I am a working mom, and my job sometimes requires travel. I’ve traveled one week per month for the last three months. To someone with a travel-heavy job, this might not seem like much. To my friend who has a four-year-old that she’s never spent a night away from, this seems literally impossible. For us, it is just life as usual.
Once I managed to shelve the mom guilt (and gently put up boundaries with friends and family who try to push extra sides of guilt and disbelief when they hear I’m about to be gone again), I’ve found that while, yes, traveling with a toddler at home can be hard and/or challenging, it can also be enjoyable.
First, let’s dispense with the things that are obviously challenging.
I miss my kid. Sometimes I miss important events or moments. It seems like every single fun extra at daycare (the Thanksgiving luncheon, the painting and cookies, and fall festival) has magically landed on one of my out weeks. When kiddo was younger, it felt like being away for a week meant that he grew up into a little boy every time I was gone. His face, hair, and mannerisms all felt different. And it’s hard on my spouse, who also works full-time. He handles all the meals, bath times, and middle of the night wake-ups. He shoulders all of the worries and is “on” 100% of the time when I’m gone.
Now, the things that are cool.
My husband is at home handling every single meal, bath, and middle of the night wake-up – I get uninterrupted sleep in a king bed, the company feeds me, and I only have to worry about bathing myself and no toddlers trying to jump in with me. I eat at restaurants that might be hard to take a little kid to. I interact with adults and have adult conversations. I can read an entire novel on a flight without one ounce of feeling like there’s something more pressing I should be doing. I usually bring a facemask or nail polish and have some much-deserved “me-time” at least one evening while I’m away. And, when I land, the smiles from my kiddo and my spouse are that much sweeter. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder – being away from my little bug makes me appreciate every hug, kiss, and nosey that much more.
So, for the Mom that might be considering travel (for work or pleasure) away from your little ones, I want to encourage you.
If it’s possible, set up a time in the morning or evening to video chat with your kiddo. If it’s not possible, pre-record some favorite lullabies or rhymes that your little’s caretaker can play while you’re gone. And, set up a count down until you come back. We tell our kiddo how many “sleeps” I’ll be gone, and my hubby counts down each night at bedtime. I also try to bring my kiddo back a small memento – sometimes it’s the free Biscoff cookie from the airline, but it doesn’t matter him. It just shows him that while I was gone, I was still thinking of him.
Take something (a book, a face mask, a Netflix binge, an adult coloring book, a knitting project) that you can work on during any downtime that makes you feel happy and relaxed – double bonus points if its something hard to accomplish with a kiddo around. It will make your time away feel that much more worthwhile.
And I promise, my kid doesn’t feel deprived, or like I’m missing his childhood. He sees his strong Mama, doing her job. And he sees his strong Daddy, taking care of things at home.
We are proud to be setting that example.