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Gone Again Tatty

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IMPACT ON LANDING Jet-setting may be a symbol of success but there are many detrimental side effects of regular business trips. Research shows that frequent travel impacts both physical health and emotional health. Unless carefully managed it can also have detrimental effects on families

T raveling for business is as ancient as the medieval spice routes. Historically merchants left their families and traveled for many months at a time. Business trips today are shorter — an average of four to six nights away from home — but more frequent. Despite the technological advances in virtual communication research shows that business travel has increased considerably over the past few decades; the Global Business Travel Association pegs the number of business trips taken annually in the US at 488 million.

Everyone knows about the stress and strain involved in traveling but most people underestimate the toll it takes on those who are left behind. Traveling tatties lead to many hidden challenges.

Frequent Flyers

Before the real estate market bottomed out a few years ago Sara had a job in the mortgage industry and her husband owned an appraisal business. When things took a turn for the worse they were left without income.

“My husband was desperately looking for a job and the only decent paying option was a position managing nursing homes which were a three-hour drive away ” says Sara who still inhales heavily when speaking about that trying time. “I was grateful we could cover our bills but the commute was insane especially when there was traffic.”

Sara was determined to help her husband deal with the sudden downturn in the best possible way so after much discussion they decided that at least once a week and sometimes twice a week he’d sleep over at the home of an acquaintance to avoid the long travel times. “It was difficult to get used to. Especially for the kids who were so used to having him around all the time.”

For nearly a decade Rina’s husband has been flying frequently for business. “Someone once asked me ‘Does it get easier over the years?’ ” Rina says. “I know she meant well but I didn’t have the words to explain that no matter how experienced I am with sudden departures no matter how organized and independent I’ve been forced to become I cannot say that it’s become easier.”

She remembers when three days after moving into a new house her husband had to jet off for business. “Our new house still felt creaky. There was a hissing sound of air coming in from the window frames ” she relates. “I knew I was supposed to be grateful. But it was hard. I was left alone to deal with workers coming and going. At night I was all alone.”

If there are kids in the house mothers have to play double duty when their husbands are away stretching themselves thin to do the job of two people. “I’m so busy with a bunch of little kids all day and so exhausted at night that sometimes I don’t speak to an adult for three days straight ” says Golda who runs a business together with her husband. “I know many people live alone all the time. But for me the days when my husband is away are very overwhelming.”

Humans don’t operate like a switchboard. Flipping from one mode to the next is not as simple as pressing buttons. Yet wives of traveling husbands have to switch modes in numerous ways to function well when they are alone — and then to adapt well when their husbands return home.

>“I try to emphasize that Tatty works hard to provide for our family. My kids now understand that it isn’t exactly fun to hop on and off a plane. I think they feel more appreciation”

“When my husband gets called out of town for a few days I feel like I’m left hanging” says Mina whose husband travels nationwide to audit accounts. “I have to quickly get myself together and cover all the bases. Hardest of all is opening the door a few days later welcoming him with a smile letting go and letting him take charge again.”

Sometimes the difficulty is practical — the wife has to take on her husband’s normal duties. And sometimes it’s psychological. “I always have a fear if something chas v’shalom happens I’ll have to deal with it all by myself ” says Golda. “When my husband is in town I know I can call him in a crisis. When he’s not here I feel the responsibility so much more.”

For Malka her husband’s business trips triggered dormant abandonment fears from her childhood which she eventually healed by going to therapy. “Everything would be fine and dandy and then my husband would broach his travel plans. He’d carefully explain why it was necessary and oftentimes allow me flexibility to choose dates. At this point I’d still be levelheaded. But as the departure date approached I’d grow more irritable because I was feeling these intense confused feelings.

“It only got worse when my husband came home. He naturally expected me to be happy he was home again but instead it took me days to feel warm toward him. With a lot of work in therapy I learned how to express my vulnerability and ask for the emotional comfort I need when he’s away.” Accepting the necessity of her husband’s travels and utilizing the time to pamper herself also helped smooth the creases. (Excerpted from Family First Issue 543)

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