Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Business Travel for Moms

I read in Working Mothers Find Some Peace on the Road how business travel is a guilty pleasure for moms. We get to read, network, eat long meals out and even squeeze in bubble baths and spa treatments! Well, not quite. The article did mention that mothers travel less than fathers and also spend more time preparing the home front before leaving. Even astronauts are not exempt from this last minute dash to prepare the home for their absence.

I have written about business trips repeatedly (e.g. here, here, here and in Mommy don't go). Additionally, I am the woman who worries about everything. I stress about my contribution to climate change every time I get on an airplane. (The impact of airplane travel on climate change has even been getting coverage in the popular press and is the the subject of a humorous ad campaign.)

I am definitely ambivalent about business travel. On the one hand, I enjoy travel and discussions with colleagues. On the other hand, I worry about what I might miss at home. When my daughter took her first steps, I was at a business meeting 1000 miles away and my husband was at a meeting 2500 miles away. Her grandparents called my cell phone and said, "she's walking!".

My heart sank. Iris didn't get the memo about how her mother is supposed to witness the first tentative steps. I left the meeting and flew home early, hoping to catch a glimpse of her first unsteady steps. No such luck. She has always had amazingly good balance. When I got home the next night, I watched her take 23 steps in a row. She might have gone even further, but she came to a wall and didn't know how to turn around on 2 legs yet.

One solution is to bring your family along. But business travel with children is stressful. One is always torn between spending time with colleagues and time with family. I try to go out alone for the first part of the trip. Then Mark and Iris can join me near the end of the meetings. We did this on my last trip to Europe.

As I passed through security at the international terminal at LAX, I noticed how the only ones travelling alone appeared to be males. The women all seemed to be travelling with family or friends. Momentarily, I felt profoundly lonely. Then I realized I belonged to an elite sorority. How many women on earth will ever travel by jet? How many have careers that take them around the world? How many are the mother of the most wondrous child in the world in her age category? Plus, one can read an entire novel uninterrupted on an inter-continental flight.

1 comment:

  1. When my son was really small (only 3 yrs old), I was basically forced to take a job that required a lot of travel. It was *only* travel, it paid very well and being a single mom, we needed the money badly. Having no other choice, I brought him with me and the university I was working for, covered it. Keep in mind, this was 17 years ago! This would be unheard of even today. It worked out pretty well because on the other end, I'd be in one location for three weeks at a time so I found day care there. I'd drop him off in the morning and pick him up at the end of the day. Then, we'd come home for two or three weeks before going out again. So, when I started consulting and visiting different plants, I was used to my son going with me and if the clients thought it was untoward, they never said. I flattered myself by thinking I was so good that they didn't care :).

    It became a routine to the extent that after being home for a week my son would say "I'm bored. Let's take a taxi, go to the airport and take a plane to Brazil. Can I have a penguin"? He'd seen penguins wash up on the beaches of brazil and was obsessed with getting one as a pet like people there (it was impossible to dissuade him). I had to stop traveling like that once he started school. You can only imagine that the other kids (and teachers until I explained) at school thought he was lying or crazy when he talked about what had constituted his daily life.

    I resolved the two year penguin obsession by getting a dog. Worst dog ever too.

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