Parenting is never easy. It always comes with a huge responsibility to educate, love and be there for your kids. All of this can be challenging for a regular couple. But what happens when one of the parents is a truck driver and must spend weeks at a time on the road?
Parenting while leading a trucking career can get even more complicated. Since distance really has a strong impact on every relationship, it also profoundly hits your home life. So, if you want to start a family, you should definitely be aware of all the challenges you will have to face as a trucker. Sometimes, taking all the options into consideration and balancing out your priorities can be very helpful.
Some people consider being there for their children their top or unique priority. Some others prefer to try and balance a career with their home life. Both options are equally valid and perfectly respectable. But nonetheless, this is a choice you will have to make when the time comes.
If you are considering having a family while supporting them on a trucker salary, you should also be aware of the wins and loses this will bring into your home. Nothing is impossible, but this will most certainly be very difficult for everyone involved. So, think your options through before settling for a concrete path.
If you have already done so and considered that is worth giving it a try, we have created this list to try and help you manage a trucking career while parenting. Raising a child while on the road won’t be easy but remember that if you are willing to give it your 100% you could make it work!
Chose the moment
Usually, drivers start off doing OTR (Over The Road), also known as long haul. This means you will be gone from your home for several weeks at a time, sometimes even months! This is the regular way to start and you usually need to gather some experience in OTR before you can switch to a local trucking job that will keep you closer to home.
It really depends on each individual, but you should expect to spend from one to two years doing OTR before being able to opt for a local job in trucking. This is a long time if you think about the first two years of a kid’s life.
So, one of the best things you could do is to plan accordingly, so you can either pull those years before you start your family or when your kids are a little bit older. It is very important to stay as close as possible to your kids during their first years of life since they will probably mark the rest of your life-long relationship with them. You want to make sure they develop an emotional connection to you and get to know you before you spend that much time away from them.
Children grow so fast and they change so much during a short period of time. These first few years are also the hardest, and even more, if you are a first-time parent. So, if you are gone for most of this time, you should also be aware that most of the work of raising a baby will fall on your partner. This could also seriously hurt your relationship with your significant other. So, if you care about your family, make sure everyone is in in the decision process and everyone fully understands that these choices will mean long-term.
Explain your job to your kids
Secondly, it is very important to make sure your children understand what you do and why you might be absent from their lives from time to time. They need to feel that you are still there for them and that you are not leaving to scape them, but to fulfill a specific duty.
It is always a great idea to involve your kids in your career while you are at home. You can show them your truck and even take them for a ride, so they can see where their father spends that much time. It is good for them to be familiar with your profession and learn to love and understand it.
Another way to involve your kids can be by letting them help you or watch you while you clean or check on the engine of your truck. You can also show them your route on a map or tell them about the place you are going on your trip. This is a nice way for them to feel part of it and learn about US geography and cities too!
Also, feel free to gift them truck car toys so they can feel a part of that world as well. This will most certainly help create a bond and connection, and your children won’t feel left out of that very important part of your life.
Try to schedule trips around important events
Being a parent also means being with your kids during the important moments and rites of passage that they will remember forever. Being there for them when they most need you, is a must in good parenting.
So, whether it is a birthday or a soccer game, try to always schedule your trips and days away around those marked dates. If your work allows your schedules to be somewhat flexible, try to make it to all the important events in their lives. They might not remember if you weren’t there to help with homework on a Thursday, but they might never forget that you missed their 5th birthday party.
Sometimes you might not feel like it if you have just arrived home after a two-week road trip. But make sure to make that extra effort for them. It will surely pay off long-term.
Keep the parenting going even when you are away
It is important that the role of a parent is not lost while you are away. Your kids must still see you as a figure of authority and learn to follow your instructions and advice.
One way you can do this while you are on the road is to give them special tasks or chores to realize while you are away. You can give them all the specifics you want, like to have it done by a certain time or day. And you can put them in charge of anything at all. It doesn’t need to be something big or important or tough. Just remember that they will feel useful while you are gone and keep them seeing you as a parent figure.
Take into consideration your kid’s ages and level of responsibility and chose a specific task that fits both. Maybe it can be feeding the cat or helping set the table. It may be taking the trash out or tidying their bedrooms. No matter what it is, be clear about it and praise them for doing it once you get back home. They will feel proud of themselves and it will re-enforce your parent-child bond significantly.
Bring them something from wherever you go
One way of making them feel like you thought about them during your absence is to always make sure to bring them something from wherever your job took you. It doesn’t have to be something expensive or important. It can be as easy as a piece of candy, a magnet, a postcard, or a toy.
If you are feeling particularly creative don’t hesitate to choose something specific from the place you went to. Or, at least, tell them how you found it and it made you think of them. They will feel loved and thought of even in the long distances and absences.
And, who knows, they might even surprise you too with something they did or got for you while you were away, like a drawing or a macaroni ashtray. That way, they will also think of you while you are away.
Spend all the time you can with them
When you get home after a long trip, it is completely normal that you feel the need to just climb into bed and sleep for days at a time. Or maybe all you want to do is drink an ice-cold beer on your couch while watching some silly TV show.
Nonetheless, you must remember that every minute you can spend with your family will be priceless. It definitely is worth that extra effort. Maybe you won’t see it at that moment, but you will start noticing the way your family bond strengths through time.
The time your kids will be home and will want to hang out with you is only limited and it won’t last forever. It certainly won’t wait for you to retire or feel like playing and laughing. Time goes by in a blink. Soon your kids will be old, and they will be out there in the world on their own. Use the precious time you have with them to actually be with them! You might spend the next few years so tired and restless, but it will feel like a small sacrifice in comparison to the profits.
Call and talk as much as possible. And do some real talk!
Nowadays and with all the available technology, there is no excuse for you to not call and talk to your kids and family as often as you want to. So, take advantage of these new-era perks and use them to stay in touch with your family.
It is important that your children feel you present in their everyday lives, even if it’s through a phone screen. So, if you can, make sure to call them every night before they go to sleep. This way, you will get a chance to ask them about their day and they will share everything that happened that day. And you won’t lose track of what is going on in their lives: who their friends are, who has a crush on who, why the math teacher is out to get them, which team won at softball, what grade they got in their science project, etc.
It is very important that you get to know your kids, even if it is through a phone call. You need to know their likes and dislikes, their dreams and fears, just as if you were with them at home every day. So, use your call time wisely and don’t waste time with empty chit-chat. Focus on the important things, both for you and for them. That way, even if you are away, you will be an important part of their lives and be up to date in their every-day activities.
Bring them with you when they are on vacation
Finally, and this suggestion should be taken into consideration depending on each individual’s needs, you could think about taking your kids on a trip with you. It could be a very cool experience for your children to get to experience what one of their parents does on a regular basis. They can better comprehend what it’s like for you to travel in that cabin and the way you see the world through your windshield.
This can also be a cool experience to travel with your family and take them on to discover all the amazing places, cities and landscapes this world has to offer. They will probably have a blast and come back with a million stories and experiences to tell their friends.
Remember that you should consider the length of the trip and the age of your kids before deciding on taking them on a trip with you. But, if you get everything to come together, it will surely be the trip of a lifetime and your children will never forget that amazing experience they lived thanks to their parent’s job.