Coping With Separation II

dadenvelope.jpgMy husband recently returned from 10 days in Mexico, and while I realize that many families are split up for far longer stretches, this was a big deal for us. Prior to Jon’s departure, I prepped myself by revisiting and gleaning ideas from the coping with separation collective editorial that I posted last spring. And below are additional tips that proved useful for making it through the separation:

  • Keep a log. We had minimal contact with Jon since his itinerary was jam packed and his access to phone and internet very limited. So Laurel and I decided to keep a log. I labeled a sheet of construction paper for each day and we wrote down all the things we did at the end of each day. I was surprised by how much Laurel enjoyed creating the log, and Jon loved reading it; the log provided a way for him to talk about the time apart with Laurel in a very positive and fun way.

  • Visit the library. I am utterly grateful for our excellent public library. We made several trips, which both motivated us out of the house and brought fresh material into our daily routines at no cost.

  • Catch up on visits. My mom recently took a spill on the ice so we did extra check ins over the weekends while Jon was away. It allowed time for my mom and Laurel to bond, while I helped with errands and other household matters.

  • Explore new places and projects. Since Jon was gone over two weekends, I made a point of planning some fun new experiences with Laurel, such as visiting new museums and restaurants, and trying new craft projects.

  • Opt for the absurd shopping cart. I needed to take Laurel on various errands that I otherwise might run on my own if Jon was home so I made a point of doing small extras for her, such as opting for the absurdly giant, impossible to maneuver space ship shopping cart at the grocery story, or stopping mid-afternoon for an ice cream cone after doing errands at the mall. Seeing her face light up over those minor treats made me feel glad about her enjoyment and less bad about dragging her around on errands.

  • Accept help. This sounds obvious, but I tend to have trouble accepting help since I hate inconveniencing people. So I just forced myself to let go of that and said yes to the offers and was immensely grateful to have the support. We actually went 3 nights without making dinner due to dinners/playdates with friends, and then a couple of my sisters tagged in to help with a couple of hours here and there to give me a little time on my own.

  • Reciprocate kindness. For the support we got above, I reciprocated by bringing food contributions for meals, paying for take out, and making cookies for our neighbor who unburied us from one of the snowstorms with his snowblower because he knew Jon was away. (The cookie baking also served as a fun project to do with Laurel indoors.)

  • Daddy grab bag. Following on the small treat per day of separation idea from the previous separation post, we didn’t have time to make individual bags, but what worked great was just tossing everything in one paper bag. (All of the items were little baubles or craft supplies from the drugstore dollar section so it wasn't a huge investment.) Jon left a note on it telling Laurel that she was allowed to pick one treat per day, and that by the time the bag was empty that would mean he was on his way home. We did the selection after dinner, to celebrate making it through another day while allowing for some play time with the treat before bedtime. It was so cute to see her squeeze her eyes shut and pick from the bag, then write on the daily log what she had picked.

  • Make time for yourself. Despite the fact that the single parenting stint meant I was pretty short on time in general, I made a point of doing a few things for me through the week since I otherwise was outputting all of my energy for Laurel, work, or household minutia. I did yoga a few times during the 10 day stretch, and also enjoyed lunch out with a girlfriend. All of this occurred during day care hours (meaning, I got less work done), but the sanity it brought was worth it.