By Rebecca Kling
When my husband Will started driving over a decade ago, we had three daughters, two in grade school, one still in diapers, and I had a full-time job in the medical field. At the time, I didn’t quite know what to expect during this extended time away from home.
As you can imagine, being at home with three girls was overwhelming. Even if you don’t have kids, but your spouse is away for long periods of time while on the road, the separation can be killer, especially if you’re new to the industry.
Like most new changes in life, it will require an adjustment and learning period. While all of our families and our situations are unique, the common thread is that our lives are inevitably impacted by the extended absence of the husband, father, wife, or mother.
Here are five tips I think will help with the time apart and what you can do to communicate more effectively.
1. Ask lots of questions and learn the language of trucking
In case you didn’t know, the trucking industry has its own language.
At first, I had a hard time just knowing what to ask Will because most of the terms he used and things he mentioned just sounded so foreign to me.
I imagined it to be similar to how he felt when I’d speak in Spanish when we were first married.
I wanted to learn more about the industry so we could talk about it more regularly, so I took every opportunity to ask him what certain things meant.
Before his first on-the-road trip, we talked about home time, rate per mile, and hours of service. I’d ask him how these things would affect our family.
Asking your spouse to explain things to you is the best way to learn about daily occurrences on the road and what challenges may arise.
Bonus tip: To gain the best possible understanding of life on the road, I would highly recommend taking an overnight trucking trip with them in the truck, like I did.
2. Prepare for home time
I had handled deployments when my husband was in the navy so I didn’t think that dealing with OTR (on the road) absences would be any worse.
In hindsight, the separation feels like an entirely different ball game, not comparable to a deployment — which eventually has an end date. Because of this big difference, I center everything around the times Will is home.
Home time has become what I try to center our family’s lives around. This means I do things like wait until the last possible moment to make any definitive plans for many special family events.
I also learned that just proximity doesn’t always mean he can be home ASAP. There have been times when my husband was only an hour or so away from home and just couldn’t make it due to weather and road conditions. Sometimes he was just out of hours, which means he needed to stay put.
Moments like these feel really unfair.
Understanding all the different variables that can be at play when it comes to home time, such as the company they work for, the city or state they live in, the weather, and hours of service, just to name a few, will help.
3. Make communication a priority, even if it’s just a text
I feel lucky that my husband is driving at this point in time when smartphones and WiFi make it easy to stay connected. Although we have this advantage, there are still times when cell service is not available, answering is not an option, or we’re on different schedules and time zones.
To help combat this, I always call first thing in the morning and in the evening when my day is over.
If Will was up all night, I usually woke up to a text saying he’ll call me when his day begins.
Making it a priority to keep this as routine as possible is the closest I can come to a good morning or goodnight kiss!
4. Prepare for life at home and surround yourself with support
Life changes when Will is gone, period. I no longer have the extra set of hands or a pair of eyes to help me when I feel overwhelmed or stretched too thin.
Being the one that is left behind has left me on occasion feeling a wide range of emotions, from loneliness and sadness to anger and resentment. Sometimes I’d feel resentful because I was home dealing with the drama, being both mom and dad to our kids.
Some of the not-fun moments include working 14-hour days, scary medical emergencies from our two youngest daughters, and being stranded with a flat tire on the side of the road, 30 miles from the nearest town… and no spare or husband to come to help me.
I’m fortunate to have always lived near family and very close family friends that have been willing to help and lend me support.
I’d highly recommend finding a support system to fit you and your family’s needs. It will help you deal with life’s surprises.
If you’re not living near family or close friends or maybe you just want to extend your support system further, you can check out Facebook groups or local meetups within your community. You can find groups for trucker wives, local babysitting swaps, or playdate groups.
Another option may be to check into your local church organization, library, or gym for any support groups or activities where you can meet others.
5. Enjoy your time together
Never forget to savor the face-to-face attention and interaction that you both have to sacrifice with each other and your spouse has to sacrifice with the whole family. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of things and overlook the importance of every home time.
It doesn’t matter the activity as long as the focus is on being completely present with your spouse.
We get such limited time together; we don’t really care to do anything extravagant. More often than not, home time is spent enjoying each other’s presence while doing all the normal day-to-day things like cooking, having a cup of coffee, going to the grocery store, and hanging out with our daughters.
All the touching that we don’t get to do while apart happens too!
Since Will first started driving, we’ve moved our family to two different states, had a fourth child (another girl!) and I now stay at home full time.