10 Survival Tips While Your Husband Is Away

Out of the past twelve weeks my husband has been gone six of those weeks. I love serving our family here while he heads to Africa and South America (his two recent excursions) to work on water and sanitation projects. But let’s be real…It is exhausting.

His longest trips are three weeks. We set that as a personal rule for our family for sanity, purity and protection, but I know for many of you your husband is gone for far longer that three weeks at a time. I’ve learned a few things over the course of his travels. These are things that I do and some things that I don’t do so that me and my daughter not only survive, but thrive while he is away.

1) Make a Plan

I am not a planner by nature. I’m also not a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal either. I land somewhere square in the middle. Nonetheless, I have an exceptionally rowdy toddler who needs a lot of stimulation. I make a point of planning new things in with our daily routine. I’ve also found that sticking with our routine helps her cope well with the emotions of missing her Daddy.

2) Watch a good movie, read, craft or do something, anything you enjoy!

Once the kids are in bed…or mostly in bed…or distracted momentarily…Get caught up on Downton Abbey or Parenthood or that bootleg DVD you bought from the guy outside of the market- women serving in Africa you know what I mean. Even if you don’t have kids this is a great time to indulge in solo activities like cross-stitching, sewing, cooking or reading. Do that thing that brings you joy, but your husband rolls his eyes at.

3) Fill a notecard

My temptation when my husband is away is to try and do too much. I try and get tons done so that when he gets home I am care free. Which never really works. What I have started doing writing a single notecard with items I want to get done while he is traveling. I fill the card and then work on those tasks. As other things come up, unless they are emergency status, I add them to another list and don’t let myself get bogged down by the millions of tasks I could be doing.

Bonus: If you ever want to get me a gift simply buy me index cards. If I was Oprah I would give them to everybody. #favoritethings

4) Keep it simple

We eat a lot of simple meals while my husband is away. One of my go-to’s is roasting a whole chicken at the beginning of the week and using it in everything from soup to quesadillas or chicken salad. I also like to make a big pot of soup to eat throughout the week. Don’t use the time he is away to become Giada DeLaurentis. Unless that is what brings you joy- see #2.

5) Let them eat cake!

Yes, it is important to maintain some semblance of normalcy while your husband is away, but…we live an abnormal life in general so that is kind of out of the window from the get go. Bake cookies. Make cupcakes. Go out for a sweet treat. Do something special. It doesn’t have to be food related, but whatever it is let it be fun!

6) Cling to the Word

My husband’s absence can easily be a source of worry and anxiety for me. It is during his absences that I find I need the truth of God’s word all the more- really I always need it the same amount, but I sense the need more strongly when my hubs is away.

Be diligent in carving out time to be in the Word. I know that it is even more difficult when you don’t have anyone to back you up as a parent. Do it anyway. Also keep Scripture taped around places that you can see as a reminder to focus your heart, worries and affections on God.

7) Work on your marriage

Take the extra time to plan something special for your husband. Spend time thinking about how to love your husband well in all areas. Nothing will bring health to your marriage like intention living and you know what they say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” {Wink}

8) Serve someone else

It is easy to just focus on passing the days. The temptation is to live in survival mode which if we are honest can better be termed “selfish mode”. Instead make plans to serve someone else. Take a meal to a friend. Invite someone over for a homemade meal who lives alone. Write a note of encouragement to someone. Get outside of yourself. It will do your heart and mind heaps of good.

9) Build community

Invite that new team member over. Reach out to your local community in a new way. Have a craft party for all the kiddos in your neighborhood. Get together with some other mamas for a playdate. Make good on that promise of coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Do something that builds relationships with those you know or those that you don’t yet know.

10) Drink tea

I believe that a good cup of tea can change the world. It can at least change your mood. Find a quiet spot when the kids are asleep or momentarily occupied and lose yourself in a good cuppa. And if my travels ever bring me near then you should know that I take mine sweet.

I know some of you really struggle with your husband’s travels. Some of you have husbands gone far longer than three weeks and it can wear on the most seasoned wife.

What are some of your strategies for passing the time while your husband is away?

