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I was mostly a stay at home dad for the first year and a half of my son's life. By mostly I mean I was a full time student and we had some daycare for a couple hours a day starting very young so I could study and working up to 5-6 hours a day after he was a year old. Then I got a job. Its a decent job, but my wife is also working full time on an erratic schedule. Due to contract restrictions she can't just "quit," nor does she want to.

We have about 10 months left until our situation changes completely, and 6 months until things get easier from a scheduling perspective. So our situation seems like it may be temporary.

While at daycare my son looked at the "family wall" where they have family pictures for the kids and stared for a minute before starting to cry. However, overall my son is a pretty happy guy. I'm travelling right now. Him and his mom were visiting family for two weeks, home for a week, and then I left for business for the week. But this is the reality of our schedule for the next few months. I come home, my wife leaves, she comes home, we have a couple days or maybe a week together as a family and then one of us will be travelling again.

Has anyone out there been faced with this sort of situation? Does anyone have any suggestions for how to teach my son (now 21 months) how to identify how he's feeling and keep things in perspective? Is anyone aware of any long term consequences of a lifestyle like this (besides the counter intuitive greater sense of security he may gain in learning that we do come back and those times are great)?

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It's hard for them to understand why someone they love goes away. And at that age when you tell them "Mommy is going to be back in a week" or "Daddy will be back in three days", they can't understand. They might be able to count to three, but the concept of three as applied to the passage of time is probably beyond their comprehension.

I used to have some of the same issues when my husband was gone on business trips, usually lasting a week or so. My daughter missed him so much. The daycare providers would ask me why she was so subdued; they were worried about her. I suggested that they verbalize for her (she has aphasia, and so was unable to speak for herself), saying "I know that your Daddy is gone for a while, and I think you must be very sad about that." Just sharing that sorrow with her helped a lot. Once it was expressed, she was able to move on past it better.

Here's another thing that helped a little at home.

I had photo-copied a number of airplane pictures. If he was going to be gone six days I hung six airplanes on three to five inch yarn strings, and hung them on her bed. Every night we got out the scissors and snipped the string for one of the airplanes. She knew that after the last string was snipped, her Daddy would be in the house when she woke up the next morning.

Not only did it give her a very easily understood way of knowing when Daddy would be back home, it made her feel as if she had a tiny bit of control over it, I think. By snipping the strings it felt like she was bringing Daddy home little by little.

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Going from your description, it sounds to me like it's not necessarily the separation from one parent, or both parents for the full day in daycare, but rather the changing nature of it all from one day and week to the next. That would be hard on his need for stability at this age. So anything you can do to make his schedule more regular day to day, even if that means more days or hours in daycare, it might help him.

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