My Husband Traveling for Work Is Hard on Our Marriage


I wake up at 3 a.m., my hand shooting out beside me, instinctively feeling for my husband in the dark. I always do that when something wakes me up. Finding him there comforts me, helps me fall back to sleep. But on this night (and most weeknights for the past year), my hand finds only empty space. As usual, my husband is out of town.

I roll over in the dark and grab my phone. My eyes adjust to the bright light, and I check for a text telling me my husband is still awake. Nope. It's just past midnight where he is. I read a few things and wish I could go back to sleep, but my heart is racing thinking about my to-do list and whether that scratching noise outside our bedroom is someone sinister waiting to murder me or just one of our pets trying to get into the room.

I wonder what time it is wherever he is and if I can call him.

It's the life of a mom whose husband travels frequently for work.


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I grew up with a dad who traveled out of the country constantly. Even now, at 68, my father spends a good three weeks overseas every month. He loves it.

For me as a little girl, it was awful. He missed almost every milestone in my childhood, barely knew my friends' names, and now, if you asked him, he couldn't tell you the name of a single teacher I had. I hated it.

Now, from experience, I realize my mother must have hated it even more.

She was the one reaching out in a dark room, looking for a spouse who was never there. At least I had her.

When my husband is gone, I am everything to our three children. If my son pees in the middle of the night, it's me who has to go to his bed, change his sheets, comfort him, bathe him, and shush him 40 million times because "the baby is asleep" and "please don't wake your sister."

When the baby cries at 4:30 a.m. there is no his and her early-morning shift. It's just me, nursing her, shushing her, bouncing her, and trying to entertain a 16-pound meatball who is SO HAPPY TO BE ALIVE even before the daylight has crept over the horizon.

It's not just the nights, either.

We do have a sitter who lives with us. Thank God for that. It's something I insisted happen when his travel went from once a year to at least once a week.

But she is also a student and isn't home most evenings, so on those evenings, I have to get dinner for all three kids, manage bedtime for them all on my own, shuttle them to gymnastics, guitar lessons, karate, dance, and soccer while also balancing the baby's fussy time and need to nurse constantly.

And of course, there's homework and reading time and lunches to pack and permission slips to sign, a dog to walk, and a cat to feed.

I'm not complaining, but this is not how it was for most of our marriage. This weekly travel is a new thing, and as such, it's an adjustment.

I finally accepted that I couldn't do it all on my own without help some time last year when the baby was less than 6 weeks old, not sleeping, and my husband was gone for weeks at a time. It seemed every week he was gone there was another snowstorm, another walk to be shoveled, and the mess of the house was becoming overwhelming.

I surrender

I hired quite a bit of help, which has eased a lot of the stress. That overwhelming sense that I am failing everyone in the family from the baby to the dog has largely abated thanks to the extra sets of hands we hired. But the loneliness? That never goes away.

husband traveling

Sure, it's exciting to get the couch all to myself and binge watch Gilmore Girls without my husband's snarky commentary. And yes, I enjoy having our king size bed all to myself for the first half of the night -- although, with three kids, I very rarely wake up alone even if I go to bed that way.

All those "perks" get old, though. Especially at 3 in the morning when I am searching for my BFF and he's nowhere to be found.

That's the hardest part.

You can hire people to clean, take care of the kids, walk the dog, or prepare meals so you can actually focus on your son's homework. But you can't hire someone to comfort you after a nightmare or cuddle you while you watch a scary movie.

As a kid I vowed I'd never be with a man who traveled. Sadly, we don't always control this stuff and we'd be in a lot of trouble without my husband's salary. He loves his job and is happy there, so I put up with it.

But it puts stress on our marriage.

We've always been the type of couple who shares everything, the burdens and the blessings, not to mention all the work stress. I have no one to vent to when I've had a bad day. Sure, we can talk on the phone, but time differences and the fact that I am nearly always unconscious by 9 p.m. put a damper on that.

It won't always be like this, I know. And our family thrives in spite of it. We also have plenty of airline miles and Platinum status that keep us out of coach most times we fly.

It has its upsides.

Still, in the early morning hours when it's still dark outside and the bed is cold bedside me, I wish it could be different. I just miss him too much when he's gone.

Does your husband travel for work? Does it bother you?



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