Eight years ago, I was a very green marketing generalist and fell into a job that required some travel. At the time I was 25, lived by myself, and had very little real responsibility. Traveling for work was a perk instead of an inconvenience. I got really good at packing everything to fit in a carry-on, learned my way around major Midwest airports, and built stamina sprinting to catch connecting flights.
Five years ago, my husband and I knew we wanted to start a family. He also traveled regularly for work. We knew that balancing two traveling jobs with kids was not something we wanted to do. I made the leap and took a job that had no required travel.
A year and a half ago, I took another new position and had the opportunity to travel for some career development. (Translation: an industry conference.) This was not only my first work trip since I had kids; it was the longest I had been away from either of my kids, now ages three and almost one.
I had many conflicted feelings about this trip. Of course, the mommy-guilt kicked into high gear. It was one thing to take a night here and there, but to be gone for three nights was a different story. What if something happened? I am the one who handles the health care in our family – what if one of the kids needed stitches? The three year old has already had two sets, so it is not that far-fetched.
Then, there was just the irrational anxiety with no identifiable source. The thought of not seeing my babies for three days was enough to make my heart race.
My husband still regularly travels for work. I’d say on average, at least once a month I am flying solo with two small kids. The one-night trips I can handle no problem, but when we get into two, three, and even week-long trips, mama is TIRED by the end. My husband knows he is the one with the easier job when he leaves. Honestly, he hates being away from us as much as we do. But…I’m not going to lie. I was looking forward to my husband actually experiencing a few days on his own with no back-up.
Speaking of the easier job, I was in for three nights of cocktails with (awesome) coworkers, three nights of EIGHT CONSECUTIVE HOURS of sleep, three days away from my computer screen (for most of the day), and three nights of meals that did not consist of leftovers and/or toddler-friendly foods. My friends – that is what vacations are made of!
I am happy to report that we all survived. Although, I left for my trip teary-eyed, my anxiety subsided relatively quickly. I spent three days with like-minded professionals and came away with a lot of new ideas and information I am excited to apply to my job.
Thanks to technology, I was able to see my kids every day. Our FaceTime session mainly consisted of the baby trying to eat the phone. The three-year-old could only be bothered to say hello, but that was about it.
My packing skills definitely need some sharpening and there were a few more items in tow this time, including a breast pump and cooler. Of course, I added a few unnecessary gifts for my boys to the load.
My last night away, my husband texted me and said the boys had been great, but he was beat and ready for me to be home. By that time, I was ready to be home as well. I picked my boys up from daycare the next day at their normal time. I was greeted with big hugs and slobbery kisses.
Have you spent multiple nights away from your kids, either for work or pleasure? How do you handle it?