Journal & Courier - Lafayette, Ind.
Sep 26, 2011
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As part of his job, Mike Tucker has to travel quite a bit and can be gone for days or weeks at a time -- leaving his wife and three children at home in West Lafayette.
"I love my job," said 42-year-old Tucker. "It's the best job I've ever had but I do miss them."
His absence makes his wife, Jen Tucker, feel like a married single parent. "At night, we talk about our days, look to each other for counsel," she said. "Although we can do that on the phone, it's not the same. I miss his physical presence here."
But Jen has chosen to take her family's difficult situation in stride. Armed with a quick wit and heartfelt honesty, Jen penned some of her most difficult and funny moments about being a married single parent in her new memoir, "The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out," which was published by Writing Career Coach Press.
The title pays homage to a frantic day she had where everything seemed to be going awry only to discover late that night that she was wearing her underwear inside out.
Her dog had run away to a nearby blueberry farm, her young daughter, Gracie Tucker, was outside clad in only panties and Hello Kitty boots and Jen took a trip to the dry cleaners forgetting the dirty clothes.
"It felt like anything I did I could not get it right," she said. "It was a day."
But it was also a good day for creativity. That moment served as an impetus for Jen to break away from her children's literature path -- she has authored two children's books -- to try to voice her personal life in writing.
Jen is not alone in her mommy angst.
Buck Black, licensed clinical social worker with Heartland Clinic in Lafayette, said he believes there are more families who are dealing with the issue of married singledom due to a shift away from local manufacturing jobs to professional jobs that require travel in a global economy.
"I know that it is commonplace," he said. "You hear about it in your daily life and I see it in my office as well."
He said it can be problematic, especially when couples try to rely on texting as a way to communicate via long distances.
"I see texting causing problems in these kinds of relationships just because so much is lost in text messages," he said.
"You are a little more quick to send a biting text message."
He urges couples to talk on the phone and stay away from texting when a spouse is away. In his opinion, texting makes it difficult to pick up on nonverbal cues.
Angie Klink of Lafayette said her husband recently sold the family business and is working as a political consultant, which takes him away from home more often.
"I miss him at the dinner table," she said. "That's when I notice it the most."
She said she has more free time now that her children are older and would prefer to spend it with him but he's not always available.
To cope, Klink said she exercises more and spends more time with friends.
"A lot of women are in the same boat, especially these days ... when jobs are harder to find," she said.
Jen tackles other tough issues in her book, such as her dad's cancer battles and her oldest son's medical difficulties.
But she wrote the book with a lighthearted air and a mommy humor that is rife with warmth for her family.
She said the family figures out how to function when Dad is not home.
"Our boys really step up (their) game when Dad is gone," she said.
But their 5-year-old daughter has a more difficult time understanding why Daddy is not home.
"Sometimes Gracie leaves hysterical crying voicemails on his (phone)," Jen said.
But Jen said she tries to make the most of their time together and doesn't sweat the small stuff -- most of the time.
"In the grand scheme of things, your spouse is going to be home," she said.
Feel like a married single parent?
Buck Black, licensed clinical social worker with Heartland Clinic in Lafayette, shares tips for how to make your relationship work when a spouse has to travel away from home:
* Schedule conversations. Something this simple can help you feel connected.
* Schedule home time so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
* If there are any disagreements when your spouse is away, don't carry on arguments over the phone. Keep discussions short -- within a 30- to 60-minute range. Know when to stop and then talk about it the next day.
* Keep kids connected. Let the kids talk with the parent who is away over the phone or via webcam. Scan and send images or emails of their homework or drawings to the parent who is away. Share plenty of pictures. These are little gestures that you can do to make time apart a little more personal.
* If you are the parent who is traveling, send postcards or small inexpensive trinkets to your family.
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