NEW YORK — The moment my husband walks through the door after travelling for work — something he does about a third of the year — is pandemonium. Our two sons pounce on him. Our dog loses her mind. And I feel a mixture of love, relief and resentment.
Our arrangement often feels disorienting. When my husband is away, my two children and I are an efficient unit. Then comes “Dada,” with his bear hugs and spicy tacos — and a need to be reminded of who gets picked up from what after-school activity when.
I asked experts for strategies to help couples manage the complexities of “solo” parenting.
FOCUS ON TEAMWORK, EVEN FROM AFAR. Ms Eve Rodsky, the author of “Fair Play” — a book about divvying up domestic labor — said it is important for couples to agree that the partner who remains home is not the sole parent.
That means the travelling partner must stay engaged, Ms Rodsky said, and not just with FaceTime. Find ways to help from a distance, she said.
Perhaps the travelling parent can order groceries online or manage an extracurricular activity or two. That might mean doing things like coordinating weekly car pools.
TREAT ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES WITH CARE. Military spouses have extensive experience with solo parenting, said Ms Stephanie Allen, marketing and communications director for the Military Spouse Advocacy Network, whose husband serves in the Navy.
She noted that “homecoming briefs” for military spouses tend to emphasise the importance of clear conversation around expectations.
Before her husband returns from a deployment, they will discuss: What has the routine been? Are there any new rules or conventions in place?
DIVE INTO THE ‘DAILY GRIND’. Ms Rodsky believes that having the returning parent focus on “daily grind” tasks may be a useful strategy for many families looking to mitigate some of the initial turmoil.
That means housework, grocery shopping and making meals — tasks that are eternal and largely unchanging. What matters is that each partner takes full ownership of their given tasks, from conception through execution.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.