Ah the business travel life…
When I tell people that I travel about 75% of my time for my job, I get one of two reactions: “Oh that’s awesome!” or “Oh that sucks!” And typically the first question I get is, “How do you do that with a husband and toddler at home?”
Here’s the thing, I absolutely love my job. And that is the essential point in all of this, because if I didn’t, this could never work. Yes, travel can be a grind. Airports are weird, hotel rooms can be uncomfortable, rental cars smell like smoke, but when I’m doing my job and I’m in it, I really come to life.
But the question is valid, because it’s certainly not easy to leave my guys. In a perfect world, they would come with me on every trip, but I don’t think that would get approved on my expense report…
I have had this role since right after Jack was born, so we have learned a lot of lessons, and I have a few tips that keep us organized, connected, and help ease the burden on my husband and my mom guilt.
- Draw boundaries. As much as possible, I control my travel schedule by creating “travel rules” to ensure that my schedule doesn’t get too out of control. For example, I don’t sleep away from home more than two nights in a row, I don’t travel on Fridays, etc. Of course there are times that this cannot be helped, but the majority of the time, I follow my rules and protect my time to ensure some routine and reassurance at home.
- Get on the same page. We use the Cozi app for a shared family calendar. Absolutely everything goes on that calendar so that nothing gets double booked, overbooked, etc. As soon as I have a trip, I add it to the calendar so that my husband has advance notice and can see what the upcoming weeks will bring.
- Communicate my schedule. Every trip is a little bit different, and that also speaks to my availability. Sometimes I have a lot of downtime where I can text, talk on the phone, FaceTime, etc. And others are back to back, early morning to late night. So before I leave, we walk through as much of my agenda as possible to set realistic expectations and find the times where we can connect.
- Disconnect before I connect. Before leaving, I spend designated time with my guys. No phone, no interwebs, just my guys and whatever we want to do. I want to make sure that we have some sweet uninterrupted family time before we are apart.
- Grocery shop and meal prep. I try to make my husband’s life as easy as possible when I’m on the road. Before I leave, I take inventory of everything they will need during that time, including food, toiletries, diapers, etc. Of course Chad could easily run to the store to get something, but things run much smoother for everyone if they have everything they need. (And honestly, it brings me a lot of comfort to know they are taken care of when I’m away.) If there are foods or meals that I can batch prep before leaving so that they can quickly heat up, I take care of that before heading out. (Have y’all ever seen a toddler waiting for their dinner…?)
- Pick out and lay out clothes. In the same vain as the meal prep, I also pick out each of Jack’s outfits, including pajamas, and lay them out for a quick morning routine. (We actually lay out his outfit each night for the following morning even when I’m home, and it makes things so much quicker in the morning!) Chad has told me multiple times that this simple act is the most helpful to him, because it saves time for him in the mornings, which are already hectic when you don’t have a partner to tag team the routine.
- Relax and work. Easier said than done, right? But truly, you have to trust your partner and caregivers and get your head in the game. My family is successful if I am enjoying what I’m doing and if I’m performing in my job, so guilt and worry doesn’t help anyone. (Least of all me.) Also, don’t forget about trying a new restaurant in a new city and that quiet hotel room. Just saying…
- Don’t critique. If your kid eats pizza for every meal while you’re away, the dishes aren’t put away the way you would do it, or whatever annoyance you encounter during or after your travel, let it go. Single parenting is hard, and the wheels may have completely fallen off, so practice gratitude for their efforts while you were away.
- Stay connected. FaceTime is essential to our routine. I wish I could say that we do it every single day when I’m away, as that is certainly the goal. But schedules don’t always align, so it’s not always daily. But we do make as many concessions as possible on both sides to make this happen. Talking on the phone is fine, but there’s something about that face to face connection (even through a screen) that makes things so much better.
- Sweet reunions. When you get home, make it a positive experience. Don’t complain at length about your delayed flight or the colleague that made you mad. Focus on the fact that you’re home and that you’re happy to see your family. If you get in late at night, the morning wakeup should be done by you and full of kisses and snuggles. If you pick up a souvenir for your family (which I highly recommend to reinforce the positive of the experience), give it to them as soon after the return as possible. Have a special dinner (maybe not pizza, because they’ve probably had that for the past 2 nights…). Schedule an early daycare/school pickup to get in some extra time. Whatever you can do to create a positive experience out of your travel will go a long way for everyone, especially you.
With the right perspective, a lot of preparation, and some strategies for staying connected, traveling for work as a parent can be very manageable. Honestly, it’s actually even a little bit of fun!
If you are a frequent traveler, I’d love to see your additions in the comments!