As a mom, there are more than a few triggers that give me anxiety in the morning related to my kids. Yes, all of the typical things you’d guess are on my list: are they safe during the day, did I dress them properly for the weather (in AZ, did I remember to put on sunblock?), how can I get them in the bed earlier tonight so they won’t be so sleepy, etc, blah, etc.
Yet, the scenario that makes my mama pre-planning, Google calendar brain kick into high gear and reach for an Ibuprofen is when I know a work related trip is looming.
My kids are five and two years old, so I’ve been mentally adjusting to this reality of working mom life for a while now. The interesting thing is just as I started to forgive myself a little more and more (that pesky mom guilt) for having a professional career outside of the home and accepting travel as a non-negotiable if I want to compete, something creeped out of nowhere. My daughter’s sophisticated, analytical, and extremely emotional self awareness.
Mia is five years old and the sweetest soul I know. She is a natural protector of her baby brother and the child I’m betting will look out for her aging parents when the time comes. She is also so, so, so impacted when I have to jump on a plane for conferences and meetings. I DREAD telling her I have to go.
I just returned from Denver where my colleagues from around the country spent two and a half days in a room sharing best practices. I am fortunate in that I know my travel commitments months in advance and compared to many, it’s not that frequent. I’m also fortunate to have been able to stick to my ‘no more than three nights away’ goal since Mia was born. Even when Elijah was born with jaundice, we narrowly escaped having to stay in the hospital for a fourth night.
This last trip I debated when to tell her. Not too soon, otherwise she will dwell on it for days and pepper me with questions and a crushed spirit. Not too late or she will react to not having enough time to process it all and feel abandoned. This trip I decided to do so the afternoon before my morning flight after I picked them up from school. First off, it’s a treat to be able to have pick up duty, so I figured we were already on a high note and planned to strategically get ice cream cones before dinner (yes a bribe…distraction…whatever). Anyway, I told her in the car like this: “Mia, mommy has to go on a plane tomorrow for work but I’ll be back in a few days. Guess what? Grandmother and Nay-Nay are coming over for dinner tomorrow night AND the next day is soccer class and Nana and Poppo will be there. Then I will pick you up from school on a Friday”. She just looked at me for a moment trying to be a brave girl. But then it happened, a big, Denzel Washington ‘Glory’ tear rolled down her check and then both eyes swelled up.
Heart. Broken. Mine and hers.
I wiped away the tears hidden by my sunglasses and said “baby don’t cry, it won’t be long, you are making mommy cry”. To make a long story short, we used the rest of the car ride to talk about what her days would look like while I was away, answered her questions and of course got ice-cream.
A few tips I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Braid her ponytails in tiny braids the night before so daddy has easier mornings.
2. Put a framed picture of myself in their room. When moments of sadness happen, they can hug mommy.
3. Bring back a traveling gift for each child. Take their requests (again a distraction during the ‘mommy has to leave’ convo) and get them excited about the upcoming gift. Then either pick up at Target or Amazon Prime. Confused? A.) I don’t have time to shop on the trip. B.) Airports are expensive C.) Gift requests like scientist goggles and zebras are hard to come by.
How do you handle work trips?