Like a lot of my friends, I am a mom whose work requires a significant amount of travel. Client meetings, conferences, staff meetings at headquarters, or coordinating events out of town, working moms rack up the miles away from home! If you’re a working mom whose job requires travel, you understand that there are perks to being on the road. Glorious silence in our hotel rooms. Drinking an entire cup of coffee while it’s hot. Getting ready without running out of the bathroom five times to make sure the troops are rallying for school.
While I’ve come to enjoy my time alone and I love the work that I do, I’ve also had to learn to give up control of my other job—Chief Operating Officer of my household.
Being a self-proclaimed control freak means that I take pride in maintaining our family’s master calendar, planning the weekly menu, coordinating after-school activities for our daughter, and getting up a few hours ahead of my family each morning to get a head start on the day. I also have an awesome and involved partner who manages to balance family time and household tasks while being a full-time graduate student. Even in this privileged position of having two involved parents, I somehow end up being the one who knows all the little things about our routine. I know where her back-up pair of ballet shoes live, when her library books are due, and what exactly that piece of paper is for in the bottom of her backpack.
You can imagine, then, what happens when I’m gone. Just last week, I sent a good morning text with a view from my hotel room in New Jersey…
My aforementioned, awesome partner that I trust with our little human doesn’t always set an alarm because he ‘usually wakes up on time.’ This is the kind of thing that at one time would have sent my blood pressure through the roof. I would have stopped en route to my gate at the airport and gone into triage mode, firing questions at home base:
WHY DIDN’T YOU SET AN ALARM?
WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU MEAN BY CRISIS?
DON’T FORGET HER MEDICINE!
It took me a while, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that while I’m gone, I don’t get to dictate how things run at home.
Now, I can look at a frantic text and just smile and shake my head, possibly sending a reply like, ‘No alarm clock, huh?’ with that passive-aggressive winking face emoji. If you’re a working mom who travels, you may have this same struggle–letting go but still being expected to troubleshoot from hundreds of miles away.
I asked a few of my working mom friends who travel to share their stories. Read on and see if you can relate!
Sometimes it’s nearly impossible just to get out the door.
I was running late getting out the door to catch a flight when my suitcase wheel got tangled up with the hair on my daughter’s Cinderella doll. After a few minutes of fighting to free the doll, I grabbed a knife in a fit of desperation and cut the doll’s hair off! The doll, who now looked more like Chucky than Cinderella, went into the trash. Now my daughter is asking for a new Cinderella doll for her birthday since her old one mysteriously ‘disappeared’…
Sometimes we are expected to troubleshoot, even from hundreds of miles away.
I was away on business getting ready for my company’s annual gala and I got a call from home asking if I knew where my son’s shoes were. I hadn’t been home in a week, but I located the shoes. Via phone. Because apparently moms are in charge of those things, no matter where they are. Can you hear me silently screaming? These kinds of things drive me crazy—both the actual calls and the expectation that you could or should be able to do these things while you are traveling on business. Do dads get these calls?
Sometimes the call from home strikes panic.
While on a work trip I got a call from a very timid husband who was at home with our 18-month-old daughter. “I think Avery swallowed a penny.” Then silence. I immediately thought, ‘What? I left my tiny little human with you?’ He called the doctor who requested they go in for an x-ray. They trekked to the ER for a late-night x-ray while I waited and worried at the Hampton Inn 300 miles away. We laugh about it five years later, but at the time I was so distracted and worried!
Sometimes, kids get sick as soon as we walk out the door.
At least 75% of the time I travel, one of my kids gets sick. Never fails. And, inevitably, I’m standing at an airport gate coordinating someone to stay home and care for them.
Sometimes news from home makes us realize what we are missing.
I was at a conference across the country when my husband called, excited to share that he had converted our daughter’s crib into a big-girl bed. I immediately burst into tears. How could I have missed this milestone? Why would he think that was ok to do without me? I felt like I missed the moment when my baby was no longer a baby and I could never get it back.
And sometimes, being gone validates all the work we do at home.
The first time I traveled for work I was gone for a week. The kids were 6, 5, and 1. On Wednesday I had flowers waiting for me in my room with a card that said, “My God you do a lot. We miss you!” It was actually validating that my husband acknowledged all the things I do to make the household run!
If you are lucky enough to have a partner at home, try to let them run it without your interference, even if it’s not the way you would do it. And, when they cry for help, take a deep breath and offer support, even if you have to scream into your hotel pillow when you hang up the phone.
Do you have tales from the road as a working mom? Share them in the comments!