By Tracy Lane
I always thought I’d be a working mom. I never thought I’d be a traveling for work working mom.
I think as moms, we want the best of both worlds. I know I do. We want to be the one smiling in the driver’s seat at pickup line hearing the first tidbits about our kids’ busy days. We want to be the intelligent, high-earning businesswoman so that we can give our kids (waiting in pickup line) the best of everything. At heart, both wants are about giving our kids all that we can. But in practicality, the demands of both don’t always match up.
Like right now, I’m sitting in an airport waiting to fly far from home for an exciting workweek while a friend texts me pictures of my daughters making maps and catching ladybugs in our backyard. I’d love to be the one shoveling dirt, digging for worms, kissing muddy faces. I’m also happy I’m the one reaching professional goals and providing financially for my family.
Since I know you other mamas are out there repping both sides of motherhood, let’s talk about how to manage home—and not feel guilty—when you travel for work.
Let’s start with the basics. I realized something very important the first day (6 years ago) that I rubber-banded shut my long-forgotten work pants, slipped on summer wedges, and left my 8-week-old with my mother to go back to the office. Sniffling loudly through every meeting, scrolling teary eyed at the pictures she sent me of my baby sleeping in various positions, I realized that I’m not the only one who can care for my baby. It was saddening and liberating all in the same postpartum haze. A mother clearly can’t be replaced, but accepting help and continuing to make a life as women outside of our children is healthy, as long as we continue to prioritize our homes.
As my kids aged, I saw how very healthy it was for our fun, energetic, creative, teenaged nanny to pick them up from school twice a week. The attention and spunk that she offered as someone so not tired and bogged down motherly chores and exhaustion was a gift. The dance parties, snowcones, backyard races, dress up games, and giggles were something that my girls weren’t getting from me at that time. I confirmed again that, on occasion, some care and support from someone besides me was good for all of us.
Knowing that my work life/ home balance is very in shape, on the occasion when I start to feel guilty (like tonight maybe?), I reflect on the babysitter’s account of backyard antics and think about how I’d probably have been making my girls clean their rooms or help with dinner. They’re having fun. They’re growing and exploring in more ways with another adult who loves them. It’s nothing to feel bad about.
Now that together we’re over working mom guilt (j/k does that ever go away?). But since we have to travel for work anyway, here are some practical tips for pulling it off.
1. Get a babysitter. I think the best babysitters are young adults who our kids already know in our regular community. To get some good ideas of babysitting options, consider their preschool teachers, church teachers, teenaged neighbors, an aunt’s friend, a high schooler who they might know from school. And I know it’s not always possible, but a babysitter who can drive is gold!
2. Make a schedule. Especially if you’re the one who typically keeps the family’s things to do and places to be list running, then you’ll likely need to write that down for your replacement. Even if it’s your husband or their dad. I like to include the day, time, location of the activity and a friend’s contact info who attends too, just in case your stand in needs a little help. At worst, it’s overkill and over communicating never hurt anyone!
3.Prepare the home. Leave the house with a full fridge, plenty of quick grab packable snacks and school lunches, and easy dinner options. It’d be great, too, if your family members’ drawers could be folded full with clean clothes for the above listed activities. And if your children take medicine or vitamins daily, Ziploc baggy the heck out of their daily doses if you usually play Dr. Mom.
4. Keep in touch. You’re obviously going to be busy and focused on work while you’re away for work, but your family doesn’t have to be out of sight out of mind. Daily check in keeps the home morale and mama morale high. Once I tried Facetiming in at bedtime. That ended in rowdy tears. Now I try chatting with the girls right after dinner. They’re full. They’re happy. They’re not too exhausted to talk yet. You know what time works for your family, but as much as possible make a daily call while you’re gone.
5. Return with a souvenir. “Mommy, what are you brining me?” is what every kid with a traveling parent wants to know. You don’t have to get anything big. My dad traveled for work a lot when I was little. He brought back postcards from lots of different places. They probably cost 25 cents but it was something extra special about being reunited. A magnet or a small keychain are other low cost, small options that would mean a lot to your kids waiting on your return.
There you have it. Enjoy wearing heels this week without twisting your ankle on a Lego on the way out the door. You’ll be home in no time and your work will have been worth it.