Last Sunday night I kissed my family a tearful goodbye and drove off into the sunset heading three hours down the road. Why? I started in my new job on the Monday and my family I staying in our home in Wodonga. I’ll commute the 340km each weekend and then stay in an apartment (in Canberra) through the week. And so begins our long distance relationship. This is intended to be the first in an ongoing series of updates to track how this long distance parenting arrangement goes.
So far after one week, it seems ok. Hard, but doable. Luckily because of the time I need to start work each day I can call on my way to work (20 min drive) and then again on the way home. If I manage to maintain this daily, I can speak to the kids for almost an hour a day, which is almost as much as I did previously during the busiest periods of my previous job. Except that I’m not there for cuddles and bed routine, which sucks.
But phone calls aren’t enough. We need to make the most of the time that I am home. So how do we plan to do this. Firstly my wife and I have put together a date jar and each fortnight we’ll draw a date to do in two weeks time. It could be going to the movies, dance lessons, truffle hunting, winery tours, anything really. This is intended to be dates just for us and should hopefully help ensure that we invest in “us.”
As for the kids, well if this weekend was anything to go by, they’ll have me pulled in every direction each week. This weekend (just gone) they had me play Minecraft (on the Xbox); go out to lunch at a nice chocolate place in Corowa (that also distils its own whiskey) where the kids got to make their own chocolate treats*; go for a play down the park; and, then have a movie night at home after making our own pizzas for dinner. By far though, the highlight was when I got home on Friday night and they were sitting in the front door waiting for me. I heard them scream “Daddy,” from in the car, on the road, before I’d even stopped.
Leaving again on the Sunday was incredibly hard and I hated having to do it however this arrangement isn’t all suffering, there are seeds of opportunity there if we invest the time and effort. For example, before my motorcycle accident (read about it here) I would work 0630 am – 0600 pm and be exhausted and irritable by the time I got home. I’d only get home just in time to tuck the kids into bed but I was always very grumpy and I hated myself for it. Then on weekends I’d just want to unwind and rejuvenate after the week that was. I wasn’t putting in my best Dad work at the time.
The opportunity in this situation is that as much as the distance is hard, it leaves no room to take each other for granted. Every minute together counts and what’s more than that is that since I have to drive 340km to get home I have time to decompress after the week at work and to effectively leave work at work. We have the opportunity to be more deliberate about things and to make a point of doing the things that we often speak about but would often take for granted if time was plentiful.
With my wife, it sounds weird but it gives us the opportunity to actually date as our relationship progressed very quickly in the early days and there were a lot of dates that we never got around to. If we play it right we can generate some of the excitement of having a nice planned date locked in all week and counting down the days till we get to see each other again and go on said date.
Of course, it could prove to be a disaster as well, but I’m a fairly optimistic person and I’m confident that we can turn this adversity into a good adventure over time. I’ll post updates of how it is going over time.
Have you ever had to be a long distance parent? If so, leave a comment with your story below, I’d love to hear it. Also if you enjoyed this piece you can find me over on twitter here or on Instagram here. Lastly if you found this post enjoyable or informative and would like to subscribe to get updates when new content is posted, you can do so using the follow button.
*This also led to a situation that deserves a mention as an addendum to “My Top 3 Most Traumatic Toilet Training Moments.” More on that in a future post.