Recently, 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.