Being away from home for business is challenging, but there are certain days that are just more painful than others to be away.
If I had to rate the most heart-wrenching days to be away from home, they’d be:
- Your child’s birthday
- Your child’s first day of school
- Your child’s graduation
- Your spouse’s birthday
- Your anniversary
- Your birthday
- New Year’s Eve
- Valentine’s Day
- School meetings such as Meet the Teachers
- Your child’s field trip days
Over my years of business travel, I have missed most of these; all except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many of these I have missed numerous times.
Holidays such as these don’t happen to fall nicely on Saturdays and Sundays when most of us are home from our travels. Nor do they always fall on a Monday or Friday, where we could perhaps modify our travel schedule by a day so we can participate in these events. No, they like to fall on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – smack in the middle of a conference, business meetings or sales calls.
In the last week, I have missed being home for my anniversary and Halloween. My husband left for a business trip on the morning of our anniversary, and I got home from my trip later that evening. Being away from home on our anniversary is sad, but this is a day that can easily be made up on a day before or after a business trip.
And today, as I write this, it is Halloween.
Halloween was one of my saddest days, and most anxious days, to be away from home when my kids where young. Frantic morning phone calls as they were looking for their Mickey Mouse ears, or black eye patch or whatever missing costume piece went astray was crazy. I’d be a thousand miles away and trying to help get them in their Halloween garb over the phone. But that was easy compared to missing the annual event of trick-or-treating with them. Walking house-to-house with them, enjoying their excitement as they get the goodies from each neighbor, is soooo fun. Meeting up with other parents, ooh’ing and aah’ing over little kids’ customs was great. This is a holiday that doesn’t lend itself to making up at another day, unless there is a pre-Halloween event while you’re still home.
Really, any of the days where your kids are involved are the saddest to be away. With birthdays, you can ease your sadness in these ways:
Celebrate via Skype as they blow out the candles on their cake;
Send them a special gift that’s delivered on their birthday (kids love getting a package via mail or delivery);
Having a special pre- or post-business trip celebration – this gives them a chance to celebrate twice (something no child will decline!).
Have your child write in the journal about their feelings, their events and their gifts, and set aside private time upon your return home for your child to share this.
Missing the first day of school, field trip days and school meetings all pull at the heart strings. On these days it’s easy to feel like the worst parent on the planet. Non-working parents of other students don’t help the situation when they give you the evil eye and look of scorn. I had a few PTA moms who were especially good at this.
A few words of wisdom on lightening your bag of guilt:
- Know that a special 24 hours can be moved up or back by a few days and be even more special.
- Plan ahead, leave little gifts all around the house on birthday or anniversary days so your loved one is finding them throughout their day.
- Arrange for a special friend or family member to celebrate in your place.
- Appoint a photographer or videographer for the event so that the special day is recorded.
- Celebrate together via telephone, video, text message, or all of the above. A Skype party is great!
- Have a special private day with your child or spouse upon your return home. These days can often be more special than the actual date because they have your undevoted attention.
- Plan your business travels so that you’re home on as many special days as possible, including one field trip day a year. Going along on one school field trip is more than most stay-at-home parents do!
- If your family’s schedule allows for it, bring them along on your business trip and celebrate in a new city.
- If your schedule allows it, fly home for the day, then go out again the next day.
- Pick up a gift or two of local flavor for a birthday or other holiday (i.e. a small piñata or a special food). This is a great learning opportunity of other cultures.
- Celebrate by yourself. I enjoyed a glass of wine on my solo anniversary evening. I toasted my wonderful husband from afar. Then we celebrated together when we were both home.
- Write in your own journal – your feelings, what you’re grateful for and words you’d want to share with your family.
- Connect with other parents feeling the same pangs of being away from home (our community at Smart Women Travelers can help with this!)
- Be grateful for having the work that you do that allows you to travel, have new experiences and share them with your family.
By being creative, being flexible, and focusing on the time you do have together, you’ll get through these heart-wrenching days a bit easier. And remember the air miles and hotel points you’re collecting for your next big family vacation together!