It’s the question I’m asked most on the road. When women find out I’ve got a family back at home they wonder…
“How do you do it?”
Behind the question are legitimate concerns about a father not being there for his kids’ soccer games, a wife worn out from raising four children alone, a marriage losing heat from too many days and nights spent miles apart.
I’ve made my living as a singer and public speaker for twelve years now. These days I’m in 80 cities annually. And while you’re not likely to be soft rocking across America for a living anytime soon, someone in your house may be a bit of a traveler too – if not year round then for a season now and then.
How do we do it? How do we keep our families together – and thriving – when mom or dad are on the road?
My wife and I didn’t do it well at all in the beginning.
I signed a record deal the day my oldest was born. And I boarded a tour bus for the first time six months later. I was the opening act on a 60 city tour that spanned three months. Few days off. No money to fly home when I had the rare opportunity either.
When the tour finally ended, over an appetizer on date night, my bride said, “I don’t want a divorce…”
(That’s one way to get a guy’s attention!)
“…but I understand now why so many artist’s wives get one.”
That night Becky and I but some rules in place. They’ve kept us married, liking each other, and sane…most days.
I don’t make any travel decisions alone. This is our life, not just mine.
Becky and I sit down with the calendar and block important dates. Birthdays, school programs, parent teacher conferences…these days get marked on the calendar as off-limits.
Dating my wife
Every week Becky and I go on a date. It may be as simple as sitting in the minivan talking for a couple hours or as extravagant as a long dinner, a movie and an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast. The important thing is that it happens every week.
I travel with an assistant. In the music business he’s called a road manager. Having him along gives my wife peace of mind – that I’ll have fewer opportunities to do anything (or be accused of doing anything) that could jeopardize our marriage, that I’ll get where I’m going safely, and that I’ll eat. (Seriously. I forget to eat. They actually let people who forget to eat raise children. Can you believe it?)
Preparing the kids
My kids are never surprised when I leave. We mark my travel days on their calendars. I remind them a few days in advance about when I’ll be heading out. And then again the day before.
Unless I’m going overseas, I’m not away from home for more than ten days each month. Our target six to eight. And I’m not gone for more than four nights in a row. Usually it’s two. And the number of days I’m gone is the number of days I must be home before I can leave again. So, if I’m gone for four days I must be home for four days before I can travel once more.
I want my wife’s life to be harder when I’m away. That sounds terrible doesn’t it? But let me explain. If my wife’s life is easier when I’m gone, then I’m not doing my part when I’m home. I have to be very intentional about serving my family – starting with Becky – when I’m off the road or else I’m not her partner but just another kid for her to take care. And she’ll wish I was gone more!
Every Wednesday is Daddy Day. I cook all the meals, teach the kids, take them to volunteer at the food pantry down the street, oversee an art project or twelve – spend the whole day with them. It’s my favorite day. They call it “Daddy Day.” Becky calls it her day off. She can have lunch with a friend, catch up on her to-do list, or just sit with a large sweet tea and a magazine for hours. It’s her day to spend however she wants or needs to. And sometimes she needs and gets more than one of these in a week.
We sold our dream house, canceled our cable, started a garden and made dozens of other changes in our life years ago – partly – so that life would be cheaper. The greatest benefit of living simply? Freedom. If I need to cancel a gig to meet my family’s needs, I can sure do that. It’s only happened twice in twelve years but it’s peace of mind to know we have the financial flexibility to put family first and work second and still pay the bills.
Your line of work may be much different from mine but I hope something in this list was still helpful to you and yours. Maybe it’ll just get the balance conversation started in your house.
Got a rule or trick that’s helped your family find balance? I’m all ears. I’ll be reading every comment from a tour bus. Heading out for a couple days. Be home soon.