Keeping Dad the Head of the Household While He’s Away

Ty deployedOur oldest was almost 3.  His younger sister had just turned 1.  It was January 2002 and my husband, their father, was leaving as a deployed Army Reservist for Operation Enduring Freedom.  What we did not know that night was that he would return nearly a year later, only to be called up for Operation Noble Eagle for another year.

When he was finally a permanent resident of our home once again, our children were 6 and 3.  A lot had happened in those 2 years.

  • I miscarried a baby.
  • We started homeschooling.
  • The refrigerator broke.
  • I got rid of the TV.
  • I learned to sew.
  • My son learned to read.
  • My daughter was potty-trained.
  • Our son played T-ball for the first time.
  • And a whole host of other things!

All of which my husband missed.

Deployments aren’t easy no matter how you slice them.  But for the Christian family it creates a whole new set of issues that other families don’t necessarily think about.

How can Dad stay the head of this household when he isn’t here?

In fact, this issue arises for any family that has a Husband and Daddy who is away a lot, the difference being a deployed head of household doesn’t often have the direct contact via electronic devices and phone lines that traveling fathers have.  {During the first deployment, we could chat via internet web cams about once a week and via phone for 15 minutes every 2 weeks.  And of course, it was all monitored. ;) }

So, how can you as the wife and mother and sole caregiver of the household help to keep your husband in his rightful place while he’s away?  Here are a few ideas:

What would Daddy say?

This isn’t an idle threat, it’s an attitude.  Yes, the chaplain (if he’s a good one) will say at Mobilization that if the refrigerator breaks and mama buys a new one, it’s ok, but mama, you best be thinking about what your husband would want you to do.

And when it comes to the children, think about how he would handle certain situations.  Don’t suddenly become a totally different family the second Daddy is out the door.  Daddy’s words and advice should still permeate the atmosphere.

Stand united!

Even though I could not ask Ty about every situation that arose, I still used the words, “Ty and I…” to show a united front to the children and to outsiders.  Don’t leave your husband out of the equation simply because he is not there.  You are still a married couple and a family unit and everyone should be able to see that clearly.

Save up questions for him.

I would obviously tackle the major issues as they happened and report to Ty later, but anything I could save for my 15 minutes that involved household decisions I wrote down on a piece of paper and brought to him for an actual decision.  This made him feel useful to us and it kept us connected through the little things.

Talk Dad up.

When Blake learned to read, I said, “Daddy is going to be so excited!”  No, Daddy wasn’t going to get to hear him read for quite a while, but I knew Daddy would be excited and I knew the next time we talked, I’d be able to tell him the news.  I wanted my son to know that his accomplishments were important to not just me, but his father as well.

You also have to be careful not to belittle Daddy while he’s away.  Even if you are struggling in your marriage, your children will in no way benefit from you airing this fact to them.  He is their father.  He is the head of the household.  No matter how you feel.  Show him his due respect in his God-given role and let the children see you offer that respect in word and deed.

If you are a military wife, I would like to recommend an online magazine for Christian military wives called Wives in Bloom.  Carlie, one of the contributing writers, who also blogs at So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler, let me know about this wonderful resource and I wanted to pass it along to all of you.

Ty is no longer in the military, but his job does take him away on frequent business trips, none of which could ever compare to those 2 years he was deployed.  When he first took this job, someone said to me, “You know he’ll be gone a lot of nights and weekends,” to which I replied, “It isn’t 2 years.”  Perspective, my friends…perspective.

So, how do you keep Dad at the head of the family while he’s away?

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25 thoughts on “Keeping Dad the Head of the Household While He’s Away

  1. My husband has been working out of town during the weeks for a year now. So he is home with us on the weekends only. This may sound little, but I think it honors him/keeps him the head of the house to stay with the normal family routine. Why? Because this is the routine WE as a family, him included, like, respond to, work well with, and know. Its a routine he helped create for our family because of how he and I think our family should be ran. Most importantly, when he’s home on the weekend, he can jump right back in like he’s been here all week. He doesn’t have to ask what’s going to happen next. He knows that bedtime is still the same and the kids need to be brushing teeth and getting in PJs by 7pm. So he can jump in and take that back over and its normal for the kids b/c we do it that way even when Daddy’s gone. It helps him have success with the kids, gives the kids consistency, and honors how he feels our family should run even though he’s not here.

