On the Road Again

Do you travel for work?  How do you stay connected with your child and spouse while you’re away?

My travel schedule has incurred an uptick in recent years. There are parts of it that I like — meeting new people, seeing new places–and things I don’t–the long hours, being in the unfamiliar and mostly being away from my family.  Staying connected via technology has become easier, but staying really connected to what is going on at home while I’m away has not. Trying to sneak in a quick call home during a dinner break or trying to FaceTime after returning to my room after a long day often feels rushed, where I’m only getting the highlights of the day. While we all want to talk to one another, it can also feel like we’re trying to get to what happens after the call finishes: finishing work or relaxing for me; TV or homework for the kids; relaxing or cleaning up for my husband.

When I travel it isn’t easy for my husband or kids. When my husband travels it isn’t easy for my kids or me. When the daily composition of the family changes, even for a few days, interactions differ and that can be the hardest to adjust to. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s much a easier transition now that the kids are older, but there is still a noticeable impact. Almost a void we all try to fill when one of us is away.

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had a long period of time where I didn’t have to travel, but that is changing. I’m trying to gear myself back up for travel mode and mentally prepare my family for it. I know they will be fine, but I still struggle with how to maintain our strong connections while I’m away.  I don’t have any good answers, but I’m going to keep working at it, and welcome insights from others who’ve discovered ways to do this while they are away.

How do you stay connected with your child and spouse while you’re away?

 

Home Away from Home

How do you stay connected when you are separated from your child because of travel?

Many of us travel for our jobs. My husband and I have worked hard to minimize our travel schedule, but there continues to be times when we need to be away. Being away from a few days is relatively easy for our kids to handle. It becomes more difficult when one of us is gone for longer periods of time.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it stinks!

Applications like Skype and FaceTime have made it easier to communicate and ‘see’ each other, but can be somewhat disappointing when you don’t have very interesting information to share: nothing particularly exciting or unique happened during the day and everyone is fine, or have limited time to talk.  When discussing this issue with some friends one, whose spouse also travels quite a bit, shared that when she or her husband travel they found that sharing pictures or making video messages went a long way with the kids. I thought it was a great idea, so our family decided to give it a try. Instead of sending a standard “Hi, Dad. How are you? We love and miss you” message, we decided to get creative. We’ve come up with various silly ways to stay connected when one of us is away. We sing songs to each other, put on short skits or Lego-inspired plays…the kids have lots of good ideas. It’s all about what they think will be fun or interesting to do. It’s been fun to make the videos, and helped us all feel more connected even though we are miles apart.

What’s helped you feel most connected to your child or spouse when you’re away on travel?

Cooling Off

How do you keep cool on hot summer days? Do you have memories of swimming, using a Slip n’ Slide or running through the sprinkler?

I was on a business trip after a long day and was looking forward to changing clothes and going for a walk. It had been a long day, it was hot, I’d been in a small, hot car for too long and was ready to de-stress. It was late enough that the intensity of the day’s heat was gone and it was starting, ever so slightly, to cool down. I was on the 5th floor of a six-floor hotel. When I got into the elevator I joined a Dad with his two sons, about the same age as my own kids. As kids will do, they were talking about how excited they were for the pool, and how annoyed they were that my arrival (really the elevator having to stop) really bummed them out–they had a pool to get to. “How come the pool isn’t on the roof?” one of the boys asked. We all kind of looked at each other like we were thinking the same thing….that’s actually a pretty good idea, kid. Before you knew it, we were headed down, but were stopped again on the 2nd floor. This time, a young woman joined us with her cellphone next to her ear. As soon as the doors closed, one of the boys looked at his father and said, “How come people on the second floor don’t take the stairs?” I couldn’t help but smile. My boys would totally have said the same thing. The woman took it in stride, took the phone away from her ear and said, “Well, my goodness, I’m so sorry.” And the dad attempted to apologize for this son’s remark. The doors opened again, and the kids bounded out towards the pool, leaving us, their comments and their cares behind.

I couldn’t stop smiling. I no longer felt the heat of the day, or the stress that I had felt only a few floors earlier. I relished in the simplicity of kids, their honesty and forwardness. I thought about my own kids, and how similar they were to these boys. They reminded me that sometimes you can get annoyed or delayed (much like the boys were in the elevator), but getting to where you want to go can help you leave your cares behind. I decided I would follow suit, and leave behind my cares once I stepped out of the hotel, it made for a much more pleasant walk–I was calm, and I was cool.

When has your child’s honesty gotten you to rethink a hot situation?

Getting over Business Trip Guilt

Do you have a job that requires you to travel? I do.

I used to love business travel. Seeing new cities, experiencing new places and sights. It seemed so glamorous, so exciting, so adventurous, and so important. Once I had my children, business travel became less attractive, mainly because of the guilt I’ve felt every time I leave them.

It took me several years, but I finally realized the guilt I felt over being away on business wasn’t as much about the kids as it was about the responsibilities I was passing on to my husband while I was away. When I’m away, he becomes a single parent. He has to get everyone up in the morning, and put them to bed at night, he’ has to get them fed and dressed, he had to drop them off and pick them up from school, and then get himself to work. The guilt was all consuming prior to and during each trip. My priorities of family and work clashed, and I couldn’t get them to equalize. The reality is my family is my number one priority and always will be. My job helps provide for my family and gives me an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way. It also requires me to travel from time to time.  I thought by preparing as much as I could prior to going away, and fretting over the extra burden I was putting on him, I was somehow making up for my upcoming absence. The reality is, in a relationship, or more importantly a partnership, one person doesn’t bear more of the burden than the other, they share in the responsibility. Occasionally they will need to pick up the slack when the other is absent. What I didn’t realize was the stress I was feeling over my upcoming travel was affecting more than just me. It was impacting my husband too. Thankfully a third party helped enlighten me to think of the situation in a different way.

My husband is a very capable father, and when I’m away, he has an opportunity to have our sons all to himself. While I’m away, they could do different things, like going to a new restaurant or playing a fun activity, outside our normal routine. I need to take advantage of travel too. I get some needed alone time and have an opportunity to learn and connect with others, things that are very energizing for me.

I know we appreciate each other a little more upon my return. When I recently shared with my sons that I would be leaving for a trip I was surprised to hear how excited they were by the prospect of me leaving. “Oh, Mom, can you bring us back something?” my oldest son asked. “Yes,” chimed in my youngest, “will you bring us back something, please?” I had to smile. It reminded me of my own childhood when I anxiously awaiting my father returning from his business travels bringing something small, like a Hostess Fruit Pie or a pencil he picked up along the way.  It was more symbolic than anything, it reminded my sisters and I that he’d been thinking about us while he was away and we’d been thinking about him too.

I now understand guilt doesn’t help my husband or I when I travel. Travel creates an opportunity for us to appreciate what we have when we are together and apart. Its our chance to do something different and enjoy each other more when we reunite. Thankfully my travel is infrequent, or my guilt might be tested again. But even if that work requires more travel in the future, my husband and I will make decisions together on how to make it easier for each other to get through the situation. After all, it isn’t just one of our burdens to bear.