My husband travels a lot for work. We have 2 young kids and I work part time. It's a lot to manage on my own! I countdown the days until he comes back in part because I miss him but honestly...because I need a break! He comes home and we are all very happy to see each other but after a day or two I feel like I am still doing everything. We end up fighting because he's tired from travel but I'm tired from chasing these kids day and night! How do we plan for a happier homecoming?

Your struggles speak to the situation many of us will face when we re-enter the busy “opened” world once again.

Many of us have enjoyed a slower pace, and it is tempting to just jump back into it again, without pausing to reflect.

But that would be a mistake.

It is best to assume that both partners have “too much to do,” and may also not be able to find an equal “balance.”

But both of you can sit down and talk about what feels “equitable” in your relationship, as opposed to “equal.”

It is also sometimes hard to see your partner’s perspective, or for them to see yours without a longer conversation. Assuming both of you want to see the other happy, rather than get maximum advantage for your own free time, talk to each other about what you see as “ideal.” 

You may not realize that you want to “head out” the day or two after he returns, and have few household or parenting responsibilities, until you reflect on it and try. He may want a particular block of time to recover from jet lag. Only by imagining two overworked people trying to figure out a better solution will you come up with one.

And don’t overlook the fact that the current arrangement, with the demands of work, could currently be unworkable. One can set limits on the demands of work, and should, if you both believe you are stretched to the breaking point. Look at the stage of life you are in and realize that your children have different demands at different ages. Teens may hardly notice Dad is gone, while small children feel it acutely.

Another consideration is how much each of you are taking on to do yourselves. Can any of the jobs you do be farmed out to a hired hand? Parenting and tending to a marriage can’t be handed over to others without impact. Yardwork and housekeeping can be outsourced.

Look at what each of you actually do over a week. Maybe flying home that night “feels” like your spouse gets home sooner, but does it leave him exhausted? Maybe negotiating with his work to stay over one more night, and arrive into work late the next day will leave him more refreshed. And he walks in with more energy and stamina.

And if he rushed home to spend 3 hours on the riding mower, it may not be a good use of his time, even if he enjoys it. Coming home to fresh cut grass may offer a different sort of satisfaction.

What I emphasize is that the arrangements that you both work out are highly personal and open to renegotiate whenever the need arises. And that might happen a few weeks later when what you thought would work doesn’t.

This negotiation is the stuff of marriage. It is not a negotiation based upon “who makes the most money” or “who is most exhausted.” It is based upon how each of you can create a lifestyle that is sustainable for the period and stresses you currently are experiencing.

Protect your little family. Recognize that jobs and travel demands might come and go but the appreciation or resentment either of you have for feeling unfairly taken advantage of will last and last...long after the kids have grown or that job description is far down on your list of accomplishments.

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Dr. K

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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