Tramp Wives: Teacher Jen Raises Twins & Supports Traveling Husband

I've written about John's travels and life on the road a few times before. He works as a union electrician, and several times a year leaves Eastern Iowa to travel the country to work on nuclear facility outages. The not-so-technical term that these electricians use to describe themselves is a 'tramp'. That makes me a 'tramp wife'. (I know. Totally glamorous.)

While the term 'tramp' to describe an electrician who travels is new to many of you, I've found that John's travels and our lifestyle in general is also new and confusing to a lot of folks.

There is a supportive group of women that I have connected with over the last 2 years, especially during John's more extensive travels to the southern states. I decided to call on their help and expertise to share their own stories with you. My goal? Help you all understand the benefits, challenges, and quirks of being with a 'tramp', and how we make our sometimes-long-distance relationships work.

Without further ado, here's Jen with her story.

……...

We are natives of St. Louis, Missouri, but are currently living in Fairfield, Iowa. I work at a middle school as a level 3 special education teacher. Logan is currently living in Fairfield with the family, trying to catch out close to Fairfield. Besides the two of us we have identical twin 3 year old boys, Elvis and Elwood.


1. How long has your Tramp been traveling? How did he get started? How long have you been together?  

Logan has been traveling for 6 years (2009) and we have been together since 2005. He actually started traveling within a month of getting married, but only like 45 minutes away in Illinois. Logan was laid off in December 2008 when St. Louis (Local 1) work dried up and layoffs were a common thing to Local 1 hands.

2. What's the hardest part about the traveling lifestyle? Why isn't it for everyone? 

The hardest part about traveling for me making the choice between working in a field I love (education) and keeping my family together. I have worked hard to earn a Bachelors in Elementary Education, a Masters in Special Education, a Masters in Early Intervention for Children with Autism with Sensory Impairments, and 3 certifications in Missouri.

For Logan traveling means missing all the big steps in his kids lives, like crawling, walking, rolling over, and their first words. 


When we found out I was pregnant, Logan was working in Albany, Georgia almost 13 hours away. I went to 90% of my prenatal appointments alone, which was difficult because the doctor thought we had twin-to-twin transfusion and the odds were looking in favor of having surgery. But, in the end it turned out ok. 

When I was 4 months pregnant I started bleeding and was all by myself, so I made Logan come closer home to work (Clarksville, Tennessee). It was so hard to do anything when you are as big as house and working with special needs kiddos. A week before the boys were born, Logan came home so at least he was home when I went into labor. He was able to stay home for 6 weeks after the boys were born, but then it was back on the road and this time it was Augusta, Georgia.

That was the hardest time of my life. I was working on my Masters and raising the twins by myself (funny how no one really wanted to help with twin infants). Once a month I drove the twins down to Georgia to see Logan. When the boys were 6 months old we made the decision to move to South Carolina (where Logan was living with another traveler). We me t a ton of awesome people there and loved it, but financially we were strapped. We had a house payment in St. Louis and rent in South Carolina and the only one working was Logan. We eventually moved back to St. Louis after a year and stayed with my parents a bit (were finally able to rent our house out), while Logan traveled. We eventually settled in southeast Iowa where we both had work until October 2015. It was then that Logan left and went to Omaha until February of 2014. He came home to Iowa because my work was too stressful at that time and it was effecting my home life.

With all that being stated, traveling is not for everyone. It's hard to constantly move, constantly second guess if you are making the right choice, question if you are being selfish (as the mom) for wanting to work instead of go with your husband, constantly answering to friends and family who ask "why travel?", "why union?", and "aren't you afraid of what he is doing without you?" (I love that question).

3. What's your favorite part about being with a Tramp? Feel free to share a memorable story or moment. 

The best part about being with a traveler is all the people we have met. I have another family; people my boys know better than their own blood family. We have traveled to a lot of places. When Logan worked out of Augusta, Georgia we were having cookouts with five other families from all other places every weekend. We all got along and helped out whenever and wherever we could. They celebrated my boys first birthday before our family in St. Louis. Some of these men and women are our family and I know when Logan travels he will always have people that are there for him, and that we are always welcomed to be there.

4. What does being a part of the IBEW mean to you and your family? 

Being part of the IBEW is a huge part of my family. Logan is 4th generation IBEW and to be union is important to both Logan and I. Being part of the IBEW means there is "family" throughout the country; a couch to crash on, someone who has been in your shoes that can give some words of wisdom, a group which helps to take care of others in need, a group that believes in family and the importance that it plays. This is what it means to us as a family.

5. Do you and your Tramp have any long-term plans or goals to travel together? Or, any plans to stop traveling and not live (and love) long distance? 

No master plans - we wing it. The beauty about traveling is you never know how long a job will last or where there will be work.

6. If you have children, how does your parenting change? Any surprises in this area?

Parenting has changed big time for us. I have been raising the twins on and off with and without Logan. We do what we can and make the best decisions for our family. We have set certain time restraints for how long Logan can go without seeing the boys and how far he can be from the family -until I decide where I want to settle or move back to St. Louis. With parenting there are always surprises, especially with raising twins.

 7. For anyone in a long-distance relationship, give them some advice on how to make it work. What is essential to making life easier? 

For anyone in long distance relationships, trust is the most important thing. If you can not trust each other it will never work. Always find someone who you can talk to. I met another traveler's wife who is my "southern sister" and she has helped me through more than she will ever know. And always know when it is time to come home. It is not a sign of weakness to say 'I need you', and that was one of the hardest lessons I learned.

One of my husbands favorite parts of traveling is going to places he may never go,  and not just visit the area, but live the area. You never know what gem may be around the corner.

8. What else would you like to add?

I want to say traveling has gotten easier, but that would be a lie. I love the life we live and would never trade who I have met, or where I have been. I have found how strong and how vulnerable we can be as a family. I have also learned there are others that travel that have the same convictions and beliefs as we do and those people have helped us by being there for us.

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