Photo Credit: ~Oryctes~ via Compfight cc



  1. Lisa Maxwell June 4, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this.  This appeared during one of the many times my husband has been away traveling for our ministry in the Philippines.  We too have set a limit to how long he is away, our boundary is 2 weeks at a time.  Another priority we make is as often as possible one of our four children accompany him when he travels.  This makes for precious daddy-daughter memories.  Thank you again for sharing these tips.  Now if I could just figure out how to get a good night’s sleep while my husband is away!

    1. Jessica Hoover June 5, 2014

      Ugh, Lisa! I am with you! I stay up WAAAAAYYYY to late and I just plain don’t sleep well.

  2. Elizabeth June 4, 2014

    Love these! I start to fall apart after about a week, though I’ve done up to 2 weeks before. I tend not to be motivated when he travels — exercise, though it would help me feel better, goes out the window. I can’t fall asleep easily without him, so I end up staying up really late, watching movies, and avoiding my feelings. (Instead of taking all that extra time to catch up on blogging in a, you know, efficient way to live life. But I just don’t concentrate well.) I’m always excited for him to come back, so I can exercise, sleep well, and write (in other words, live like a normal human being).

    The one thing I do do that’s good is play the piano. Lots. My husband is really good on the piano, and the piano (electric) is in his office, and my free time never lines up with when he’s not in there. . . So I don’t play as often as I’d like (and I don’t really want him listening to my poor playing, or I worry that my playing would bother his concentration). So that definitely happens when he’s away. This spring, which is hottest season here, in the span of 2 months he did 3 trips. Too many for me! Glad he’s taking a break from traveling right now, till the fall, but I do love this list (especially #2).

    Also, I LOVE NOTECARDS TOO!!!!!!!

    1. Jessica Hoover June 5, 2014

      I struggle with a lot of the same things you named off. I recognized that struggle last Fall when it seemed he was gone far more than he was home. I had to put a limit on how much I could watch because I would get super engrossed in watching something and avoid all the things I should have been doing. I think it was a coping mechanism for me and it definitely help me accomplish things for myself personally and I realized I wasn’t as filled as I could be for when he got back. I totally relate!

  3. Whitney @ Journey Mercies June 5, 2014

    Such great advice. Hubby trips are never easy, and even more challenging now we have a baby. I always say, the only good thing about my husband being gone is I can eat PB&J for dinner and I get all the pillows to myself. 🙂 But I really agree about using that time to spend with friends. I usually try to catch up with friends while he’s gone, and I don’t feel so lonely!

    1. Jessica Hoover June 5, 2014

      Yes! I should have added a bonus in about eating what you want! My man is a meat and potatoes type and I could totally live off of soups and veggies. It is good to try and get my fill while he is away. For whatever reason I feel free to keep it more simple- maybe I should just do that when he is home too?

      1. Edwin August 20, 2018

        I think you should do what ever feels right in your heart. What makes you happy is best for you and for the child. If your happy I’m sure he will be to. Makes for a very exciting time for you guys:) I miss you Donita and I mean no disrespect to your man but I do still love you. I’ll be there for anything you guys need #newlife
        #mychance #littlebaby?❤️?

  4. Beth June 8, 2014

    Hubby left today for a short trip, and I just made myself a cup of tea :).  Dinner is quite simple tonight, and I’ll try to resist going to bed too late!

    Not so long ago he traveled for several weeks to various cities throughout our country.  One fun things I did with the kids was to mark his route on a map.  Whenever he traveled by plane we moved our little plane along the yarn strung between the cities.  And when he went by train we moved our little train.  Doesn’t make missing him any less, but it gave something tangible for the kids to do and for us to talk about where he is going and why he going there.

  5. Lori Crawford June 9, 2014

    My husband and I have lived overseas for twenty years!  (I can’t believe he’s that old!). He’s done a lot of traveling over the years and we’ve developed a formula and gained some wisdom about what works for us and our six children. Yes, six… And we know how that happens.

    1. Two weeks seems to be the edge of sanity.  There’s an adjustment cycle to family life when he travels. The first four days I am tested by the children.  Will mom tow the line and keep holding up the  same standards of behavior and discipline now that Dad is away?  What will she let us get away with since we know she’s tired and missing Dad?

