My Working Mom Travel Ritual & How I Finally Got A Grip

Business Travel for Working Moms

Photo Credit: Royalty Free-Corbis

Let’s face it, business travel and motherhood often don’t mix but if you are committed to your career, it is an essential part of the job. I love and loathe business travel. I love it because it’s one of the only times I can get seven uninterrupted hours of sleep; I don’t have to worry about grubby fingers shoved  up my nose or a little face pressed up against mine at the crack of dawn demanding, “Mama, no more sleeping! You wake up NOW!”

On business trips I get the whole bed to myself and don’t have to worry about stepping on a toy and losing a toe on  the way to the bathroom. I can sit down and eat an entire meal without getting up to clean up a box of Cheerios that mysteriously dumped itself on the kitchen floor.

When I travel I love meeting with clients and colleagues, seeing new places, and doing the occasional sightseeing trip when I can squeeze it in. Yes, there are lots of reasons to love business travel.

I loathe business travel mostly because I miss my little boy terribly. I can’t count the number of times I’ve awakened hanging off the edge of my hotel bed because I’ve grown so accustomed to having a little sleeping body wedged next to mine. I miss that warmth. I miss the bedtime rituals and early morning chats over oatmeal.

At D2’s age (he’s almost three), being gone more than a few days means I’ve missed something new he’s learned to say or do.

After D2 was born, I didn’t start traveling again until he turned one. When I did start traveling again I’d whip myself into a frenzy until the moment I stepped on the plane. In addition to making sure all of the household chores were done, I would spend the weekend before my trip grocery shopping, running errands and cooking extra meals for D2, his nanny Eva and Dr.D.

I taped an emergency contact sheet on the fridge door and checked Dr. D.’s mobile phone contacts to make sure poison control, our pediatrician and advice nurse’s numbers were pre-programmed.

Before every trip I emailed Dr. D. a long list of dos and don’ts.  Here’s a sample:

D2 goes to bed at 8pm. Not 8:30 or 8:45, 8pm. Make sure to tuck Elmo, his dump truck and his train Old Puffer Pete into bed with him.
Don’t give D2 milk after 7:30pm otherwise he’ll soak his pull-up in the middle of the night and wake up.
D2 likes yogurt, veggie straws and an apple in his pre-school snack (but don’t cut the apple up or he won’t eat it).
D2 needs to eat at least two vegetables and two fruits every day to stay regular.
D2 needs to poop every day (ask his teacher too). If he misses a day, give him an extra apple. That’ll do the trick.

And so on.

I wish I could say I was kidding about the list but I’m not. Not only did I have The List, I called home every night to check on D2. How did his day go? What did he eat? Does he miss me? Dr. D. answered all of my questions patiently. He’s fine. Yes, he pooped. No, he didn’t sleep too long at nap time. We gotta go, we’re eating fried chicken, barbecue chips and ice cream for dinner. Ha, ha. Just kidding!

Apparently, I am not the only mom who went into overdrive before traveling for business. Earlier this spring I came across this New York Times article on working mothers and travel. The moms featured were instantly familiar to me because I saw myself in them. It was humbling and a bit embarrassing.

While I could feel smug that at least I wasn’t pre-packaging a week’s worth of D2’s outfits in ziplock bags, the article made me think hard about my behavior and the message I was sending my husband. Was I was unconsciously telling him that I didn’t trust him to take care of our son? Was I intimating that I didn’t think he could make good decisions while I was gone?

I think so.

So I made a change. It’s taken me three years to grudgingly accept that while Dr. D.and I have very different parenting styles, I know he will move Heaven and Earth to make sure D2 is safe and happy. Would I like it if he made sure D2 ate all of his fruit before tucking into yet another bag of goldfish? Yes.  

Would I be happier if he didn’t mix D2’s Boden plaid pants with his striped t-shirts? Sure. But you know what? Seeing how happy and content D2 is when I return home is all I need.

These days I’m much more relaxed before I travel for business. I still grocery shop and make sure the refrigerator is well stocked (that’s just the mommy in me) but gone is the honey-do list and multiple check in calls. All of the time I used to spend on pre-travel prep insanity is now spent hanging out with D2, showing him where I’m going on the map and talking about what we’ll do together when I return. I’m calmer and Dr. D. is relieved that I’m no longer checking up on him.

An added benefit to my being gone is Dr. D. and D2 get to deepen their own father-son bond. What’s not to love?

Your turn. How do you prepare your family for your business trips? Do you ever find yourself going overboard? Let me know what  you think in the comments.

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