Traveling for Business - a how-to-guide for moms who are new to it

From a work standpoint, I am well into gear for fourth quarter. It is a challenge akin to preparing for the homecoming game. You have your strategy well in hand and are navigating last minute interference while keeping end of quarter performance goals in sight. For me that means a bit more travel. Most working moms (including myself) don’t particularly enjoy traveling on business - especially while your children are young.
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As an example, I recall the plight of a breastfeeding colleague whose stored milk leaked all over a fellow passenger’s carry on. She was embarrassed but mostly upset to lose two days worth of pumped breast milk. Luckily she laughs about it today. Personally, I tried to really cut down on business travel when the enormous, seismic pull of a helpless infant and/or toddler existed. Once your children are more self-sufficient, however, things do get a lot easier.

Here are my two truths to share regarding successful business trips for working moms:
  1. You will be too busy on these trips to experience more than a tolerable amount of guilt. Sounds crazy but it's true for me. The week or two beforehand is really the worst of it. Once you are engaged in the purpose of your trip, your focus is pretty much tied up. To get to this place requires a bit of preparation – which I’ll share below.
  2. As much as you might think your child(ren) are pining in heartbreak without you...they are not.
They are enjoying forbidden Burger King with Dad. They are wheedling him into breaking rules and they are successful at it. They are jumping on the couch in wrestling battles and watching too much television. They are playing computer games with animated zombies that drive monster trucks over unsuspecting pedestrians. They are playing Wii after bedtime on a school night and your floors will acquire mysterious stains that no one knows anything about.
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The man you married, who agreed that children without boundaries are a result of bad parenting, will drive him two towns over to buy out of season FIREWORKS. When you call to check in, they will give you the bum’s rush in order to get back to their next adventure. As much as we mothers are the glue that hold our families and civilization in check, it's fun for them to be barbarians once in a while. Not that I would tell them this. The truth is - great fathers pretty much rule. They hide the bad stuff from you until you get home.

The weeks before are my guilty weeks so I distract myself with preparations. Here is what I do:
  1. Spend a Sunday making and freezing meals such as lasagna, meatloaf and chicken Marsala, which they will never eat because they are eating out every night.
  2. Create lots of sweet or funny notes and hide them in sock drawers and shoes. Ask husband to place a note each day in your child’s snack or lunch box. You will find these later in the bottom of his backpack.
  3. Create a video of you reading a chapter or two from the current bedtime book. This will never be seen because of all the Wii time he is getting in.
  4. Select and hang up school clothes for the week after checking the extended weather forecast. Pin signs with days of the week on each set so that he wears the right shoes for gym and has a jacket on the chillier day.
  5. E-mail or speak with his teachers so that they are prepared that your child might be sad at school on those days and need a little extra TLC. He won’t need the TLC but he will certainly milk it if necessary (aka gets a reminder about talking too much during circle time).
  6. Buy little presents and ask the hubby to go on a clue hunt to find one each night. This one is really for the second half of an extended trip and is purely motivated by guilt and an egotistical need to still be remembered as a fun parent, although out of sight. This will backfire on you as Daddy will get the credit and he will take the credit without any of that regrettable guilt that you felt in the first place.
  7. Before leaving, really talk up the airport gift you will be bringing home for him.
  8. When packing for the trip, remember to include one “something” that belongs to him but that he can live without. A discarded baby blanket or a stuffed bear. Take pictures of this “something” in your hotel room or other location to e-mail an adventure story about. Make sure your Itouch or IPad is stocked with your favorite family photos, music, movie and an app that allows you to connect virtually - such as Skype. Sleep with the bear at night. Ditto for your husband’s t-shirt.
These steps are mostly completed in the pre-trip haze of guilt. Again, once you are on the way to the airport your focus will shift and it will be an amazing miracle when it happens. Knowing your family is able to exist (yet never wants to) without you is oddly comforting.

And trust me. As difficult and lonely as it may seem to be, sitting in a hotel room at the end of a long day (and thousands of miles away from your beloved family) not hearing someone call your name fifty times in a row or ask for the remote control the moment it hits your hand - just may rank up there with a spa day.
The thing about leaving is that there is a wonderful reunion. Lots of laundry – but a very happy family waiting for you to return.

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