NOTE: This post originally appeared at authenticmanhood.com. I have contributed to their men’s curriculum called 33 The Series. If you aren’t familiar with 33, I hope you will check it out at 33series.com. If you want a discount code, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. By way of transparency, I get a small cut if you use my discount code when you purchase the curriculum, but I’d promote it even if I didn’t.
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Most of us struggle to find the balance between work and home. We feel like we are stuck in the middle of a tug-of-war between the office and the house, and we can only win at one or the other. Many live with a constant low-grade guilt about the lack of time with their kids. This struggle seems especially strong for those that travel.
Iʼm not a normal business traveler. In fact, my routine typically keeps me busy but close to home. Over the last few months, Iʼve found myself in a pattern of traveling every other week. This new rhythm of life has got me thinking. What does it mean to reject passivity and accept responsibility as a father who is on the road?
First, know this: your work matters. We often overlook the spiritual value of hard work, but we are called to provide for our families, to make a positive contribution to the world, to honor God by doing our jobs well. Just donʼt allow work to matter too much. When your job consistently limits your investment with your children, it might be time to recalibrate.
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” With that in mind, I hope you will consider this post more of a digital roundtable on this topic. These are ideas Iʼve had. Iʼve tried some of them. Iʼve failed to try some of them. Some of you have traveled with greater regularity, and you will have even better ideas. I would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.
Seven ideas for fathers who travel…
- Prioritize focused time with your kid(s). Wise men proactively organize their schedules around what is most important. They fight the temptation to live under the “tyranny of the urgent,” refusing to allow pressing matters to crowd out the most important things. So, prioritize an hour with your kids before or after a trip. Shoot some hoops or take your kid(s) to breakfast on days before you leave town.
- Manage the transitions well – For some, this is difficult. My natural tendency is to procrastinate with making my travel plans, but Iʼve found that it is critical to plan and organize my departure and return so that things are not crazy and stressful (for me or for my family). When these times are frantic, it multiplies the impact of being gone.
- Write a note to be opened while you are gone. I know, I know. Some of you donʼt think you are a “writer,” but it doesnʼt have to be that hard. Think of one thing that your kid does well, and let him or her know how proud you are. Think of the unique way that God has made your child. Is your kid thoughtful or hilarious or competitive or caring? Highlight one attribute you see in them. Say I love you. Donʼt be afraid to share your heart. Let them know you are happy that God put them in your life.
- Find an app or internet game to play. With so many apps and games available, find one that you can play. My 10 year old and I played Words with Friends for a few weeks. He could take his turn after school, and I could take my turn at night so that it was his turn again the next day. Iʼm guessing there are other apps that would allow for these easy touch points to stay connected.
- Facetime, skype or call. This seems easy, but Iʼve found it more difficult than I thought. When my kids are available to talk during the afternoon, Iʼm usually pounding away at work or in meetings. When Iʼm available to talk during the evening, my kids are usually in the middle of the dinner, bath, bedtime routine. If itʼs too late, I can hardly get them to answer two questions. I tend to get batter responses if I can sneak in a call before dinner time.
- Record a video reading your childʼs favorite book – If your child is small, itʼs hard to beat reading books at bedtime. With phones, Ipads and computers having built-in video devices, itʼs never been easier to record a video. Take five minutes one evening before you leave and record a video of yourself reading his or her favorite book. Your spouse can play it for your child while you are out of town.
- Guard your weekends – When you are regularly on the road, you need to especially guard your calendar on the days when you are home. As much as possible, try not to let loose ends linger around on your projects so that they demand your attention later. Discipline yourself to work hard on the road so that you can be fully present when you are home. Donʼt just be home; be engaged at home.
It can be difficult to balance family and work when you are on the road. It will require intentionality. Hopefully, something here got you thinking about your role as a traveling father. Maybe it sparked an idea for you. Iʼd love to read your thoughts.
Any ideas you would share with us? What has worked well for you? What do you find difficult? How do you manage to balance family with life on the road?
Share your ideas in the comment section below.