Article posted Thursday, March 3, 2011 11:37am

Dear Mary Pat,

I feel like I’m an only parent these days. My husband travels for his job usually Monday through Friday. However, sometimes, he doesn’t fly back until Saturday, which only leaves one day a week with him. I know he’s just trying to provide for our family, but it’s really hard to be left alone with our two toddlers. His mother also needs his attention since she is a widow who just had surgery. She lives over an hour away and he spends most of his time off with her.
I’m trying to be supportive, but it is really tough.

Single Mom 5 Days a Week
Algoma, WI

Dear Single Mom 5 Days a Week,

You are living the far too common issue known as “the sandwich years.” You are caught between parenting your own family and now beginning to parent your parents, or in this case, your husband’s mom. There is no doubt that this can cause a lot of stress in a marriage. I’ve seen my own parents go through this twice with both sets of my grandparents. Thankfully, there was about a 10 year break in between due to their age differences, but it was never easy. They happen to have a very strong marriage which was really helpful. With all the added stress these situations cause, things can become ugly very quickly.
As hard as it is, things probably won’t be able to change very much. Unless your husband finds a job with less travel, his schedule will be just as demanding. And he obviously needs to spend time with his mom since she is recovering and on her own.
The only solution here is patience and communication. You both need to be accepting of what the other is doing. He needs to acknowledge how tough it is to be home 24/7 with toddlers (all anyone needs is two days straight of this to know what I’m talking about) without a break. You need to acknowledge how grueling travelling is in addition to a long work week. You didn’t mention your parents at all so maybe you haven’t had to go through this yet. If not, try to picture how that will be. [As a side note, if your parents are younger and healthy, now would be a good time to go over everything with them. What are there future plans? What will your role be? and so on.]
I wish I had an easier solution for you, but really it just comes down to putting yourselves in your spouse’s shoes and trying to have as much understanding and compassion as possible.

Good luck,
Mary Pat