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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Travel Mom

Posted by admin | November 23rd, 2006 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Who We Are

Travel Mom2.JPGRecently, The New York Times published an article titled “Working Moms Find Some Peace on the Road.â€? The article set off a flurry of emails and phone calls between my female friends and me. It’s been an enlightening and alternately helpful and disheartening conversation. The article described the often-exquisite quiet and solitude professional women who also happen to be mothers sometimes find on the road when traveling for work. The women interviewed for the article, and my friends and I, revealed our gratitude for an uninterrupted night’s sleep, a dinner that we neither cook nor clean up, an evening without children spent in conversation with a far-flung friend in which we both have the luxury to finish our sentences.

It also did a good job of describing the reality of preparing for business travel when we have children at home: on the personal side, the seemingly endless notes, lists and other reminders to spouses and childcare providers about logistics, activities, meals, necessities and special touches such as the stack of notes to tuck into lunchboxes each day mom’s away; on the professional side, the pre- and post-work for meetings, presentations, and negotiations and the exhaustion of travel.

The article did not, however, detail the darker side of our appreciation and perhaps desperation for the indulgence of a full night’s sleep in a quiet hotel room: guilt.

One of my friends, a very accomplished professional whose huge job with a global brand takes her away from home with some regularity, said the article “failed to mention the phone calls home with the children screaming or crying in the background, the sound of frustration in your husband’s voice and you too many miles away to do anything. Then, the feeling of guilt when you hang up and you’ve just had a great dinner and you’re in your nice, quiet hotel room with its soft, clean-sheeted hotel bed.â€?

We ask ourselves and each other “Is it worth it?â€? Do the guilt, exhaustion, and complicated logistics net a positive when we take into account the upsides? I have to believe they do, that somehow all that preparation and endurance and commitment and partnership within our families will teach our children this: that it’s possible to fit everything we believe in and love into this life…. not always with grace, patience and impeccable style, but there’s a place for all of it within the mess and passion of a life lived fully. For me, my vocation and avocation are one and the same. My work is almost as much a part of who and what I am as my family is. The same is true for many of my friends.

As I finish this blog post, I take yet another deep breath and broach the subject with my husband of whether his schedule and psyche can accommodate my being out of town for two days next week. And I begin making lists.

4 Responses to “Travel Mom”

  • November 27, 2006 at 9:17 am | Kathleen Fasanella says

    I read and hear stories like this all of the time and I wonder why my experience was so different. Why was I so lucky -and this was over 15 *years* ago? I was a single parent of a disabled child and I *couldn’t* travel unless I brought him with me. The apparel industry is not very progressive but you know, I never lost a job over it. We traveled all over the americas (including central and south america) visiting factories and cooperatives for several years until he had to be in school full time. I put off school thinking the world was a much better classroom. On one job, I even brought my dog. I didn’t really want to do that job (big mega wal-mart supplier) and stipulated the dog hoping they’d turn me down :).

    (btw, love, love those style lines; I’m a pattern maker)

  • December 8, 2006 at 11:19 am | M. Thielen says

    WHY feel guilty about leaving your children at home with their father? He is equally responsible for their existence — he certainly ought to take full charge periodically. At best, it gives the kids the often-rare opportunity for one-on-one time with Daddy. At worst, it gives him a more realistic appreciation of your role as mother, household CEO and full- or part-time employee.

    Instead of guilt, many of us feel anger that our husbands are “out of town” even when they’re physically in the house. He may be watching TV, reading the paper or eating dinner while you are overseeing homework, running baths and refereeing arguments without benefit of dinner or bathroom breaks for yourself. And remember that you’re not slacking off during a business trip. In addition to your day job, you’ve had to plan for everyone during your absence. Consider that full night of out-of-town sleep a reward for previous overtime.

    The time constraints created by juggling work, childcare and other at-home responsibilities force you to focus on what’s really important. If your four-year-old is afraid to stay upstairs by himself at bedtime, read that bedtime story and reassure him that you’re there for him, and let the dirty dishes sit in the sink overnight. Please — let the guilt go.

  • December 11, 2006 at 6:19 pm | Jen says

    This is so funny because I’ve had this same experience — you revel in the solitude and quite of the flight, the hotel room, the adult conversation. But at the same time you feel guilty, not for being away, I think, but for how much you’re enjoying yourself!! It’s hard to be a split personality and love your work as much as your children. You want to be there for everything.

  • January 12, 2007 at 2:20 pm | Pat Corfield says

    I thought I was the only woman who enjoyed business trips when my son was young. Everyone I spoke to then about traveling only complained. Maybe they felt too quilty to admit they enjoyed them.

    I was a single mom before my son’s first birthday and I had no real support system. His grandparents where there for Sunday dinners but made it clear that they raised their children, hence, no sleepovers with Granny and Grandpop. No break for years.

    I loved those business trips; long baths, room service and a book. I lost money when I traveled because I paid a baby sitter to stay with my son but it was worth it. I would never have paid a sitter for a recreation trip, but since it was work-related it was okay.

    My son and I have always had a great relationship and I truly enjoy being a mom, but during those years when I was totally responsible for another life 24 hours a day the opportunity to get away even just for a few days was a true blessing.

    Now that my son is an adult I don’t enjoy business trips as much as I did then.

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