How do I integrate parenting with business travel so I am not terrible at both?
As a parent with a partner who works as much or more than I do, I feel business travel forces me into a cage-match between professional responsibility and responsible parenting. I give so much concentrated thought to my kids AND the art of business travel prep, I find myself hoping that any of it is worth it. And even though I have been doing this regularly for six years I am still no expert.
When I prepare for and execute business travel, my parenting responsibilities become amplified. I think about all the things that could go wrong while I am away, and I plan for disaster. I cook meals, do laundry and write letters for the kids to open every day so they know I am thinking about them.
Their dad is fully capable of doing these things, and often does, and yet I end up doing them anyway.
Is it out of guilt? I suppose. That, or some misplaced maternal instinct forcing me to overcompensate. Whatever it is, it makes leaving for business travel EXCRUCIATING, both the preparation and the departure itself. Sometimes I am more of a mess than my four and six- year-olds.
Similarly, the day before I leave I am an emotionally-charged malcontent at work. Don’t ask me anything you couldn’t have figured out with a little bit of effort, and DO NOT give me anything extra to put in my luggage.
I will give you the laser beam-eyeball-instant-incinerator-dirty-look and you will shrivel under my gaze.
And then I’ll take your offering, anyway. Again, the guilt.
My focus is compromised because I’m thinking about how much I still need to do and how much I am viscerally dreading leaving my two cherubic children. I get super-cranky at home, too. Some couples might relish a little “together” time, if you know what I mean, the night before one of them takes off for a week. Forget it, bub. My husband has learned that any amorous attempts the night before my departure will be met with incredulity, if not the wrath of the Gods.
And then… After I manage to actually board my flight, something magical happens. The plane begins to climb, and everything falls away. My crankitude, my anxiety, my angst, my longing to hold my children close just disappears.
It all fades with the ground below me and I enter a zen-like state at cruising altitude where I am me and I am alone (among 100 other passengers) and I am free.
And THIS is why I, and so many women like me, keep getting on planes — this moment. This moment that fulfills us and allows us to be grateful for our stressful jobs and imperfect family and needy kids. And our distance from them, if only for a few days.
Journey On, Janes.
How do you manage the parenting vs.business travel cage match? Share your thoughts in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!