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Keeping Mom’s Business Trip from Being Mom’s Guilt Trip

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As a mom who travels for business, it may feel like you’re carrying around an extra bag every time you leave home — a bag of guilt! I know, because for many years I lugged this extra bag along with me on every business trip. Why the airlines couldn’t lose this piece of baggage, I will never understand!

Inside my ‘extra baggage’ was guilt for leaving my kids at home while I traveled; guilt for not being at the bus stop to pick them up, guilt for loving my job, guilt for enjoying an evening with colleagues or soaking in my hotel room’s bath instead of being on the phone helping with homework.

These were the days long before Skype, FaceTime, text messages and Facebook. All I had in my arsenal of communication tools were an AT&T calling card and my hotel room’s desk phone that wouldn’t reach all the way to the bed.

Times have greatly changed when it comes to communications tools (oh, what an understatement that is!) But how about the bag of guilt? Is that still naggingly rolling behind us as we head out the door for a business trip and kiss our kiddos goodbye?

Several moms share what pulls at their heartstrings when the travel for business and offer great ways to shake off this pesky bag of guilt. You may not permanently put that extra bag in storage after reading their stories, though I’m confident your bag will weigh a lot less.

Julie said:

I am a travelling mama … I have a 16-month-old baby girl and a 4.5-year-old boy, and I travel about once a month domestically & internationally.

I certainly do carry guilt with me when I leave home … guilt that I’m not there for my children, guilt that I’m leaving my husband on his own to juggle two small children, guilt that I might miss a major milestone. But at the same time, I value my time to myself – being able to read & watch movies in flight, having a good rest in the hotel, knowing that my children are safe and happy. I return from my trips rejuvenated and ready to put my “mom hat” back on, and homecoming is always so special – lots of hugs and kisses!

The main preparation for going away is mostly to do with the four-year-old. I tell him specifically how long I will be away & explain that he has to take care of daddy & his baby sister – make him feel important! For longer trips, we create a paper chain that he can tear a link off of every day to count down the days till Mommy comes home. For practical reasons, I usually do a big grocery shop to make sure my husband is well-stocked for the time I’m away – including lots of beer! ūüėČ

FaceTime is a life-saver … it’s so great to be able to see my family while I’m away, but it can also be a double-edged sword, as it makes me miss them more! It can also be tricky coordinating a FaceTime call across time zones, but we do our best.

Heather said:

As a single and working mom and owner of the blog Dallas Single Mom, there is a lot of guilt when I have to travel for work or for one of my businesses.

I get guilty because I may miss a milestone for one of my three children, or an important event. I miss just being with them but I realize that I have to work in order to put a roof over our heads. A few times I’m lucky enough to take them with me and at other times family will watch them for me. To get them ready, I have a discussion with them about where I am going and who they will be with. Then we plan our routine such as pre-setting their clothes, making sure homework gets done, etc.

Jennifer said:

I am a mom of 3 young kids (ages 7, 5 and 4) and travel 40-50% for business – in the past few months, it was 80%. I’ve learned to over-communicate my upcoming schedule, because kids don’t have the same awareness of what is coming up as I tend to. I will talk about my upcoming trip, and a few night beforehand, talk about it again. I will then be sure to explain to them when I am leaving (particularly if I will be gone when they wake up in the morning), and when I will be back (and be clear if I will be getting home when they are asleep). It’s important for my kids that they understanding when they will SEE me again – for instance, when they wake up on Thursday – it will be disappointing and upsetting to them if they expect me back on Wednesday, but my arrival is actually 11pm that night. A family calendar that they can see – and see when I am gone & coming back – is a great visual reminder and touchstone. I also share with them where I am going, so they can have a sense of knowing where I am.

A quick check-in is great. When I can, I try to say hello as they’re on their way to school in the morning – wish them well as they begin their day. If I’m available in the evening, a quick Skype or Google video chat is great for us to really see each other, and feedback from my husband is that means a lot to them, and gives them a more tangible feeling of connecting with me than a phone call where I’m tossed around on speakerphone. Sometimes, my schedule or time zones just won’t allow for direct calls, and I discovered that taping a video message to the kids on my smartphone, and sending that to my husband, has been a huge hit.

