Classic story. Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Girl and boy have a bunch of kids. Boy hits the road with a band of missionary zealots. Tale as old as time.
How do you raise children that are happy and healthy with one parent gone frequently? How do you keep your sons from pulling the wings off butterflies and burning down doghouses? How do you stay sane when little people need you 24 hours a day? Heck if I know. Kidding. But seriously, I don’t know.
Here’s what I do. Keep in mind that my “oldest” (developmentally) is 5, and so I don’t have actual results yet, as far as how screwed up my strategies might make them.
First thing: lighten up on yourself. One parent cannot accomplish everything two parents could. You’re gonna have to make some trades. They don’t have to have home-cooked meals every night, the house doesn’t have to look company-ready all the time, and they might watch more movies than usual. You are going to like your kids more if you don’t try to be everything at once. I’m not saying cease parenting, I’m just saying cut yourself a break somewhere. When Billy Graham gets back in town you can kick back into your Martha Stewart mode.
Listen to your kids, hug them, talk about everything with them and make them a priority, but don’t run yourself ragged. Time is important, not activities.
Another thing I think is vital is having a family sense of ownership in what Daddy’s doing. Talk about what’s happening out there, watch videos or webstreams of ministry times, based on how long of a clip they’re willing to watch. We talk about what states he’s in and track maps to keep up, and pray for him at dinner. You can raise them with an understanding of giving sacrificially to help people, and that’s a valuable lesson. If you’re able to video-chat, that’s really good, to be able to see each other and talk about what’s going on on the road and at home. If you don’t have that capability, talk on the phone. Let them be connected to it all. We get to be a part of something amazing, eternal!
It’s hard not to feel frustrated and alone sometimes, to resent cleaning poop off the wall while he has sno cones with the President or whatever. I won’t tell you not to feel that way (although if it becomes a consistent issue, y’all need to talk), but I will tell you to try not to pass that feeling on to your kids. Make your at-home time fun and celebrate the fun that Dad’s having, too. Then eat ice cream and think dark thoughts after they’re in bed, or do something spiritual, whatever.
I can’t give much advice about having a devotional life while solo parenting, because I’m pretty much a slacker. The best I’ve ever done is keeping up with a Bible reading plan first thing in the morning and trying to enforce a quiet playtime until 8 every morning. If you have some killer tip for that, chime in.
Enforce bedtime, take your evening break seriously. That is a key time to recharge. If you have family or trusted friends, take breaks and let them help.
You’re gonna make it. You are making a difference. Keep up the good work.
Part I here.