A sizeable proportion of my couples counselling includes partners where one commutes either interstate or overseas. Whilst there are so many up-sides to this work, here are some of the common challenges I hear:
- Relationships become strained and one parent often takes on the role of single parent.
- Children are impacted emotionally spending time looking forward to Mum or Dad’s return and then having to say good- bye again.
- FIFO workers may find it difficult to adjust from single life to family life.
- Both partners need down time, time with each other, and time with their children.
- A sense of isolation and loneliness that can lead to depression.
- Fatigue due to very long shifts (for the parent at home and the person away).
- Missing significant events such as birthdays and weddings.
- Often high levels of stress.
- Struggling to feel part of the community due to long stretches away.
- A sense of not belonging to anyone.
Thankfully we have the benefit of the huge variety of phone Apps to keep working partners in touch with their family. It certainly doesn’t replace touch, but a quick “FaceTime” at the soccer match is a wonderful tool. Other ideas are:
- Plan ahead with class teachers to invite the working parent in for a “Show and Share” about their job. You can engineer any job to sound exciting!
- Exchange drawings or notes in lunch boxes.
- Make regular one on one breakfast dates with the working parent before school if you have multiple children.
- Arrange for a spontaneous school pick-up by the working partner. It might be infrequent but avoid being too rigid in your roles as these surprises will be memorable.
- Create a special regular ritual such as “Saturday morning pancake cook up” when the working parent is home that creates a special connection.
- Create an online shared photo album or scrap book of events to share important achievements such as awards or exciting things to share with the working parent.
- Draw up a special calendar featuring input from the Children on days when a travelling parent arrives home.
- Make your own private YouTube channel with a home “news report” made by the children and one by the absent parent.
- Importantly, ensure both parents are understanding of hectic times during their schedule such as meetings and evening bath/meal times!
It’s helpful for parents to collaborate on an “insurance plan” on how you’ll transition again each time you reunite. This can include:
- What down-time does each partner require when they return home to rejuvenate from long working hours or long days spent with the children?
- What roles and responsibilities at home can be clearly allocated to relieve resentment.
- What are you looking forward to as a couple/family? E.g. future holidays, the next birthday celebration together?
- How are you maximising the financial rewards? Do you need a goal to conclude commuting by a certain time frame?
This lifestyle can certainly provide amazing benefits such as greater financial rewards, relief from the standard working hours and for some, thousands of frequent flyer points! With planning and effort, many commuting parents enjoy a fun and connected relationship with their family.
This article is by our guest contributor – Joanne Wilson. She is a neuropsychotherapist, relationship specialist, workshop facilitator, guest speaker, weekly columnist for the Sunshine Coast Daily and
breakfast co-host on Salt 106.5. Don’t miss more on this in her “Is This Love” Podcast and download FREE relationship resources at www.relationshiprejuvenator.com.
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