My wheels will be rolling over hundreds of miles of pavement later this week as I head to northwest Montana. I'm needed. It isn't a vacation or a chosen time of year for travel, but my whole heart goes; ready, willing and able.
I think that is what I love about this "Homemaker" gig: I'm always needed! Not that I rely on some sort of emotional prop of being "needed", rather, I am a caregiver by nature... I
As a housewife, though, it is easy (and natural) for the whole of household affairs to rest on my shoulders. It is a happy burden I carry, but what happens when I am also needed elsewhere? Somewhere hundreds, even thousands, of miles away, and I must go?
Running a home is much like running a business or managing a department inside of a corporation. It requires time management skills, delegation power and crafty juggling of tasks which are your responsibility... tasks which keep the family fed, cleanly clothed and living in a sanitary environment. Who takes over when the Homemaker must travel?
In the past 5 years I have had to travel away from the home for others' needs more than I have in the whole of the 27 years since I started this gig. However, my first (mostly) solo trip leaving my family without their homemaker for a short period of time was 17 years ago when a sudden and unexpected call prompted a suitcase packed with black and somber maneuvering through a string of airports 24 hours later. Each excursion since has been measurably easier with ample time to plan and pack.
Now, my children are mostly grown but the two middles live at home with the youngest and still look to me as master conductor of the household. My 16 year old was lady of the house on my last trip but she will be accompanying me on this latest one, leaving my husband and the middles to fend. In some measures it is getting easier... but it requires some planning. As I prep to head out later this week, here are just nine things which came to mind
Organizing is key. If you are generally an unorganized person, now is not the time to start from scratch!! Pick up where you are and go forward. As for me, I have a system of lists which we use for checking off chores and watching everyone's schedules. I am currently planning to be away for about a month so I have modified our weekly checklist into a month-long chart with recommended frequencies printed into the check-boxes.
Staying strong has also been helpful. Remembering that my trip will be short and encouraging the family who are staying behind, helps everyone mentally prepare for the shift in authority.
Letting go of how I think things should go and realizing that the family needs to alter HOW things are done to fit the change in flow and hierarchy. As long as pets are fed (and not starved) and plants are watered, I make no other requirements of them. I do leave the a fore mentioned lists, but I don't harp on them. Their dad will have different expectations than I and the last thing everyone needs is to feel like they are competing to satisfy someone who isn't even under the roof at the moment!!
Leave them ready to take over. I will do as much of the deep cleaning as I can before I go, leaving them to maintenance mode while I am gone. I will also sit down with all of them and discuss the checklists and needs of the home which are non-negotiable as well as recommendations and tips for the areas which are more flexible. I will encourage and remind them of how capable they are and how proud I am of them. Kids can often feel insecure when mom is gone... and, surprisingly, so can some husbands! Reflective positive confidence will make them feel capable of holding the reins while I am gone.
Pack the fridge and pantry with easy meals and snacks. If you have time before you go, you can also make a few nutritious dinners and freeze them for reheating. This will make it easier on hubby who will have plenty to adjust to with you gone as it is. And if your husband is anything like mine... I do NOT want him in a grocery store with a debit card... we will have no money left and a freezer full of ice-cream, burgers and jalapeno poppers!!! (When my mom passed away, the church blessed my family with the first few nights of dinners while we all adjusted. It meant so much and I highly recommend it if you know someone who looses a loved one!)
Make necessary arrangements before you leave. If kids are younger and need to get to and from school or activities, be sure to have plans clearly drawn out and arrangements made before departure. Even this simple step can help your family feel as though part of you is still there.
If you homeschool don't feel bad if books need to be set aside until you return. If you feel some form of gap studies are necessary you can encourage or assign books for reading, math facts for reviewing and copy work to maintain penmanship and grammar skills in your absence. Regular academics can easily be caught up when you return.
Allow indulgences. It is difficult for the family to be without us. Setting extra restrictions while we are gone will only exasperate everyone and make the separation worse. I usually allow extra t.v. time and even an eat-out night once a week. I will also bake certain treats for them before I leave so they can enjoy some form of sweet goodness in my absence!
Pray together before you go. Unifying the family under the cloak of prayer will help you feel stronger through the days ahead. It also acknowledges your trust and strength in God to guard the time apart.
Traveling as a Homemaker is no different then when a boss must be away: leaving instructions and tying up loose ends before they go. Being a homemaker is a blessing and a call... but it is also a responsibility.... one we should all treasure and take seriously because others are depending on us.
Having to be apart from the home and family comes for many reasons but, most often, if we are going alone, it is because a loved one needs our help. Often hospital hallways and nursing home bedsides become our temporary home during these 'excursions'. But even if the travel is for a more light-hearted event, worrying about how the home runs while we are gone should be the least of our concerns, and good planning ahead (when possible) can relieve many worries.
If you are reading this I assume you are not prepping to leave the household behind for needed travel, BUT, it is always good to be prepared. As with a fire drill or 'just in case' scenario your family is accustomed to prepare for, it is wise to set up a tentative list and order of operations just in case the Homemaker must travel. Consider:
- necessary chores (just the basics, don't overwhelm them!!) and list them out
- people to call for help to transport kids
- basic operations of the home and how to transfer charge while you are gone.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
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