Parenting is not easy. We tend to end up pressuring ourselves, always debating if we’re doing the best thing in raising our kids well. However, it gets twice as hard when you’re not able to be there with your children every day. Your mind is filled with what-ifs and doubts about whether you should really pursue long distance parenting.
Even if you’re the strongest person out there, homesickness hits a bit differently when you’re a parent. And since we know that our child is too young to understand these things, we have to exert extra effort to make them feel that we never forget about them every day.
I was scared, imagining how my child might not even recognize me one day. But I realized that I don’t have to beat myself up too hard. Perhaps you’re like me, and you need to work abroad to provide the best future for your child. If so, let me tell you how it’s possible to still have a close relationship with your child despite the distance.
Remind Your Child That You’re Available
First of all, I know that most of the day, you’re busy at work. At the same time, you and your little one might not even be in the same time zone. Perhaps they are already sleeping by the time you’re free to read their messages. You might also be thinking that it might disappoint your child if they find out you’re not able to see their messages right away.
However, small reminders like leaving a message on why you won’t be able to reply immediately can reassure your child that you’re not ignoring them. Over time, this will prevent them from thinking, “Mom doesn’t reply anyway, why bother?”
Remember that there is already a physical distance between you and your child, so maintaining the lines of communication is a must. This will strengthen your bond with each other, and should start even if they seem like they’re too little to remember these small moments.
Find a moment in your schedule, even if it’s just 10 minutes, when both of you can talk. This will keep you updated with what’s happening with your child’s life, and remind them that they can always feel that they’re able to talk to you. Once your child gets comfortable confiding to you, even remotely, when you get home it won’t be as awkward.
I don’t mean that every communication always has to be an active form, like a video call or voice chat. With me, I always send a care package every month. What’s inside doesn’t have to be expensive. Children will still appreciate small items like art supplies, small toys, and snacks that are unique to your location. Activity packages are also nice because we get to continue them once I get home. And of course, don’t forget to include a handwritten note inside.
Communicate with Your Spouse
When I had to be at work for months away from my baby, I had to make sure that I would still be there to witness her milestones. But this also involves guiding my husband with everything that he has to do. This is another incredibly vital part of long distance parenting; communication with your partner.
You have to be available to communicate, not just with your child, but also with your spouse. By doing so, both of you are preventing yourselves from getting disappointed if one person doesn’t do something that you’re expecting. Think about it: It’s unfair to set expectations when you didn’t voice them in the first place. At the same time, the other person can talk about their opinions as well. You’ll both meet halfway in finding the best parenting style.
I remember video calling my husband when he had to feed our daughter. Since I’m away, we had to find the best formula for our little one. I ended up talking to him on a drive about which ingredients to read on the label.
Being open-minded in your communication with your partner helps prevent conflict. And maintaining contact with your spouse gives you another perspective on your child’s life. They are the one who gets to interact in person with your child, so they’re probably noticing other changes or issues.
Do not also forget to appreciate your spouse. It’s especially hard to be away from your partner, and it can get overwhelming to raise a child without them. A simple “I love you, and I’m so proud of you” before ending a call can go a long way. I remember jumping and clapping when my husband bragged that he got our daughter potty trained.
Create a Routine and Small Traditions
Nowadays, technology makes everything faster and easier. Need to ask something? You can instantly message them using your phone. You can even have access to your front door camera, or order gifts online and send them regardless of where you are in the world.
As I have mentioned earlier, communicate with both your partner and child. You can all find a common schedule where everyone can dedicate their time to just talk with each other. I’m lucky that even though we have unmatched timelines, I have some free time in the afternoon. At that time, we get to read to our little one for bedtime. Our whole family even has a movie night on the weekends.
This has been our routine, and it’s easy enough to stick to without any pressure. My son in college also calls me every time he’s walking home from school. And although this only happens every Friday, it’s still something that helps us stay up to date with each other.
Lastly, just because you’re a plane ride or long drive away doesn’t mean that small traditions are impossible. My daughter loves receiving emails with the subject “Open When…” These are different themed letters that are suitable for days where she might be feeling sad, hungry (those ones contain restaurant coupons), or cranky. We even have a shared drive so I can help her with homework, as well.
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