Inspirations Series: Outstanding Long Distance Parenting
In this series of blog posts I’m giving you an insight into where I get my ideas from and why they are so important to me.
As I am nearing the end of rewrites on this book, and it will soon be off to the editor for a polish, I thought I’d introduce you to the concept of Long Distance Parenting.
For eight years, I worked for a large global mining company, based out of their head office in Perth, Western Australia. A large part of my work involved visiting several mine and port sites around WA, and working with employees at all levels of the organisation, from trainees to general managers, from engineers to electricians and everyone in between.
There was so many conversations, during breaks, during interminable bus rides through the outback, at airports while waiting for yet another delayed flight to arrive and take us home. Many of the workers I met, both men and women, though predominantly men, belonged to a family. They had a partner and children back home and they were away from them sometimes for weeks at a time. When they returned to the family home, these workers sometimes struggled to find their place in the family habits and schedule. They often felt disconnected or as if they were in the way. They struggled to relate to their children and their partner often treated them more as a nuisance than otherwise.
One story in particular always comes to mind first. We were waiting an hour for a plane and had been advised we would wait another four hours at least, thanks to one of the spectacular storms in that region. I got to talking with a man who worked in a different mining company. He told me about his family. This man had a wife who was a district nurse, working in remote communities down south. He himself worked a 3 week on, 1 week off shift up north. And they had a son, aged fourteen, who attended boarding school in Perth.
Between the three schedules, the family did not meet all in the same place at the same time more than once a year, and even then only for a few days at a time.
This really spoke to me. Was this the future for modern families? I couldn’t believe so. It was an extreme example of a common phenomenon in certain industries, that was all.
But it made me wonder: how could a family like his really call themselves a family? Simply being related by blood is not enough, in my opinion. A family is built on shared experiences, a shared story, if you like. This family had very few opportunities to tell that story as a whole, and just as few chances to retell and reminisce. I feared that the three individuals would find themselves in a few years time with little in common and little reason to remain together.
Thinking about the people I’ve met out there, got me to thinking about other workers who are separated from their families: military personnel, oil rig workers, fishermen and cruise staff, internationally seconded people and so many others. Then there are people who are separated from the other parent and have limited access to their children. Other parents are incarcerated and rarely see their children.
My own father and mother were separated from me and my older brother during our early secondary school years. I did not see my father for two years apart from a few weeks each year and I missed him terribly. I wrote letters to him regularly and he wrote back, but back in the eighties there really were no other options. Even phone calls were prohibitively expensive. The first Christmas, while we were apart from both our parents, we spoke to them on the phone as a special occasion and I for one did not stop crying for the rest of the evening. There certainly were no Skype calls, no emails and no online messaging which could help us maintain that close connection.
When my parents did return to Australia and the family was reunited, it took several years to regain something of the former closeness between me and my parents. Of course, the life of a teenager is fraught no matter how wonderful their circumstances, but I know that the distance had a big effect on my teenage years.
Around 48% of all working adults in Australia have children. The proportion is similar in many other countries. Not every worker in a remote location is single and unattached. These people have families and many of them are desperate to build and maintain good family connections with the ones they are forced to leave behind.
So I have developed Outstanding Long Distance Parenting for anyone who is far away from their family but wants to build closeness.
Outstanding Long Distance Parenting gives you ten activities to work on with your family. Each one can be customized in many different ways to work in with an individual’s family and their unique situation, interests and challenges. A number of worksheets, checklists, videos and podcast episodes will be available as supplementary material, to ensure that every parent can get the most out of the resource as they possibly can. Additional chapters will also be available to subscribers for a time before being incorporated into later editions of the book.
Outstanding Long Distance Parenting is also available to businesses. Corporate Human Resource teams need excellent resources to help the productivity, moral and retention rates among their remote workers. I have put together a seminar and worksheets for corporate clients, which will help leaders understand the needs and challenges of remote workers. The seminar is available to HR staff, leaders and remote working parents themselves and can be booked through this website. An online version will be available down the track.
I look forward to working with you and I hope that you will find useful and life-altering information in this excellent new book. Subscribe below to be the first to know when it is available for purchase.