What Working Moms Do When Traveling
By Megan L. Fowler, MSJ
When it comes to driving directions, stereo equipment and fixing the car, dads need few instructions. When it comes to taking care of the kids while mom is out of town, however, some dads need a little more direction.
“As long as my husband has instructions and I leave him a list with meals already prepared, he does fine,” says Maria Bailey, a working mother of four. As a mom who travels once a week for business, and has done so since before her children were born, Bailey does her best to keep things running smoothly at home while she is away.
Most airport security checks don’t have a problem with you carrying a breast pump on the plane.
“When I am preparing to go out of town, I make all of my kids’ lunches for each day that I am gone,” she says, laughing. “If I am going to be gone for four days I have to make 16 bags of lunches and write who gets which bag and the day it should be eaten.” Even now, with their children ages 4, 7, 9 and 10, Bailey’s husband still relies on her lists.
Bailey says the most important thing that makes her situation work is flexibility. “It helps that my kids understand that when mom is gone the schedule has to be more flexible and we can’t do what we normally do,” she says. But now she admits it’s much harder to be away than when her children were younger. “When they are infants they are in one place,” she says. “Now that they are older it is more difficult. They have activities and school and a whole bunch of things, and that is overwhelming to a dad who is not used to doing everything on his own.”
Get a Routine
If you are in a position that requires you to travel on a regular basis, it is important to get yourself, your husband and your children into a routine, suggests Tania Azar, a division supervisor with Jenny Craig, Inc. Azar, who travels two to three times a month, says planning ahead and keeping an open line of communication with her husband has made taking care of their son less stressful on both of them.
“Just recognize that although you can be a great mom, a father can be a great mom, too,” she says. “He has a different style, and I have to respect that. My husband has been involved from the very beginning, and the first thing I had to realize was that I needed to get over myself and know that he wants to do the best job he can. I am not the only person who can do it.”
“When my husband is in charge, he needs to do what makes sense with his schedule and what he is most comfortable with,” explains public relations professional Josephine Posti. “It is probably not the same way I would do things, but when I am not there I have to make some compromises.”
Posti remembers how supportive her husband was the first time she left because it was so emotionally difficult. “He was positive and kept a brave face and did not bother me with minute problems that would happen during my trip,” she says.
Pumping on the Go
While letting go emotionally isn’t exactly easy, what do you do when you’re breastfeeding, and your body wants nothing more than to be home with your child? “I’ve pumped and traveled with my pump before and after 9/11,” says Posti. “There was one trip I had to take when my son was very little and was exclusively breastfeeding. I only had so much of my own milk in reserve, and I knew I was going to be away long enough that he would run out. I had to FedEx my breast milk because he wouldn’t take formula.” FedEx was very helpful, says Posti – they packed it in dry ice and shipped it out.
Most airport security checks don’t have a problem with you carrying a breast pump on the plane, says media representative Robyn Eckard. “I have one that looks like a briefcase, and have had to pump in flight,” she says. It’s a good idea to call ahead just to check, however. The last thing you want to have to do is hold up a line of 30 people to explain what exactly your breast pump is.
But business trips and being away from your baby are hard enough without having to pump regularly. “I’ve pumped in the car before and after meetings,” says Lolita Carrico, a partner at a marketing firm. “I try to keep my trips as short as possible and schedule all my meetings one right after the other. That gets me home sooner, but managing time to pump in private can get difficult.”
The worst part was getting over feeling guilty about leaving, says Carrico. “You don’t realize how important and strong the bonding process is while you are nursing because you are tired, but it would hit me on the plane,” she says.
Eckard can relate. “The first time I went away overnight my son Max was 3 months old,” she says. “I cried hysterically almost the whole time I was gone except when I was with others in a business environment. The more I went away the less I cried. I just started calling home for updates every few hours. I also try and rationalize the fact that he won’t even know I was away. I’ll know I’m away, but he’ll just go to day care and eat and sleep as usual.”
To make their separation a bit easier, Azar says her husband will make videotapes of their son and him together doing silly things. “My husband is very funny and creative, and when I get home he and my son will have designed something for me,” she says. “He’ll also e-mail pictures every night of funny things my son has done.”
While Bailey is home she’ll plan a full day of activities with her kids and use an entire roll of film throughout the day. “I’ll take pictures of everything from us getting out of the car, to setting up a picnic basket, to laying on the beach,” she says. “Then when we get home I will paste the pictures to construction paper and write a little book about it. When I’m gone my husband would read those books to them and it would be their way of being connected with me.”
Azar also carries pictures of her children everywhere she goes and saves certain books to read only when she is home. “So my time at home is even more special with them,” she says.
The most important thing a traveling mom must do is keep a positive attitude, suggests Bailey. “So many moms concentrate on the guilt of being away, and our children learn more from our behaviors than what we say,” she says. “My kids have learned that if you work hard you can find happiness in reaching your goals and that will translate into their work ethic later on in life.”