    As the one staying with the kids, I have to work extra hard at being consistent at the beginning.  I wish I could say my children are angelic and extra helpful and kind to each other when they know I’m stressed, but, we are all sinners, right?  During the first fours day, I don’t do anything outside our normal routine- no special treats, no play dates, no staying up later then normal,  (for the kids, anyway), nah-thang.  I often ask for extra prayer for the fourth day, as it usually can be described as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”  We often have sandwiches for dinner that day – keeping it simple is so stress relieving.

    Everything is fairly routine from day five until about day 12 of the trip.  I think it’s the anticipation of being together again that affects everyone’s behavior after day 12…. And, let’s face it, by that time I’m really tired of single parenting!  ( I don’t know how single parents do it all the time.).

    2. After day four is over, and the children have settled down to “normal when Dad is traveling” we plan some fun things and some distractions.  For each week he’s gone, we choose one evening to order food delivered, or if I’m feeling really brave, we’ll actually go out to eat somewhere… in public.

    On longer trips, we might plan a sleepover and they all invite a friend or two to spend the night. With roughly a bazillion kids in the house, my friends think I’ve lost my mind, but it’s not as much work as you’d think.  I just make extra popcorn, and double the cookie recipe.  With so many kids, they entertain themselves, mostly, and I get “cool mom” points, especially with the teenagers.  And some of my teenagers’ friends don’t have a cute four year old brother so even he is taken care of.  It’s almost like making my own free time.  Almost.

    And, lest you think I’m superwoman, I do plan something for myself.  I invite a girlfriend over for tea or to get a mani/pedi with me.  Often, I arrange for babysitting so I can go downtown and shop in the bazaar – which I love to do!  I also try to carve out some time to do something creative.  For me that’s sewing something new.

    3. About the time our first child was born, my husband heard a conference speaker mention that over the years he made it a habit to call his wife twice a day whenever he was traveling.  We have adapted this idea.  Phone connections are not always very good in North Africa and the Middle East where my husband’s travels often take him, but as much as possible, we make a connection – a text message, a five minute phone call, or often a “end of the day debrief email.”  He keeps up with lost teeth, school awards, what funny thing the 11 year old said today or which mischievous thing the four-year-old did in the 14 year-old’s room today.  And I get to keep up with his meetings, the old friends he’s gotten to see, and how he’s doing.

    And, there’s plenty of snappiness, too, but I won’t go into that.  (Um, why else would we have six kids?)

    4. We have a tradition: We always make a welcome home sign for Dad, even if he’s on a really short trip.  We use whatever paper we can find and everyone has to help color something on it or design it.  Sometimes it’s very elaborate and sometimes it’s simple, but it always lets dad know we missed him. (I say has to because I have teenagers now.)

    5. After dad returns, I try to help everyone have low expectations for the first two or three days.  It’s hard when the kids are all trying to cram in a description of the last two weeks of their lives simultaneously while dad is still rolling the suitcase though the front door, bleary-eyed with jet lag.  I have my own list of things to tell him, too.  And usually he just wants a shower and a nap as soon as is humanly possible.

    Even though the trip is over, we allow ourselves some time to readjust to being together again… And time for the traveler to rest.  This is often the hardest part of the trip for me, personally, since I’m also tired and need a break from the little people.  I’m not afraid to admit it: the children are allowed to watch an extra movie or play a little longer on the Wii when a trip is over, if only so I can talk to my man, uninterrupted.  And that’s ok.  It’s not like living overseas as an expat resembles normal life anyway, whatever that is.

  6. lizzy June 30, 2014

    My husband sometimes travels for a month at a time twice a year. It gets easier as the kids get older, but they’re still quite young. A few things that help me are:

    Having a plan – As you emphasized, have a plan for easy meals, things to do, etc. We’re not huge fans of leftovers so it’s always tricky to make a really small amount of food. I like the roast chicken suggestion though!
    Making some fun for yourself. My husband totally does that eyerolling so I enjoy those things when he’s gone!
    Ask for help – Seriously. Don’t feel shy about enlisting friends to just take your kids so you can get a few hours’ sanity for yourself. Be quick to return the favor for your friends when they’re in your shoes, too!

