I’m fortunate to travel as part of my day job. I say fortunate now, but I remember the first time I left my children for a business trip to the USA. I spent weeks worrying about it. How would they cope? How would I cope? What if something happened to them? What if something happened to me? Quite often the thought of being away is worse than the reality but I’ve learnt over the years that there are things I can do to make the whole trip run more smoothly for me, my husband and my children.
So what have I learnt?
My children will cope without me. After 6 years of flying off on business trips several times a year, I still have to stop myself from feeling guilty about leaving my children. Even though my husband is at home with them, I still worry that they won’t cope if I’m not there. And every time I realise they do cope!
Make the most of the ‘me time’. It’s not very often that I can get up in the morning and just get myself ready, or not be bound by bedtime routines or the school run. When I’m working away, I try to make the most of having some time to myself. I often find I come back relaxed and rejuvenated.
Explore. I’ve been lucky to visit some great places as part of my work so, when I’m there, I do some exploring and experience the local culture. Well, it can’t all be work, work, work! And it means I’m not sat in my hotel room wondering if my children are missing me.
Keep busy. While I may be busy in the day with meetings, conferences or workshops, there are also times when I’m not working. It’s so important for me to fill that time with things I enjoy to feel that I’m getting the most from my trip, but also so I don’t fall into the trap of thinking too much about home and feeling homesick.
Phone home. Sometimes this can be difficult if I’m in a different time zone, but I do try to phone home each day. It means I can stay in touch with what the family has been doing and make sure my children are OK (they always are – I think it’s more for me than them!).
Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. When I’m away from home I miss my family like crazy but accepting that is OK was a big step for me. It’s so easy for us to take each other for granted and to get bogged down by our daily routines. Having time apart from each other makes us appreciate each other a little bit more (at least for a day or two anyway!).
All hands on deck. When I go away for longer periods, it really helps to get some help from friends and family. Whether it’s asking a friend to take my little boy to school, or Grandma coming to stay for a few days to help, it takes the pressure off my husband while also being a welcome distraction for my children while I’m away.
I still worry about my children when I’m away and always look forward to getting back to them. But changing my thought processes and adopting the steps above while I’m away has really changed how I perceive my trips away. I think my husband wishes he could come too sometimes though – it’s probably harder for him when I go off on my work mini-break!