clock breaks the silence. Even though the working day doesn’t start til 9am, some are already on the road at 6am with a strong coffee and a holdall packed for the week. Some don’t even get to kiss their kids goodbye as they’re still off in the land of nod. The partner who’s left behind hopes they’ll get to their destination safely, and hopes that they themselves will make it through the week being sole carer for the child or children and working themselves, either inside or outside the home. And all the time counting the days til the other parent comes home for the weekend. They spend the week juggling household chores, household finances, childcare, work, school or crèche drop-offs and pickups and try to keep things as “normal” as possible.



The partner that’s on that road or checking in for their flight is most likely anxious themselves about spending the week away from their family. They miss the family dinner times, the bath time, the story time and the tales about the school day or the latest thing their kids have learnt to do or say. And most of all just being “at home”.


A commuter household is one where one of the parents/partners/guardians of the family has to travel away from the family home and their home town for the purpose of obtaining work, whether for obvious financial reasons or for the potential career advancement. It is a decision which isn’t made lightly by a family, and the costs of this must be weighed up against the benefits. I don’t often get into my personal life on the blog - unless it’s to give you funny toddler anecdotes – but I have been a part of a commuter household. The only reason I mention this is so that you know that the advice that I’m about to give comes from personal experience!  

Some days, I felt like the “lucky” one as I got to spend the most time with our son. I do work full-time but I was there for every bed time and morning time and the middle of the nights in between when he had a bad dream and needed a cuddle. On the other hand, there is then pressure as the responsibility is all on the parent who is still at home. If his teeth didn’t get brushed, if he didn't have a proper dinner, if he was late to crèche, then that was all on me.

And some days, when I was tearing my hair out,  I felt like my husband was the “lucky one” – he missed the tantrums and the middle of the night wakings and the struggle to get Little Man out the door on time.

So what advice do I have for others who are in a similar commuter situation? First of all, I have this advice for the Commuter:

Communication is key.

Communicate with your family as much as possible – phone, text, Skype, Facetime, whatever works for you. Communicate with your partner so that you both know what is expected of you. 



Keep in touch with your children as much as you can so that they learn to understand that you are still around even though you are not at home, and that you will be back soon. 

Children, especially babies and toddlers, need routines and they need to feel secure and that the parent who is not around right now will be back. For a while, my Little Man wouldn’t leave his Dad out of his sight at weekends because he didn’t understand when he would be back again and was afraid of him leaving. When he got a bit older, he understood better that “Daddy has to work but he’ll be back soon”. And he coped with the goodbyes better but he got so excited when Daddy came back. At his age, (two and 8 months), he doesn’t have a concept of how many days there are in a week let alone how many days have passed since he saw him last, but we tried to Facetime as much as possible.

Disagreements will happen, it is inevitable in a stressful situation like this, but it is important not to let the little niggles get out of hand. And don’t leave home at the start of your working week without resolving an argument -  in the same way as you shouldn’t go to bed on one! Get things off your chest straight away and they won't end up as bigger issues when tiredness sets in.


Keep Active.


Find an activity or hobby to keep your mind active while you are away and to help you get to know your new workmates or make new friends. Time to yourself is important to help create a better work-life balance even if the circumstances aren't ideal.


Muck in when you get home. 

Do contribute to the household chores and the childcare at the weekend. If you have a young baby in particular, your partner may be struggling to keep on top of things and will welcome a hand with the grocery shopping, the cooking or the cleaning. Even if it is just putting away laundry or ordering a takeaway for the dinner.

Listen, listen and listen some more.

Listen to the moans and the inevitable rants. They will most likely not be your fault, but, he/she is going to be tired and cranky. Watch out for the signs for when it might be safer to nod and say “yes dear”.

For the partner who is back at home, here are some things that I found helpful.



Again, communication is key. 

Not only between your partner and children but also between you and your partner. Listen to how they feel too. They will also be lonely. Remember they are missing out on those little moments that you are seeing. Keep them in the loop, no matter how trivial the details may seem to you.

Have a sitter on standby.


Find a family member or someone that you trust to have as a babysitter on stand-by. If you can get out to meet a friend for a coffee or a girly shopping trip it can make the world of difference – especially if you are a SAHM who has little contact with other grown-ups during your usual day.

Get your kids into a routine.


If you are a working Mum/Dad like me, try and get your little one/s into a routine as much as possible. Babies and toddlers in particular love a routine and know what to expect when it comes to bedtime etc and are more likely to cooperate if they are in a routine. Having a regular bedtime etc for them will also give you that little bit of breathing space and time to yourself in the evenings to do whatever you need to do or to just chill out or get an early night.

How to be a domestic goddess. (I wish!!)


Split your household tasks up over the week and do different things on different days so that you don’t get overwhelmed by it all. For example, I do most of the laundry and any ironing at the weekends, unless it builds up during the week, and the cleaning jobs are split up over different days for different areas. Do your grocery shopping either at the weekends for the week or online and have it delivered on a Monday. Plan your meals for the week in advance and cook extra where possible to freeze for the little ones’ dinners during the week to save having to provide home cooked meals every day.

It's good to talk.


If you are missing adult company, talk to your friends and family. If you can’t get out, invite a friend over for a coffee. Sometimes even getting the latest toddler or teenager drama off your chest and having a laugh about it with a friend is enough.

Take some time for yourself.


It is equally important for the parent who is at home with the kids to develop some sort of interest or hobby. In fact my blog was born out of a need to have something “just for me” and a creative outlet to show that there is more to me than just being a Mammy and having a full-time job. I have also had the opportunity to meet lots of fantastic fellow bloggers out of chatting to them online. It may be starting your own blog about whatever you are passionate about, or doing an online course or learning a new skill but whatever it is, do try and keep your mind active.


And finally, some advice for both of you: Work and domestic life and the tiring commute can get in the way but try and have a “date night” for yourselves at least once a month. Getting time away from the kids is not easy and requires planning but grown up time also is really important for both of you. 

In the words of Jess Glynn, don’t be so hard on yourself. Like most situations, this is probably only temporary but all you can do is your best. Make the most of what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t and your children will remember this and they will know that whatever happens, family is what counts. 









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2 comments

  1. I think within every family it is hard to find this balance and to focus on positivity. Nothing prepares you for all the emotions and unexpected feelings of guilt and resentment that can enter your life when you have children. But you are right, family is everything. Very moving and well-written post <3

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words <3

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