Okay, I have absolutely no experience with being the absent parent. I've always suspected it's easier to leave than to be left alone with the kids. Maybe I'll test that theory someday when my children are much older and can survive a few days on cereal and cookies (because I know that's what my husband will make them for dinner). But for now, with my children small and my husband being the one with the job outside the home, he leaves and I stay.
With his new career, he leaves at least a few times a year and is gone anywhere from one to three weeks at a time. My main concerns when he leaves are 1) me staying sane for my children, 2) his relationship with his children, and 3) me getting to shower or bathe on a semi regular basis.
To stay sane, I make a great effort to get out or have visitors. I'm way more social than I normally am. I also get more done around the house. I know that I have to stay busy or I'll get incredibly bored and my children will get stir crazy and then I just might become truly crazy. We spread out our shopping trips, go to the library, and go to and invite others for play dates. Much as my girls and I love each other, we need to see someone else during the day. Yesterday it was almost 50 degrees outside so we went on a walk. There's no way I would have done that if we'd been expecting Daddy to come home in a couple of hours. If it were summer we'd be going on more walks and to the park, but we have to do what we can with what the weather gives us.
To keep my children's relationship good with their Daddy, we Skype every night that he's gone. It's not the same as seeing him in person, but it works a lot better than phone calls for small children. Last night my three year old tried to give Daddy a kiss on the computer, and I think the almost one year old wanted to jump inside the computer to get at him. During our Skype sessions, we've started reading scriptures and even saying prayers together. It seems a little strange at first, but prayer and scripture reading is an important part of our family when he's home, so it's important to keep it up while he's away. I also take pictures of fun or silly things that the girls do throughout the day and send them to him. Our iPod Touch has helped because it's easy to snap a pic and send it to his inbox right away. So far this trip he has received a picture of us going on a walk, of the baby running away from me naked, and of her trying to eat an apple almost as big as her head. Anything sweet or funny that keeps him a part of our day.
The keeping clean thing has changed with the ages and stages of my children. My oldest can watch a show while I shower. But my youngest is too young to be left unsupervised (especially since she learned to climb) and too old to be restrained in the bathroom without spending the whole time screaming. I've heard of mothers showering when their kids go to bed. Sadly, my baby cannot be depended on to go to bed at a certain time or to stay asleep once she's down. Some nights she might sleep for hours at a time, other nights she's up often. When my husband's home I either shower at night or really early in the morning before he gets up. I've had one full day without him and worked out the showering thing okay. When the three year old was down for the night, I took the baby in the bathroom with me, put up anything she could get into (garbage can, toilet paper), gave her a toy and locked her in the room with me. She wasn't too happy about not getting in the bath with me and then she was annoyed that she couldn't get out of the room, but she didn't scream and I got clean. And that's a very important part of #1: keeping me sane.