As many of you know, trucking can be an incredibly isolating career. Not everyone is a social butterfly, but most need some social contact. Not only is social involvement important, but also family involvement is just as important (and many would argue that it is more important). You are probably on the road for weeks and possibly months at a time to support your family. If you also ignore your family for this period of time, this is harming your family and yourself. Many truckers and their family talk as if the driver is no longer part of the family—almost as if the children are being raised by a single parent.
Obviously, it is difficult staying in touch with family when you are on the road. Technology enables communication through use of our cell phones, email, Skype, social media... and the list goes on. But some of these forms of technology can breed miscommunication since you loose tone, inflection and true conversation with some of these forms of technology such as a text or email. Even further, the driver and family become much more relaxed about the ability to communicate, but do not do so because they do not make it a priority.
It is important to setup a schedule for communication. For example, you could put a reminder in your phone to call home daily or every-other-day. Better yet, you could setup the reminder during a time that you and your family have the most energy. Make sure you don’t put the call off by waiting until the last minute before bedtime. This will allow you and your family to have the most energy to have a quality conversation.
Another important idea is to use your voice to communicate with your family. There are a lot of drivers who focus on using texting to communicate with their families. This is effective for short conversations and business. However, so much is lost in the written word. This is not an effective medium for expressing emotion and trying to achieve some closeness…especially when you have been on the road for a long time.
Skype and Facetime are great additions to the phone calls. This requires a quality wifi connection or strong cell reception (and uses a great deal of data). However, this can be looked at as a great supplement to the phone calls. It is so much nicer to see your loved ones as you talk. Children can also show homework and class projects over their webcam. This can add a much better quality experience for everyone involved.
Home time is another issue that is troublesome for many drivers and their families. It is important to make sure that you take as much home time as you can afford and/or your company allows. Often, there is an adjustment when the driver comes home. For example, the father may be the trucker who is out for weeks on end and then expects to be the disciplinarian as soon as he gets home. This can undermine the mother’s authority and any arrangement she has set up with the children. Again, communication with your partner is key to running a smooth family.
Another home time issue that frequently comes up in the course of therapy is the driver’s difficulty adjusting to family in the first day or two of being home. The family often wants the driver to go places and do things…just the opposite of what he/she really wants to do. Most drivers want to rest and driving somewhere is the last thing on the list. For some drivers, it works better to take fewer home time trips, but make the stay much longer. Thus, there are fewer adjustment periods.
Remember, the key to being a successful trucker is taking care of yourself and your family. If you isolate yourself, this hurts you and everyone around you. I don’t think anyone wants to be known as the absent parent. You might have no choice about the amount of time you are on the road. However, you do have a choice to communicate clearly, often, and with good spirit.
Keys to communication when you are on the road:
- Make calls, instead of only texting
- Use Skype and Facetime as much as possible
- Communicate on a regular basis and when you have good energy
- Take as much home time as possible
- Consider taking longer periods of home time to reduce adjustment periods
What forms of technology do you use to stay in touch with your family?