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Atoke: You Have to Work Away From Home? Here Are 5 Ways to Make It Easier



AtokeClassified, a Canadian music artist recently announced that the proceeds from the song ‘Work Away‘ (ft. David Myles) will be donated to the Red Cross to aid the efforts being made in Northern Alberta (following the Fort McMurray fire) The lyrics of that song struck a chord in me, which was further amplified by the video.  The video showed men hugging their kids as they packed their bags and went off to work.

People who work away from home – away from their families and their roots – pay quite the price to keep the lights on. The price paid is in the loneliness of knowing that you won’t be there to witness those important milestones in your family.

Back in the 80s and 90s, when working for Federal parastatals was IN, a lot of middle class Nigerian professionals were transferred across Nigeria for work. The migration was even more pronounced when the Federal Capital Territory was made the seat of all governmental operations. The structure of families, split up temporarily because of work, resulted in a number of illegitimate children and unplanned arrangements. What started out as one family, running two homes, became two (or more) independent families.

However, one can’t underscore the importance of having a job. Apart from giving you source of income, it also gives you a sense of purpose. Inasmuch love and romance is sweet, we can’t sit around staring at each other all day long. We gotta go to work! Sometimes, this work takes you away from home for 6 weeks at a stretch. Other times, you come home to your kids every other week. For some people, it’s every three months. Imagine the excitement and anticipation build-up of finally catching up with your Boo, after 5 weeks of being away. *in Reminisce’s voice*….Wa fe ku lale yii

So, if work takes you to Abuja, or Malabo, or Zurich, or Abu Dhabi, or Calgary…here are some tips to help keep you sane, and keep your family together as you go in search of our daily bread.

Test the Trust
Working away puts an inordinate amount of stress on a relationship. You have to be sure your marriage can pass the test of living away from each other.
It is one of those situations where you don’t have a choice but to be away. After all, it’s not like you have another job waiting for you back home. It is important that you test the trust level in your relationship in order for a work away arrangement to succeed. Trust that your partner can take rational and positive decisions. Your son broke his foot while playing ‘jangilova’, do you trust that your husband can do everything that needs to be done without you bursting an artery from worrying? How comfortable are you with the evening bowling sessions your Boo goes to? (because she’s bored and tired of sitting indoors alone)

Working away requires a huge amount of trust. {Repeating it for the people at the back of the class} In fact, an unwavering trust is required between both parties – for peace of mind and happiness. In the absence of this level of trust, you might consider just sitting at home with your partner jeje.

Have a plan
Getting a  job that takes you away from your domicile can be exciting. In fact, the juicier the perks of the job, the higher the temptation to just jump at it, without a plan. Resist this temptation. Put a plan in place…before you go. Don’t make something up along the way.
How long are you going to take this contract for?
Is it the job of your dreams and you can’t imagine not doing it? Then structure a plan that allows for the relocation of your family.
Are there opportunities for you to work from home sometimes?
Are you going to rent a place in this place or will you stay in a hotel?
Do you see yourself living in this city long enough to necessitate buying a house?
Does your organization provide accommodation for out-of-state staff?

Ask questions. Ask more questions. Plan; and then have a back up plan.
Having a plan is important when you’re working away, because the whole idea of running two homes can be very overwhelming. After the initial excitement of getting that payload job, you are forced to face the reality of what commuting and loneliness feels like.

Be honest in Your Self Assessment About the ‘Why’
Are you going to work or are you running away? Some people (like me… don’t judge) thrive in long distance relationships, and their love is best when it’s taken and given in small doses. Working away from home is the perfect excuse to ‘be there, but not quite’ It is pertinent that you have a good self-assessment conversation with yourself (and your partner). Is this job an escape hatch? Or is it absolutely necessary? Being honest with yourself in responding to this question will help you maintain a healthy, and well balanced relationship. There’s no point when one person thinks home is where the heart is, and the other person thinks home is where I’m able to put my smelly feet on the coffee table.

Amp up communication (Skype Skype Skype)
If you guys talk just once a day while you’re living together, working away necessitates talking 5 times more. Okay, I exaggerate, but you get my point. It’s not like you’re coming back at the end of the day to see the person, or to argue about why they left their toothbrush on the sink, or their dirty underwear on the floor. While working away gives you a certain peace of mind from hearing all those complaints…and shouting, you need to be able to talk about the mundane parts of your day. You can’t wait for 4 weeks to gist your Boo what Booth & Brennan did in 4 episodes of Bones. {Loving this alliteration thing I have going on here} You have to talk everyday.
Recently, I applied for a job that was going to keep me at sea for 6 months. As excited as I was at the prospect of not paying rent for 6 months, it was hard to think of a life without my FaceTime. How will I show Remi my hair and the resulting curls from my new Shea Moisture pudding? Ah! Communication is key.
Our parents relied on NITEL lines which worked when it worked. Today, we have the Internet (thank you Oyinbo people.) In fact, you don’t have to spend too much money on phone calls, WhatsApp call is free. All you need to do is buy data.