    • Love this practice. I agree that this is very important! I never considered that it helps him to just jump right back in, even though I attempt to maintain this philosophy too. Thanks for that insight!

  2. Excellent, necessary advice…than you for sharing…and for enduring the Other Operation Enduring Freedom-on the Homefront! My heart is for the military families that sacrifice for our freedoms, they sacrifice their dads, husbands, brothers, sons, and sometimes MOMS and wives and sisters! Thank you. It is appreciated very much!

  3. My hubby is a sales representative and is gone 1 or 2 nights every week. We purchased a second copy of “Training Hearts, Teaching Minds”, the book we use to teach the catechism to our girls (ages 9, 4 & 10 months). He carries it with him and this allows us to continue our family worship time together via phone. The girls love when he has a good Internet connection and we are able to utilize ‘Face Time’ on our phones. Also, we utilize an ap called Life 360 that puts daddy’s face on his location on a map. It helps the girls to have a visual of where daddy is (not to mention a great lesson in our state’s geography!).

  4. Your ideas are so sound. My kids being older this last deployment 0,2,4,6,and 8, they would say to me, “But Daddy isn’t home…why do we have to do…” And it gave us a good place to talk about how we are obedient even when we think no one is looking.

    • I have had that happen a few times too. I then consider if I have been a poor example in some area, and sometimes I notice a place where I haven’t followed when my husband wasn’t watching. I try to kick up the obedience a notch when I hear comments like that. I also say the same thing you do to your kids… about obeying and honoring even when not being watched. Its a good lesson!

  5. I am a mother to 8 children. I have 7 from my first marriage and a newborn from my new marriage. I was a single mom for a little over 2 years. I married a wonderful, christian man in April 2011. My husband is from Canada and the children and I are in Tennessee. We tried to move to where my husband is from, but the courts said “No.” All that to say, my husband has been with us since December 2011 and now he has to return back to Canada without us :( This article has given me some wonderful advice to help us while we are apart. Thank you!!!

  6. In 2009, my husband spent a year in Iraq. Upon his return home, he received orders for South Korea. Thankfully our family was able to join him on that 2 year tour. We are just returning to the states this month and know that another deployment is in the future later this year. We make it a priority to keep my husband, despite the distance, in his role of father and husband. Communication is key!! I’m not looking forward to another deployment yet I know it is Christ who carries us through and the effective prayers of His people.

  7. Hi Amy,

    Our head of the household travels for work alot too, and its about to become even MORE travel oriented. This post was just in time for me!

    I always say things like “What do you think Daddy would want you to do?” and such as that. I never speak ill of him in front of the kids. I also say things like “I don’t know, let’s ask Daddy later.” for things they ask me. I also encourage them to ask their father on the phone or when he gets home, questions that I think are right up his alley in relation to homeschool things.

    Sometimes, when I’m really “on game” I do something special for his homecoming, like make is favorite meal, or dessert. Its my goal to always be rested on that day, have a tidy house, and have children who are calm and happy. Obviously real life sometimes gets in the way. But I aim for that. A clean, cheerful household, with clean cheerful people in it, is always a wonderful thing to present to your husband after a trip. Being rested helps me to be a good wife, and to absorb his stress, since he is usually very tired after travelling.

    So far things seem to be working pretty well. I try to consider what he would have me do when I need to make decisions… unfortunately, I am often wrong, and that can be frustrating, not only for him, but for me also. I have no idea how to get better at that one!

