From time to time, my spouse has to go away for long periods of time for his job. This leaves me alone with three children, two pets, and a house to handle by myself. Generally, I rely on his help after work to allow me to keep my stress and depression under control. Obviously, when he leaves, I can only rely on myself. Three big things help me handle these separations.
Prepare the Mind
The first thing to prepare starts before the separation. A lot of the struggle in the mind, so we need to prepare our minds for the change. We need to help ourselves understand that things will change. Our normal help will leave.
Instead of freaking out over the separation as we prepare our minds, plan how to handle situations. Now, we can’t for every situation, but for most, we can at least reassure ourselves that we can do it. Remember that you’ve done it before. This separation does not change that. You might also want to start thinking about what coping mechanisms you need and can use regularly. This way we are ready to handle the change.
Use schedules, especially when alone with children. I’m not talking strict, every minute planned, schedules. No, I mean a more fluid schedule, like a daily outline. Things like breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime, wake-up time, if done regularly it will help. Children then know what to expect and will stay calmer throughout the day.
For example, my children expect me to wake them up after my workout for family scriptures and prayer. Immediately afterward we dress clean bedrooms and eat breakfast. After that we do school, with lunch around noon, then an afternoon snack. They know to do chores before play or screen time. About an hour before bed we might read a story, have family prayer, and then quiet play or reading in their rooms. With this schedule, I have fewer fights and struggles. Most of the schedule we followed while dad was here. The only change was the quiet play an hour before bed. I added that for my sanity. I need a little alone time to unwind and get rest.
There was probably one thing you needed to do to help cope with the depression and stress. For me, I needed quiet, alone time. Some people might need adult conversation. While you might not have the time or help to do all coping skills, pick the most important skill. This is the one that without, everything would fall apart. Then before the separation or within the first few days, figure out how to implement it daily.
As mentioned, my coping that I need is some alone time. Usually, my spouse comes home from work and I disappear for an hour or two. Obviously, I can’t do that during a separation. Instead, I added it to the schedule at the end of the day. By taking that last hour before bed with all the children in their rooms, I don’t have to worry about fighting or destruction. I can relax and have some time to myself. By the time I get in the bed, I can take a few deep breaths to remove the rest of my tension and go to sleep.
Separation from a spouse for any period of time can be difficult. It can become even more difficult by adding in depression and alone with children. While difficult, it is not impossible. Through preparation beforehand, schedules, and knowing what helps, the separation starts to feel manageable. Try these few things to help prepare for any times you might have apart from your spouse.