Today more than ever before, mothers are on the move. Opportunities to travel in connection with jobs, husbands' business trips, special vacations, or other reasons can often mean being away from home for two or three weeks.
How will the home be managed? How can the daily schedule be maintained? Who will care for young children? How will the children by affected by the mother's extended absence?
These are difficult questions. Some mothers find them an insurmountable challenge and decline any such trips. Other mothers, fortified by the conviction tht the trip is worthwhile, seek out the answers. Step by step a plan can evolve which covers the family's needs and eases a mother's doubts and concerns.
Whether she is away for one day or one month, the first step in successful planning is continuing the atmosphere of home. Since love is the desirable essence of home, there must be sources of a mother's love and care to carry on. This can involve news expressions and outlets different from the family is accustomed to, but as long as the love continues, the unavoidable disruptions won't become a problem. In a mother's absence, children often take on a more thoughtful, supportive role.
There are no simple answers that will suit every family in such a situation. The following ideas come from three mothers who took their first trips without families. They all had children of elementary school age and were gone an average of two weeks.
The first consideration was establishing a schedule with responsible relatives, neighbors, or favorite sitters in charge. Although the timing was often tricky, the children were never left alone. Reciprocal child care was extended when possible.
Before one mother departed, she wrote each child a short note and sealed it in an envelope, along with a surprise from the local toy and crafts store. She did this for each day, writing the date the envelopes could be opened on the outside.
Before another mother departed, she recorded several tapes with stories and comments to the children. They had a unique bedtime story with their mother each night.
Some children found frequent mail addressed to them. Post cards let them visualize their mother's location, and short notes kept them in touch.
Busy fathers and had suppers and favorite dishes stocked in the freezer -- prepared ahead of time by mom. Alerted neighbors invited families for homemade meals.
A father's active participation at this time can be the best contribution of all. One father took several days of from work, tied the apron strings, and learned how to make rice and other dishes. It became a special, close time with his children.
Certainly if a mother makes a long exodus from home routinely, children may not thrive in such transient life styles. But occasional short separations can have some positive results, as seen in evaluations by these three mothers:
"Looking back, it was alearning exper ience for us all. Most of all, the children realized at an early age that parents are individuals."
"I feel mom is appreciated more. At the same time my son is some independent."
"Over this period we all learned to let go a little. the children found that someone else could be in charge -- I learned to ease up on the discipline."
Loving attention provides the thread of continuity that keeps the family functioning smoothy even when the mother is away on an extended trip.