Be financially prepared
A cost-benefit analysis of the job is part of the planning process when you make the decision to work away. How much am I paying to be away from home? How much will it cost me to commute back and forth? What’s the required frequency of these trips? If my spouse and kids are coming to visit me, how much will it cost? How often will we need to do it in order to keep the fire burning, and the home intact?

The responses to these questions will, in turn, result in the need to have a serious financial plan. To successfully work away, you need to be financially prepared. You need to be able to measure how much you’re earning, and compare it to how much you’re going to spend to keep your home.

Running two houses also involves duplication of bills, and other financial expenses. All these must be documented. (Yes, I’m one of those people who believes there should be an Excel sheet for everything in life!) If it doesn’t make any financial sense, what’s the point of missing the important and invaluable moments in life?

Tuck your kids into bed at night. Watch Modern Family with your boo. Life is too short to miss the good times.

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. DOO

    May 20, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Aww your boo’s name is Remi, that’s so cool

    • "changing moniker"

      May 20, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      lol……i don’t think so, i think it’s a girl friend…maybe natural hair gangsters….that sorta thing.

  2. iyke

    May 20, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Valid points Atoke. However, I guess this advice is for those who want to be married, are married and want to stay married right?
    Quick question – What about folks who want to be alone?
    Let’s look at it this way Atoke – You know that one doesn’t need to be married for happiness and there is good in living alone?
    If you have observed lately, you would notice that living alone has become the new Black..… a new type of freedom to greater privacy and personal space, the freedom to be with oneself.
    Do you know that a lot of partners these days tend to be happier, fitter and thinner when they live on their own or travel away for work as it liberates them from the constraints of a domestic partner’s needs and demands and permits them to focus on themselves? It’s an emerging trend due to the cultural changes women have undergone lately where there is less need to be dependent upon men for support.
    I submit that most women with greater education, the ability to acquire greater wealth and thus autonomy, wouldn’t mind if their partner lives away from home for weeks,months or even years as they crave for their personal space and autonomy.
    Anyways, I guess it’s a choice after all.

  3. LOL

    May 20, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    I ran away……yes I said it!!! I found myself, I’m better albeit tired with a small pikin but I hope he has forgiven me. He says he has. I trust him….I trust myself completely now knowing my trust is in God and everything else is secondary. Praying it works as we comeback together again, praying we appreciate each other more and that the crevasses appearing are cemented and that all the pressure points that created gulfs between us have simmered with the tedium of time and distance…..

  4. Mz Socially Awkward...

    May 20, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    In fact, my eyes and ears perked up in the same way as the 1st commenter’s – Atoks, who be Remi? Oya, come and sit, begin dey gist Aunty S.A what’s happening in ya love life. Tell him that even in spite of our 21st century affiliations, we’re going to schedule a date and he go first carry us enter Mr. Biggs to chop on top your head as part of our approval process. *evil grin*

    Ahem. So, this issue of work physically separating loved ones for constant lengths of time looks like it’s become part of our generation’s reality. And being in a long-distance relationship before marriage is different, in my view, as you’ve not yet gotten settled into a home with the person, started having kids, started developing a permanent everyday life with them before work takes you apart. I’m seeing it happen more and more frequently, following the downturn in oil prices that’s causing breadwinners to move locations for new jobs but having to leave their families behind for many reasons (maybe they couldn’t sell their house without suffering a loss or the children are in the middle of their school year or husband and wife made the decision not to do anything permanent since the new job is just a fixed contract, etc.).

    I don’t know how couples cope, especially wives who often have to juggle a lot of responsibility alone with the kids when the husband’s away for weeks at a time. Hats off to those women.

    I’ve also spoken to ladies who jokingly say that they’ve gotten so used to not having to cook or deal with their husbands being underfoot that it becomes difficult to readjust when he’s in town. They say it with a laugh but I think there’s some truth there, it can’t be easy switching back and forth between their two lives. Also spoken to husbands who say it’s even more difficult for them since they’re the ones missing their families and literally alone in a new city – at least wifey still has the kids in the house to keep her company.

    This is becoming the new reality and from my viewpoint on the outside, it looks hard as heck, even with all the useful tips for staying in touch constantly. But… as love won’t pay the bills, na so things go be until the oil price picks up again (and if we’re still waiting around for that to happen)…

    • Judgejudyjudy

      May 21, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      Wow. You’ve just wrapped up our current situation in this comment. You’ve truly got great insight into this living apart thing.

  5. Kokoro Dudu

    May 20, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Living apart always end in disaster.

  6. Aijay.....

    May 21, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Sorry to derail a bit. A friend is married with two young kids and got a new job offer that requires relocation. However in addition to relocating, the job requires 75% travel per month.

    She would really love to take the job but her husband has been silent about it. He was asked what he would do if he got the offer and he said he wold take the offer but since it’s his wife it may not be possible because of the kids.

    What do you think?

  7. Moazzem

    May 21, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Awesome points. Thanks for sharing.

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