Tips for the Traveling Parent

I grew up in a traditional household. My father worked a 9 to 5 job and my mother stayed home and raise my 3 siblings and myself. Each day brought the same routine – waking up for a quick breakfast before catching the bus, school, practice for the sport in season, dinner as a family, homework, bed, repeat. Growing up, I always envisioned a similar life… and then something happened. I went to college, I got my first real job and I fell in love with my career. It became a passion. A part of me that I grew to adore. I met my husband and started my own company. Life was good.

Then came the birth of my son. Suddenly my heart exploded with a kind of love that I never knew existed. My life was turned upside down (in the best possible way) and I had to figure out my new identity as someone I never saw coming – a career mom. And not just a career mom, but a traveling, business-owning, career mom.

How do I make this work?

The first few work trips were hard. Leaving an infant felt like abandonment. Then one day I returned home after a long few days on the road, and my son greeted me with the biggest smile, hugged me hard and kissed my face more times than I can count. That’s when I knew it would all be worth it.

In an effort to keep this positive experience going, we started implementing these simple tactics before each business trip I took. And before I knew it, we were making memories instead of tears.

Prep, Prep and Prep Some More.

About two weeks out from my work trip, I start telling my son that mommy will be leaving for work. We talk about where I’m about to go, the fact that I’m going to ride an airplane and what he will do while I’m gone. We talk about it so much that he can repeat it back and has a true understanding of the events to come.

Make a Promise and Keep It

I’ve never brought home a gift for my son (I know, worst mom ever). We have a playroom overloaded with toys that are menial and rarely used, and I can’t stomach the thought of adding to the pile. Instead, we make a plan for when I come back. Whether it’s going to the zoo, an indoor imagination play center, or even just out to lunch, we decide, I promise and we follow through. The best gift I’ve found thus far is creating memories and spending time together to make up for the days I was gone.

FaceTime, Skype, Video Call

The first time my son and I used FaceTime, he got really upset… like 2 year old tantrum upset. I thought that was it. But we tried again and again and soon it became a lifeline. We use the time to talk about his day and I flip the screen to show him mommy’s work. To get the most out of your calls, try to be as consistent as possible with the time of day you call. Keeping on schedule can help in managing your child’s expectations.

Create Your Own Special Saying

And only share it between the two of you. Ours goes something like this:

Mommy will never

Leave me

And she will always

Come back

We have shared this conversation between us  so often that when I read him the  book Are You My Mother (you know, the one where the baby bird asks a kitten, hen, dog, cow and SNORT if they are his mother) he actually pointed to the baby and said “that’s me” and then to the mommy and said “and that’s you. See! Mommy always comes back”. It’s working!!

I’ve found that while leaving my son for another business trip or event is still hard, these tactics have made the process much easier. And I know that this family lifestyle, which is so far different than what was my “normal” growing up, is creating trust in our relationship and showing him the value of hard work, even when it’s the last thing you want to be doing.  And now, the highlight of my leaving is when he gets to pull my suitcase to the car… and I’ll take it!