My husband travels a good bit. And, one of the ways I work to redeem this reality in our life is to have sleepovers with my kids while Gray is away. Now, before you think I'm crazy and have lost my sanity in busy days of flying solo--hear me out. There is a very good reason I choose to do this.
It is our reality that Dad is away a good bit. We would always choose and prefer for him to be home with us. But, we are very thankful for his good job, the opportunities he has when he travels, and we want to support him well in this. We do not want to be sad, making him feel bad or worry about us while he is away. We want to support him well, hold down the fort at home, and free him up to serve the Lord, work hard, and serve others the best he can! We get to choose our perspective. I am still a human and have hard times when he travels--hear that--but I get to choose how I will think about this and also how I will lead my kids to think about this! This is part of my vision for sleepovers!
Vision for sleepovers?!?!?! Yes! I have a vision (which is a fancy word for purpose or intention) for most things I do. It is who I am at my core. I'm analytical, and I have probably thought through even too many of the things I do. But, Vision is vital!!! Having a good vision and knowing why you do things brings purpose and will help you do the good things you want and intend to do. So, I do have a vision for sleepovers.
Doing sleepovers is a fun way for me to get one-on-one time with my kids in our own home, and it is free! Since Gray travels a lot (usually at least once a month), it is a natural way for me to schedule one-on-one time with my kids. One-on-one time is so powerful in establishing a relationship of love, care, friendship with your kids. It goes a long way in helping them know you are on their side, obedience, and making a heart connection that will serve you well many years to come.
Having sleepovers means fun--so instead of being sad Dad is going away, I plan a fun thing to give them something exciting and special to do while he is away. It truly has been a fun thing (not always for me, but when I remember my why, then yes, I will always say it is worth it) for the kids to look forward to while Gray is away. It "redeems" the time he is away, and replaces that hole with a good thing.
So, how do I do this and not get burned out during such a crazy time? Here are some main ways I keep my sanity while also prioritizing what has become a really good thing for our family.
Remember my why. Keep my vision of why I do sleepovers with my kids! That may sound silly, but being intentional and knowing why I agree to do it or sign up for a hard thing actually helps me continue doing it and do it with joy and purpose. See the link above for more information on vision.
Schedule sleepovers in a wise way. Sometimes this means that I don't do them at all. If we are in a busy season or the trip is too short, I might not do any. I also allow days for margin. I think through our schedule while Gray is away, and allow for days I sleep alone. If he is gone for 2 weeks, I only do one sleepover with each kids, allowing for the other 7-9 days to be free for other things--alone time for me, movie nights, friends over, longer nights outside or out and about, etc. Sometimes I will do 3 for one trip and 2 another trip coming a few weeks later. Do not do too many so that you cannot enjoy it and are just frustrated and hating you did it.
The other kids not doing a sleepover must respect the other siblings' sleepovers. I expect them to be quiet, not interrupt, and to give their sibling the time with me that they would also want on their turn. They do go to bed (or at least in their room with books or quiet games or something) a little earlier. This has become a very important consideration as my kids get older and stay awake longer. So, they must allow me to have some good one-on-one time, and they will also get it when it's their turn.
Since we have 5 kids, sometimes I double up (2 kids in one sleepover). This week's trip, for example, Gray was only away 4 nights. We hadn't had sleepovers in a long time, and for the most part, I can predict we won't have many or any in the next 6 months, so I wanted to make it happen. I had 2 nights I doubled up with the boys and one night with Sarala.
It doesn't always have to be sleep over. There have been some times, I have done a game night with older 3 and a game night with younger 2, but no sleep overs. The point is to spend intentional time with them.
You can still do it in the crazy. There was one time when it was crazy, but I had already promised sleepovers. Just make sure you can keep your joy! That meant they had 30 minutes of electronic time/iPad at bedtime (we NEVER do this) while I was doing other things I needed to get done. BUT, the point was they had a special night with mom and still had a sleepover with me. I also had to stress electronic devices would not become the norm for sleepovers with mom. But, it allowed me to keep the tradition (as I had already said we would and we work to keep our word with our kids), but still have margin time for me.
Books! When the kids were younger--especially preschool and young elementary age, I almost always gave them a new book when we did sleepovers. Living in India, we didn't have a library. So, the books we had were the books we purchased at book stores or online. I have always wanted my kids to love reading, so introducing a new book and reading it to them before we went to sleep was so fun. The next day, they got to show and tell their brothers and sister, and that was always fun too!
Games! Uno, phase 10, jenga, matching games, board games, hand and foot, etc. This is especially a good idea cause you can talk and laugh, but you still have something to do.
Bake! Okay, this one is NOT my favorite, but for some of you, you might love it more than other options. I just don't really like cooking or baking. But, there have been times I did an easy recipe with the kids and we made or baked a little snack and had it during the sleepover. Some ideas are cheesy nachos, popcorn, protein balls, cookies, brownies, etc.
Movies! This is an easy one and a favorite! This is what we did this week--it's Christmas season, and that makes for fun, easy sleepovers! I just brought some mattresses into the living room, put on a Christmas movie and either have popcorn and a drink or hot chocolate and candy cane. This has been especially fun with my older kids. I watch movies that are for older kids with them, and we can talk through lessons and things that are not appropriate for younger kids.
The two main points for sleepovers with my kids are to redeem the time while Gray is away and to invest in my kids and spend some good intentional time with them.
If you are still reading and still just think this sounds like a nightmare or you feel like you can't breathe at the thought of it...keep reading. Sleepovers likely are NOT for you! And, that is OKAY!!!
You do NOT have to have a sleepover with your kid to redeem the time while a parent is away or to intentionally spend time with you kids! I know for my husband and a few of my introverted friends, this sounds like a nightmare! Introverts really do need that down time, especially at night at the end of a depleting day with people--kids all day!!! That's okay. Know yourself and do not take something like this on! It would be a bad idea for you to do so! But, you can still do something...what would be good and fun for you?
One thing Gray does when I travel is to take the kids out--that is actually something they look forward to when I'm away. They used to make trips to the zoo, every single time when we lived in Indore (which actually was a nightmare for me)!!! He takes them to parks or special playgrounds. They eat out--which is always a bonus when mom isn't cooking.