  7. dana July 14, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your ways of coping when your partner is away, I really needed it, my husband is away two or more months, and I am finding it harder and harder to stay focused on my life here after he leaves, I especially liked your tip on serving others. I have been doing that for quite some time, looking after my father but after some time it seemed to me that I was just finding new ways to fill my time and distract myself from the fact that I am not doing anything with my own life, that I am not strong enough to further my own education and work while my husband is not here.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

  8. Bex May 2, 2016

    My husband is in the military and after 3 deployments, I agree with your lists. I can handle a deployment better than when he is training and gone for a week here or a week there. It’s crazy. Someone mentioned sleeping habits go out the window when the husband is gone and I agree. The first few nights I either sleep on the couch, or I’m in my bed. My middle daughter also usually climbs into my bed when daddy is gone, so after night 2 or 3, I go in to snuggle and sleep next to her. I truly don’t get a good night of sleep since I’m one of those that my family needs to be in their places for me to relax. When he’s deployed he usually talks to me before bed. If he’s training then I’m on my own.

    1. Liz Acord June 26, 2018

      Hey Bex, I’m in very similar situation. My newlywed husband is military. We’ve only been married few months and he left for month and half of training. My sleep habits have definitely gone out the window, he does try to talk to me when he can but im learning with the military the communication is limited
      Any advice on military life is much appreciated 🙂

  9. Tricia December 14, 2016

    Thanks for sharing these ideas! My husband is gone for 3 1/2 weeks on an overseas trip to the Dominican Republic. We had a four day notice of the trip and have been married for about 14 months so this is our first time to be apart for more than a week. We are older so our kids are grown and I work full time, but night time is tough.

    Fortunately we were able to make arrangements for me to join him for the last 12 days of the trip so I am excited about that! Until then I have work, Christmas, visiting the grandkids and in state travel for work. Just used to doing all this with him now:).

    Does help to be able to text–and having dinner with a friend I have not seen in about 3 months. Thanks for the ideas and for knowing I’m not going crazy missing my best friend!

  10. Caroline May 1, 2017

    My husband has just gone to Germany for 2 years. He will be home for a weekend every month.
    We have 2 daughters aged 11 and 7, it’s the first time he has been away in a couple of years (he’s in the Army).
    I do struggle normally and I am trying to focus on the good things that I can do.
    Planning is very important to me and my children. We have goals to work towards while he is away.
    This time is going to be very different, I am an alcoholic in recovery, I haven’t had a drink for over a year. I am worried about the stress of being on my own with my children. I am a very anxious person and lack much confidence, going out to do anything apart from work I find very hard.
    Thank you for your posts, I have enjoyed reading them.

  11. Kandi August 7, 2017

    My husband is going away for two weeks to his home town and I have been in a bad mood for a while because he is leaving. he is going next week for two weeks can anyone tell me what to do to keep busy I am used to him next to me at.night I am really going to miss him a lot…feeling sad…

  12. Keisha April 22, 2018

    – I am Keisha i lives in uk and i was in a serious relationship with my ex guy for three good years.. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after than i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother so much love me that he had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us.. Then i contacted a friend of mine that had this similar experience and she directed me to one of the spiritual diviner ([email protected] yahoo. com).at first i thought it was not going to be possible and i contacted him i was ask to come up with a little requirement,so i did what i was ask to do, after 3 days i was in my office when my ex guy called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby(Ceslav)…i wish you the best of luck…

  13. Ed August 20, 2018


  14. Ed August 20, 2018

    I know your posting and sending everywhere
    That’s fair enough. I’m going to hold my head up and do what I need to in order to make her happy and help with the child.

  15. Missy October 20, 2018

    “Cross stitching, sewing, and cooking” ; Really? Are you kidding? Surely women have better plans than that for their free time without hubby. This article assumes women are just SAD little homemakers with no thoughts other than what hubby would like them to be doing with this ‘free’ time. Give it a break.

  16. LEXI May 6, 2020

    My husband and I are both in the National Guard. I shipped out for basic training a month before he did and was supposed to be gone 2 months after him. Unfortunately I had some medical issues so I was sent home early. My husband is now onto AIT for his job training which is another 6 weeks. When he comes home, it will have been over 5 months since I have seen him. Being home alone drives me nuts so some things i do when I’m missing my hubby which is all the time is draw, color, clean, binge on Netflix and Hulu, and home improvement projects. And I’ll have to admit that wearing his shirts does help alot. Makes me feel as if I have a part of him with me. I also have a job too so that helps me go out, get my mind off things, and be social!

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