What’s frustrating? I’ve had a few experiences where I was traveling in Europe and got up at 4am to make a pre-bedtime video call – and no one was there!

One thing you feel is in that bag of guilt that you wish wasn’t: I’ve learned to let myself off the hook on having some type of “perfect” communication/check-in every single day. I learned to stop feeling guilty for NOT feeling guilty about not calling or not doing a video call! I am traveling for work, and I do need my rest as well. It’s ok to allow myself a decent night’s rest while I’m out.

Dana said:

We might all be connected with rapid transit and wireless technology, but that emotional distance when traveling for business is challenging. It doesn’t make a difference if I’m one state over or half-a-country away. I’ve been traveling since each of my sons were 5 months old (now age 4 and 1). I don’t want to change my lifestyle, and as a result, I’ve learned different coping strategies.

My husband also travels a lot for work, so we put all upcoming travel details into a shared Google calendar. Double booking never happens-and surprises are avoided. Although, plans are almost laughable when you have kids.

Video chat and instant messaging are a given, but few parents forget the logistics of the before and after call ramifications. Unfortunately, there have been times when my son sees me and breaks down crying because he misses me. The tears make it harder for my husband back home and for me when traveling. Therefore, my husband and I usually IM or text directly before a call so that he can let me know if it’s a “good” time for all. Time zones make logistics difficult, but scheduling calls or having a ‘set time’ can prevent some of this.

If I can’t be reached, I’ve recorded myself reading bedtime stories, on popular books like “Goodnight Moon”, that the kids love. That way, it’s almost like I’m there. If possible, I pack some of their favorite nighttime stories and read them over FaceTime or Skype. Just so I don’t seem so far away, I pack one of several back-up lovies (like stuffed animals) in my suitcase so I can show it during FaceTime. Plus, I love the memories.

I’ll let my son’s school know when I’m out of town, in case there are any issues at school. I write special love notes and photos and have them put in my older son’s backpack. I try to coordinate months in advance with my aunt and uncle for a few nights during the week I’m gone. They are extremely helpful and bring dinners. It’s important to have a great network to help out, and I am full of gratitude for how they’ve helped me out.

You can have it all, but can’t be modest. It’s okay to ask for help.

Angie said:

I have three children ages 10, 9, and 5 along with an awesome supportive husband. I’ve been in the travel industry for almost 17 years. I did my internship at TWA. I wrote stories for the Employee newsletter. It’s in my blood. I love to travel for both pleasure and business, however I constantly deal with the Mom guilt. It’s a full time job just getting everything organized and ready at home, while also being organized and ready for my business trip. I always swear that it will be my last trip.

I travel approximately 8-10 trips a year. It can vary each year. My trips are typically 2-4 nights. I do work with some great people who are flexible and understanding of my priorities at home so that really helps tremendously. However, the guilt is constant especially as my kids get older and do not want me to go and I don’t want to miss anything. I do seem to be “in the groove” of traveling and making it work. My family also loves to travel so we try to take 1-2 trips a year.

Christina said:

I am a mother who travels constantly. I own a travel agency and have to travel to stay up to date with destinations and products such as hotels and tours. My four year old, Amari is aware of my travels. She is a very independent spirit and I do my best to instill a love of the world with her. When I travel I take photos and share pictures. When I return we try to understand maps, work through world puzzles and talk about other cultures and countries.

I do miss my child terribly when I am away, but I also have to look at it for a me time, whether for work or pleasure. If you instill a foundation of trust and love, you will see it in your child. I try not to get emotional but show my daughter that I am a strong woman and she can be strong as well.

I am a firm believe that traveling changes our lives for the better.

