A few tips to help our work trips feel less distant
Being away from my family is one of the toughest parts of being a working mom. Over the past month I have taken four work trips; each time, I see my two older sons’ spirits dim just a bit. I tell myself that it is for the good of our family, and that the travel is essential for my company, but I know that at the end of the day my kids are suffering at the expense of my career. It is a very hard reality. It also seems to be true that every single time I go on a work trip someone has a fever or doesn’t feel well. I am trying to “mother” from thousands of miles away. The truth, however, is that the travel can’t stop for me unless I want to change my career, so I can only make the absolute best of it, and I have found a few ways to do just that:
1. Make sure to discuss your trip before you leave with your little one(s).
As your kids get a bit older, share the details of your trip. My sons like to hear about the meetings I will attend (I leave out the highly-confidential stuff); I make it fun and make them feel important. I tell them about the dinners I have, and the parties I have to go to. I treat them like they are my colleagues and bring them into my “world.” I compare what I am trying to accomplish on my trip with what they are trying to accomplish in their everyday lives. For example, “I am meeting with a prospective customer to see if we can sell him his fruits and vegetables in 45 of his stores across the country. This is a bidding process, and I will present the reasons why my company is different than the others out there. It is kind of like when you are trying to convince Dad and me to let you stay up late on a Friday or Saturday night as it is different than the rest of the days of the week because there is no school the next morning.” While the comparison may not be apples to apples (pun intended), it gets them involved in what I am doing and makes them feel connected to me while I am gone.
2. Have scheduled Facetime/phone calls while you are away.
Modern day advancements like Facetime have made it so much better. I try to Facetime my kids every morning and every night. I try to stay consistent with the questions I ask them and try to tell them a story about my day. I also try to show them the places I go so that they feel connected to me on my journeys.
3. Wear a piece of jewelry with their initials/bring an object along that reminds you of your little one(s).
Another thing I do to feel close to my kids when I am traveling is to wear three initial cuffs from one of my favorite jewelry designers, Dana Rebecca Designs. I have all three of my sons’ initials on my wrist, and it makes me feel close to them. If you don’t have a piece of jewelry that has their initials, maybe you could take a piece of their clothing or a baby blanket just to have with you. I apologize if this may seem creepy, but for me it helps to have a physical object to keep me grounded while I am on the road.
4. As much as possible, be the boss of your trip schedule.
For those of you who have the flexibility to pick the days you meet with clients or can choose when you travel, I always try to schedule my work trips so that they last just one night and I come home the next day. I jam-pack the trips as much as possible and get as many meetings in as I can. I also block my schedule and will not travel on very special days, such as the first day of school or my kids’ birthdays. I know that is not the reality for everyone (and not even always for me), but that is how I try to plan.
5. Count the amount of sleeps you will be away and tell them the days you won’t see them.
Whenever I leave for a work trip, I try and see my kids the day I leave and the day I come home. I then count the amount of “sleeps” I will be gone. For example, if I have a trip from Tuesday (9 am flight) to Thursday (5 pm return flight), I see them Tuesday morning and then tell them that I will really only not see them for one day (barring travel delays, of course). I also let them know that I will only be gone for “two sleeps.” Sharing these two facts helps them feel more relaxed during my travel.
At the end of the day, our kids would love to have us home as much as possible. Wewould love to have the flexibility to travel on our own schedules (and to make our trips fit perfectly within our “real life” schedules). This is just not always the way it works. The above tips, however, have helped me and my kids make the best of my time on the road.