I grew up in a trucking family. My dad has been a truck driver my whole life, and now that my sisters and I are all grown and out of the house, my mom is on the road, too. If you’re reading this article, you know the struggles and guilt that come with either being a truck driver or being the one who’s left behind.
Recently, a truck driver sent me an email. He said he was having some guilt about missing out on things at home. He asked me what it was like to grow up as the child of a truck driver. This is what I told him:
Growing up in a trucking family was the only normal I knew. My mom stayed at home and pretty much acted as a single mom. My dad was gone a lot. I know he sacrificed a lot for us.
I also know my dad did all he could to be there for birthdays, sports and special events, but it wasn’t always possible. One thing I could count on was that he would be there for the BIG stuff.
I’ll never forget the year I made the All-Star basketball team. I really wanted my dad to be there to watch me play. Before the game started, I scanned the stands for my dad, but he wasn’t there. Sometime during the first quarter, while I was playing, I scanned the stands again and he was there. To this day, I remember where he was sitting, the look on his face when we made eye contact and what he was wearing.
After the game, my mom told me my dad drove all night to make it to my game.
I remember most summer vacations were spent with us riding in the truck with my dad, and my mom following in the car. I remember almost every moment, from car sickness to Disney World. I remember all of us squished up in the bunk, trying in vain to sleep.
When my twin sister and I were 17, my dad took us on a 2-week trip to California. On his days off, he took us to the beach and to Hollywood Boulevard. He let us play our music on the radio. We all learned a lot more about one another during that trip.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, do your best to be there for the big stuff and make the most of the time you have together and make time for one another. Trust me, your child will understand that it’s not always possible for you to be there, but they’ll always remember the times you were there.
When you are home, make the most of your time together. Do stuff together. We grew up water skiing. Every time my dad came home, we would ski from dawn until dusk (weather permitting, of course). When we were teens and my dad was home, he wouldn’t let us lock ourselves away in our room. My dad demanded we all be together. As much as I loathed it then, I appreciate his effort now.
When you call home to check in with your significant other, make the time to speak with each of your children. Even if it’s 5 minutes, let them hear your voice.
Send your child postcards or trinkets from the road. This will give them something to look forward to while you’re gone.
If your company will allow it, take your loved ones on trips.
Now that I’m married with children of my own, I know how easy it is to take the time I have with my children for granted. We’re all guilty of letting our lives get too busy.
I know it’s a hard life, but we make our own normal and we just have to make the most of the time we have together. So, it’s okay to let go of the guilt. Trust me, we turn out fine.