Froswa said:

I work for a large nonprofit and I cover the southeast region of the U.S. with staff in West Virginia, Florida, Georgia and Texas. In addition, I travel for residencies¬†for my PhD at Antioch University. I typically try to make sure my 12 year old daughter and husband are prepared for my trips by getting them organized before I leave. It drives my husband crazy because he says he can handle things but I don’t want him overwhelmed when I go out of town. I try to make sure I’m spending quality time with my daughter and we have a really good relationship. Guilt does happen at times. I don’t want to miss out on her life. She’s only a child once and it can be a major juggling act for me at times.

Sarah said:

In our modern world, pragmatic aspects have taken the stage: to live good means to have enough money, to have enough money means to work hard. Everything is simple to understand, but what about coping with it? After buying a big house, my husband and I came to the decision that I should leave the house and being with kids and start again raising up the career leader. Lucky I am, I love my job, I’m a marketing manager, but due to my position, I have to travel much. So, to put it shortly, we’ve hired a baby-sitter with the extended working hours. She has her own room in the house and sometimes stays there for a few days when I’m out of the city. She’s an expert in this field and I don’t worry about the children’s safety, they are securely kept by her. But I do feel the shortage of our communication and interaction. Telephony, of course, helps to manage this somehow, but still, it’s not a real conversation. In a business trip, I try to speak with them online as much as possible. To reduce missing them, I always take plenty of photos and some their little clothes with me. It smells like them. However, I hope that in the near future, I’ll get a promotion and everything will be arranged better.

Nora said:

As the creator and designer for a dinnerware line, Nora often travels for business. In July and December, it is visiting the gift show markets in Dallas, New York, and Atlanta. At other times of the year, it is making appearances at boutiques to chat with customers and sign their platters.

As her children get older, the techniques used to help them transition while she’s gone have had to change. (Leaving a small wrapped present for every day that she is gone doesn’t quite cut it anymore.) She finds that school-aged children want to be aware of what is going on while their mom is away. The best way she has found to ease the transition for her 9-year old daughter and 11-year old son is to prepare them for the time she will be away by letting them know exactly what is going on during her day at work while they have their days at school. She explains this to them by showing them websites, applications, and any other information she has for her trips. It seems to ease the transition when they see a press release and know that “Mom is away because she’s talking to customers and signing platters at a store” or “Mom is meeting store owners to introduce them to the line so that they carry it” rather than “Mom’s in Dallas.”

Another thing that seems to help is after work is over to use a Facetime call on her iPhone so that they can see her and talk to her. She can show them the hotel room that she’s in…that also seems to ease their minds. It seems that giving them this information actually helps them process where she is and why she is away.

Jacquie said:

As the founder and owner of an adventure travel company, I sometimes have to escort groups or travel to meet with operators in South America. Last year, I traveled to South America 6 times for an average of 12 days each trip.

Not only do I travel, but I go to places off the grid and without access to WIFI or other communication options. So many times I’m out of touch as well.

With a daughter in middle school, it’s important to stay up to date on her activities. When I’m home I attend all functions open to parents: volleyball, basketball & soccer games; award ceremonies; and conferences and meetings.

Because I’m also a photographer, I take lots of photos and even videos when appropriate. My daughter and I enjoy reviewing the video footage from the championship volleyball game where she ratcheted up the score to contribute to winning the championship! I missed the season award ceremony, but the video is something we can enjoy anytime.

I know that I cannot attend every event and fortunately I have a husband who takes up the slack. My daughter came to me not long ago with an observation that she thought I was the “Dad” in the family and her father was the “Mom.”

I was stunned but had to chuckle and wonder what TV shows she’d been watching! The world is changing and the roles of women and men as parents are much different today than when my husband and I were growing up.

I have to admit that I don’t feel guilty about leaving her for short periods of time. I occasionally remind myself that I need to hug her more when I’m home. That’s something that even non-traveling parents have to be mindful of.

Thanks to all for sharing your heartfelt stories and great tips for keeping the pesky bag of guilt as small as possible.

If you have tips to share on what works in your family, please add a comment below.

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