Solo Parenting is the closest word I’ve found to describe a family set-up where one parent spends the day to day with the children and the other parent is away for work. It differs from single parenting because in the case of solo parenting, both parents are still in a relationship with each other. A single parent is either divorced, widowed or no longer in a long-term relationship with the other parent.
The term is not ideal though, as it can unhelpfully reinforce the idea that the parent at home with the children is the only one doing all the parenting, rather than the parenting being a joint task, shared even over a distance. It may be true that the day-to-day responsibilities are mostly carried by the non-travelling parent, but should it be true for parenting in general?
One danger of solo parenting is that the non-travelling partner starts to take care of all the parenting, without considering including the travelling parent. Maybe because they are not present in the moment, it doesn’t cross our minds to involve them. Or we assume that since they are away, they can’t get involved. Maybe we even start to think that they don’t want to be involved? So we start to exclude them, without really meaning to.
Though it can be very easy to start heading down this path, it is a dangerous one, as it leads to the travelling partner feeling progressively more isolated from the family. They are less and less involved and more and more disconnected from family life.
So what can be done to stop this from happening? Or at least reduce the problem?
My personal motto is to ask myself the question “Is distance a good enough reason for my husband NOT to be involved in this parenting decision?” Very often, he can indeed be involved.
There are three major parenting areas you can consider involving your partner in.
The Big Picture
This is about discussing values you want to live by and instill in your children, family mottos and atmosphere, pocket money and education. Things like that.
This is about putting into motion what you have decided during the discussions you and your partner have had together.
The Day to Day
Something happens in the family and you are the sole parent involved at that very moment. You need to decide how to respond, what to say, decide if consequences are appropriate and yes, decide how to implement them. Sometimes you can defer a decision until you can discuss it with your partner. Other times it falls on you and you alone to sort out there and then. This area of parenting can be the most exhausting for the holding-the-fort partner.
You might think that your partner can only be involved in the big picture part of parenting but I encourage you to think about how they can be involved in the other two.
Give me feedback here on what you discover and how your family is growing more connected as a result!
Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.