Many people are forced to become single parents when their partners are required to work and live hours away — a situation that is a reality for thousands of employees in northwestern Ontario who are forced to commute.

The stress of being away from family is nothing new for the people at the Thunder Bay Counselling Centre.

The manager of clinical services said more and more families have been affected by long-distance commuting in the past couple of years.

"You wouldn't think of a married couple being a single parent family," Abi Sprakes said.

"But, that's what we're seeing in these situations where … one parent

[is] responsible for the entire family."

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Sprakes said there are ways to cope while mom or dad is working away from home — including regular phone calls, and ensuring those who remain behind keep up their social activities.

"I think it's … something that's probably underestimated how difficult it is for people," she said.

"Certainly it's a change to their regular routine … what they've known for probably many years."

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Thunder Bay resident Jordan Tetrault makes the long commute to Detour Lake Mine, leaving his loved ones behind. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Jordan Tetreault knows he misses a lot when he works away from his home in Thunder Bay. His work requires him to make an eight-hour drive to the Detour Lake Gold Mine, north of Cochrane.

Tetreault said it's hard missing birthday parties, anniversaries and other special family times — but noted there is an upside.

"It's great coming home to someone that had a chance to miss you," he said.

"I don't want to say that it's not special anymore, but when you come home to someone that misses you, it's just that much better."