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My DH works in Alaska 6 months out of the year. His schedule is 3 weeks in Alaska 3 weeks at home. When he is home he is not on call or working at all and spends a good part of his time off at home with our boys.

Right now our twin boys are 16 months old. His schedule is rough on all of us but really is the best job for him and his career.

I am looking for ideas, suggestions, and recommendations on how to handle this lifestyle as the boys get older. I need to find a good way to keep this from it being a crushing blow every time he has to leave and the boys wake up in the morning with Daddy gone for 3 weeks.

Update: Just to clarify. I am looking forward to the future and how to plan ahead for when the boys are older and have to go from playing with daddy all day everyday to not seeing him at all for 3 weeks.

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I'm not sure this is what you meant, but your last sentence sounds like him leaving is a surprise to the kids. Never make it a surprise, say goodbye properly and "see you in three weeks". That way it's not a crushing blow. –  Lennart Regebro Jun 29 '11 at 4:57
    
@Lennart - Honest question here: at 16 months of age, do children have enough concept of time to understand "daddy will be gone for 3 weeks"? –  Beofett Jun 29 '11 at 19:09
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@Beofett: Oh, surely not, but neither that he has been gone for two weeks. It's not about the length, but of telling them that you are going (and saying hello when you come back) so it's not a surprise or shock. –  Lennart Regebro Jun 29 '11 at 19:38

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

As a former military wife, I had to work through this stuff with my son, too. The most important things you can do are to help them understand what's going on, provide a connection to Daddy when he's gone, maintain consistent routines and expectations, and give your kids a sense of control over things.

I suggest:

  • Keep a family calendar so they can see when Daddy is leaving and returning, holidays, and other events important to the family.
  • When Daddy is gone, do a video chat as often as possible (letter-writing and phone calls are fine if that's all you have access to, but video is even better for toddlers).
  • When Daddy is gone, help the kids collect and/or list things they want to show him, do with him, etc.
  • Keep the same bedtime, discipline, etc. at home whether Daddy is around or not.
  • Don't hide things from the kids, ever. It may seem like you are avoiding an argument by not telling them Daddy might be delayed or something, but it leads to more pain in the long run for both you and the kids.
  • Never let your husband give your boys the "you are the man of the house while I'm gone" speech. I've seen kids seriously traumatized when something bad happens they couldn't stop.
  • Do encourage your husband to leave something special with the kids to take care of while he's gone, or give them a small job.
  • It's okay, even preferable, to let your kids see that you miss Daddy, too. Your example teaches them how to deal with those feelings. In the families where mom tried to pretend that she felt 100% perfect at all times, the kids tended to have really unrealistic expectations for themselves and not no what to do when putting on a brave face didn't work.
  • Remember that since things have been this way since your children were infants, this is their normal. As long as you keep the kids' worlds dependable -- it's not necessary that everything always go according to plan, just that they can depend on how you and your husband will react when it doesn't -- that'll be fine.

Your family's own special rituals will emerge on their own if you are doing all these things, and they'll be a source of comfort and stability for all. :)

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Great Answer! Just tacking on this additional idea. I know I'm late, but as it seems this was going to be an on-going situation, I hope I am in time for this to be helpful. As the boys get old enough, your husband might leave them little notes (in pictures at first) for them to find throughout his absence. They could be tucked in a sock, at the bottom of the toy box, inside the case of a favorite movie. . .The point would be that the boys would find a couple each week during your husband's absence. –  balanced mama Dec 4 '12 at 0:17

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