As I sit in my seat on my 2.5 hour flight back home from a long week of work travel, I think of how happy I am to be going home and how I can’t wait to squeeze my babies. More times than I can count, I strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me, or it may be someone I meet during my meetings, but when they ask about kids and I say, “Yes, I have three ages five and three-year old twins,” the initial shock and incredulous look sometimes makes me want to laugh. Yes, I know it seems crazy that I am a mom who travels for work, sometimes two to three trips a month. However, when I get called “Super Mom,” or people tell me, “I just don’t know how you do it,” I just chuckle a little inside and give credit where credit is due. If it wasn’t for my courageous husband who takes on all three kids while I am gone and the support we get from his family (who lives with us), none of this would be possible.
You see, this was an in depth conversation with my husband about three years ago before I made the leap to go into the position I am currently in. My oldest was almost three and the twins had just turned one when I received the opportunity. I knew it would mean many nights away from my family, but it was a great step towards the role I wanted at work and it was a step up in pay, which would have helped a lot since I was and still am the primary income. My husband had already started to be the stay at home parent and was focusing on building his business. This decision was not made lightly, and my husband and I talked about the pros and cons. In the end, my husband was supportive in my decision to take on this role and the travel.
If you travel for work, it seems so glamorous at the beginning being able to visit new places and try new things, but after months of being on the road, another hotel, another restaurant eating alone, the glamour fades, especially when you miss your kids and husband a day or two into a five day trip. I have come to think of it as a necessary sacrifice that I am making to ensure I can provide for my family, but time and effort will eventually pay off as I grow into another role within the company. I’m not going to lie, I still love my job and everything I get to do, but I won’t sit here and say I love it every single day. Days get long, sometimes I don’t get to FaceTime the kids before bedtime, I miss my own bed, and I feel guilty for being away and probably missing milestones with the kids as they grow before my very eyes. In the last year, I’ve realized that even though it is necessary, there is a way to handle it in a way that I don’t feel horrible for the decision I made and to not get frustrated or burnt out from work travel.
There are some things I have started to try and do with every trip to make it a little easier to manage and to not be stuck feeling sorry for myself:
1. Think of it as a break.
We know being a parent is tiresome and I’ve started to take a look at my trips as a “break” from the job of parent at home. It’s a little break from the busy lifestyle of having to work full-time at the office and then be on again at home as a mom.
2. Be a tourist.
I understand that this can’t be done all the time, but I really try to at least eat at a new restaurant, explore a new area, or do something a real tourist would do in the city. Sometimes I just want to go back to my hotel after a long day of meetings, order room service and go to bed. But by trying a new restaurant or if my day ends early, doing something touristy, this is a good way to decompress from the day and do something fun while on business.
3. Make sure you talk to your family every single day even if it is for a minute.
Technology makes it so easy for us to quick jump on a video conference to be able to talk to our loved ones. I try hard every day, even if I am two to three hours behind home to put a quick call in to my husband and kids to say hi, ask about their day, and give them air kisses.
4. Don’t feel guilty.
I know it’s tough, but you should not feel guilty about this choice. Also, don’t let others put you down or provide a negative opinion that affects how you think about yourself. It may not be an ideal situation in your mind, but if you love what you do, never feel guilty about that and the fact you are providing for your family.
5. It’s not forever.
The days get long, the years pass by, but I know this won’t be my life forever. I can and will make the choice eventually to find a role in a business I love that doesn’t require the amount of travel that I do today. This thinking gets me past every trip knowing there will be one that will be my last.
6. Take advantage of the miles/points you earn.
Living in Minnesota, there are certain airlines that dominate price and frequency-wise to my destinations. With that, I save up what I can and my goal is to take a family vacation to enjoy the fruits of my labor at least once a year.
7. Let your significant other rest and have a day/night to themselves.
Even though you may be tired yourself from traveling, always make sure that if your partner needs a break or needs to go out away from the home when you are back, let them do it. It’s a great way to tell them you appreciate them and that it’s okay to go out and take a break and let me take on everything you’ve been doing the past few days. If you are a couple that both travel for work, make sure and find time just to yourselves to catch up and work on the both of you.
8. Don’t hesitate to ask for help/support when and where you need it.
Without my in-laws and my family here in Minnesota to check in or help out when I am gone, I think my husband and I would be more stressed out than we would be today. If you have family, friends, or neighbors you can rely on, it’s okay to ask for help to make sure things don’t blow up while you are away.
So let me wrap this up since the pilot just came on to tell us we are starting to descend into Minneapolis. When I hear this message, I get really excited because even though it is still hard to leave sometimes on a weekly basis, I look forward to coming home to see the kiddos’ faces and get a hug and kiss from them (even though they are getting to the age they don’t want them from mommy). They make it all worth it.