Jay asked me this question a few weeks ago and I’ve been pondering it ever since. He asked, “How do you manage your travel and relationships balance since you are gone so often?
Here is my answer:
I travel. A lot. My career has me hop skipping and jumping across the country for 2-5 day meetings throughout the year. Last year I stayed just about 110 nights in a hotel, and as of the end of August, I’m already at 89 nights. Read here if you want to travel the right way. Many of my coworkers are either single or married with no kids in the house. I’m married with 4 kids in the house. So how do I do it? How do I balance the demands of home life with being on the road?
What if you don’t travel? You could just be at the office from 8-5 but a 2-hour commute on either end of it. Or what if you do shift work? 12-hour shifts can be a bitch for the home life. The same strategies apply.
Here are my five tips for balancing travel and relationships:
1. Have a Great Partner
This one probably seems like the biggest no brainer, but it sets the foundation for a good relationship. My wife is truly the best first mate I could ever ask for. I do not have any reservations about her ability to handle anything that comes up while I’m gone. She is not one that dumps her shit on me and expects me to handle it. She also isn’t paralyzed by inaction when problems do arise. We talk usually every evening (schedules permitting) and she gives me the rundown of the day. If problems do arise she is telling me about how she handled them. It’s a great feeling to know that no matter what comes up, she will handle it.
I can’t stress this point enough. IF you do not have a great partner, even the occasional trip will be hell for you. I know there are many guys out there that like to be “Mr. Captain-save-a-hoe”. They love “solving” all of the problems their woman brings to them. The problem here is two-fold: either your woman can’t handle even the most basic problems life throws at her or, she is stoking your “fragile” male ego by bringing up every problem so you can give her your solutions.
If she doesn’t own any big girl panties, she needs to get some and put them on. You aren’t her dad, she is your partner. IF you can’t count on her…
…why are you with her?
If you do not have a great partner, you need to stop right here, analyze your relationship and figure out why you are with her. If she comes to you with every problem, that means she is quite needy of your time. If you are now gone, even occasionally, where will she get her attention from?
Traveling can put a lot of strain on a relationship. The bottom line here is that if your partner can’t handle it, don’t do it or get a new partner who can.
2. Set Expectations Early/Often
Assuming you have a good partner, then you can move onto step 2. You need to make sure you answer the following questions:
How often will you call? What about texting?
What hours will you be working?
Where are you staying?
When is your flight home?
Having all of these questions answered in some form will greatly decrease the stress on your partner. I have a shared google calendar with my wife that has all of the details of my work schedule on it. Besides that, I also share with here how available I will be during the day for texts, etc. Letting her know ahead of time will decrease some of the anxiety and will help balance the travel and relationships equation.
All of these questions are not answered once, they are answered as often as they need to be. I have found that being upfront and honest with her beforehand really helps to eliminate any unnecessary stress.
3. Being Gone Does Not Mean Being Absent
Make sure that even though you are gone, you communicate with your partner to let them know you still have them in mind. You’d be surprised how far a quick “thinking of you” text, either sent or received, goes for the person receiving it. Be sure that you are keeping up on what the other person and the family are doing. Additionally, be aware of other things your partner and your family have going on. You don’t want to give her a call while she is in the middle of cooking/dinner just because it’s convenient for you. I can’t even begin to count the number of times where I have talked with my wife at midnight my time just because its what made sense in her schedule.
Be sure you schedule time in your day to check in on your partner and your kids. MY kids always love hearing about where I am and if I’ve found anything interesting. Find creative ways to stay involved.
4. Handle Your Shit
When you are away from home your responsibilities do not end. In fact, you need to take better control of your schedule to better balance the travel and relationships spectrum. I really look at my home life responsibilities in two categories: Things I have to be at home for, and Things that can be done remotely. Make sure to take care of anything you can take care of remotely when you are traveling. Things such as paying bills, arranging appointments, doing expense reports, misc job activities. Don’t save that stuff for when you get home, do it on the road. When you get home make sure you have a good plan to take care of any of the household responsibilities you have.
5. When You Are Home, Be Present for Your Family
This is absolutely key. I always try to have my travel be as short as possible so that I can spend as much time at home as possible. But what good is that if you are totally wiped out and sleeping, or have extra work to do? When you are at home and off the road be there with your family. After all, aren’t they the reason you work so hard in the first place?
Travel isn’t the easiest thing on the family, however, it does not have to be the end of it either. By keeping the communication open and being as transparent as possible you can balance your travel and relationships a bit easier.