    In Christ,
    Mrs. Mom of 6

  8. Great article! I had to click over as soon as I saw it on facebook because my husband is away at a live-in police academy. He is allowed to use his cell phone in the evenings, so throughout the day I take pictures of things the kids and I are doing, and I send them to him. After dinner, when he gets to check his phone, he gets to see pictures of the kids riding their bikes, building with legos, etc. Then we he calls us, he talks to the kids and he can comment about things they’ve been doing. It also helps me feel more connected to him during the day when we can’t contact him. It helps. :-) It’s really hard to have my husband gone. No idea how you survived 2 years! You’re amazing, Amy, but I guess I already knew that. ;-)

  9. This is so timely, as my husband will be leaving soon for his fourth deployment! I’ve found that a united front, and saving up questions is particularly helpful. When someone, especially outside of our immediate family wants me to make a large decision I always tell that that I will have to wait to answer them until I’ve spoken with my husband about it.
    During the last deployment we finally found a way for daddy to lead us in our scripture reading as well. Before he left he used a Franklin Discovery Recorder and recorded himself reading scripture. Twice a week we got to have daddy read to us, even though he was on the other side of the world. It was a blessing for me and for my sweet children!

  10. Excellent post! And I feel your pain!

    My husband has never been in the military, but he has a job that requires long hours, many late nights, and frequent travel. I have had to learn to be Strong and to Manage without him at all stages of life, from being big pregnant, having a new baby, having lots of littles, being sick, etc. I think God equipped me to be able to manage on my own. Not that it has been easy . . . but I’ve learned to do what I had to do. Of course, it is much easier now that my youngest is 7 rather than 7 months or 7 weeks!

    I think the key to keeping our husbands as head when they are not here is to simply do what they would want if they were here. We shouldn’t say, “well, since Daddy is not here, we will do it this way . . . . ” A truly submissive spirit doesn’t just obey a husband’s express commands, but obeys his wishes and the intentions of his heart.

    thanks for tackling this sensitive topic.

    blessings,
    elizabeth

  11. I absolutely *love* how you shared this! What a testimony of encouragement for others who are challenged with this! I am not in this circumstance whatsoever, but am oh.so.grateful for the people who sacrifice their time to serve for our benefit, and yes, this includes the families who are left at home during these times! May God’s treasures in heaven be abundant for you and yours!
    Blessings, Sheri

  12. Love these ideas! My husband was deployed four years ago for Operation Iraqi Freedom and then stationed in Germany, before we had children and is now no longer in the military. He’s been working late nights recently and I stumbled across an old journal I use to write in while he was overseas. Even just talking to him for five minutes at some odd hour of the morning, or being on a ten minute Skype call that dropped five times was something that made my whole day. It was a nice reminder to appreciate the little things I take for granted now and put his late nights into perspective.

  13. Thank you for this. My husband and I have been married for 7 years (this past April!) and have 3 beautiful babies. He joined the military a month before we met, so we’ve been “in this” together from the beginning.
    I’ve been struggling with this question for a while now. I’ve talked to people at our church, but so far it has not been worded so well. This makes me feel more at ease in my heart. I want to honor him, and it’s not difficult to want to do that… but I did find it frustrating in the “How can he lead if he’s not here??!!” God is good. Thank you for the encouragement.

  14. I really appreciated this post. My husband’s travel is not as much as it used to be but this was an excellent reminder. Even after just a few days apart it is easy to start slipping into “getting it all done and taken care of” which could unintentionally bump him from his rightful place. Keeping the “we’re still a team” attitude in the forefront of my mind will make those times easier to navigate.

  15. Great post! These tips all apply even for Dads that just aren’t home as much.

    I’m not trying to compare our life to a family during deployment by any stretch, but my husband has an hour commute each way, he works a lot of overtime, and he’s not easily reached by cell phone during the work day. He’s just simple not there as much as we are and with the home, kids, and farm, a lot can happen when he’s not around. All these things are equally important for our household. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I had the privilige of a husband who was seldom away while our children were young. They are now 23, 21, 18 and 16, We chose to be united in our marriage and raise our children TOGETHER even though I, as Mom, did 90% of the hands on work. Your advise to teach our children to ask, ‘What would Dad do?’ is right on! My now grown children have learned to think and I still ask them to consider Dad’s perspective in the decisions they make, They are not perfect, but they are living lives that honor God, and us as parents. There is truly no greater joy to be had as parents. I plan to share you page with as many young moms as I can. God bless you as you strive to serve Him, and keep your husband as the head of your home!

  17. I needed this! My husband has been gone for over a year & there is no end date in sight. I’ve tired to include him as much as possible in the day to day functions of our family. Your post reaffirmed to me that I am doing a good job!

    Thank-you!