For the last several weeks my job has been particularly demanding. I took on two very high profile projects in preparation for my company’s biggest customer event and, as a result, have been working long, long hours. I’ve been getting up before 6am to attend conference calls and staying on the computer until midnight. My family has, without complaint, paid the price. The laundry piled up, we ate more take-out, I was snappish with my husband and children, I didn’t read a bedtime chapter of Harry Potter to my girls for a month.
So naturally, I was a little defensive when, just a couple of days before my trip, I ran into a mom I know. As we stood on the sidewalk making small talk she said “you’ve been traveling a lot for work.” “Yes,” I replied, “and I’m leaving again on Sunday.” “At least you get to be without kids,” she said brightly. Not really seeing this as a plus, I said “we work very hard when we’re there.” “Yes, but no kids!”
I’ll admit that business travel is a vacation from the day-to-day home chores that are so tedious and always must be done at the end of a very long day. But being away from my children is really not a welcome treat. Yes, I get to do some grown-up things like eat in nice restaurants and go to parties, but these are work functions, not dates.
This is what a week with no kids looks like…
SUNDAY: My family dropped me off at the airport in the early afternoon. My flight was delayed so I had a snack from a terminal restaurant and did some window shopping at Hudson News. Upon landing I checked into my beautiful hotel room, but since I arrived later than planned, I barely had time to take a very quick shower and change clothes to meet my colleagues for a departmental dinner. While walking over to the restaurant I checked email and saw that my husband had sent pictures of his afternoon spent bike riding and climbing trees with our daughters.
MONDAY: I set my alarm to get up early to work out in the hotel’s fitness center. I can never find time to exercise at home, nor do I have access to such nice facilities, so this was a treat. While I was getting dressed, my husband texted me a short video. One of our younger daughters had been selected to read a short essay on the lifeskill of courage over the PA system. Through the wonder of technology, I was able to watch her speech just moments after she delivered it, but I wasn’t there to hug her and tell her “great job!”
TUESDAY: My husband texted me first thing in the morning, “child throwing up.” He didn’t have the ability to stay home with her and I obviously wasn’t there to share the responsibility, so he brought her to work with him. I got to put in a good 10 hour work day without any parental responsibilities.
WEDNESDAY: In the afternoon while working the noisy show floor, I received a phone call from my teenage daughter who was in tears because she’d done poorly on an important test. I stood behind a pillar, seeking quiet, with my finger in my other ear while calmly trying to reassure her that her college acceptance wasn’t in jeopardy. My arms ached to hold her but I reluctantly hung up, telling her I’d call again later that evening. I never did, of course, because I had three evening functions including a private Bruno Mars concert. Of course I texted photos and videos from the concert to my children.
THURSDAY: After several hours of dead time – that’s the time spent traveling: standing in security and boarding lines, waiting for a delayed flight, waiting on the tarmac for a gate to open up, waiting for luggage – I arrived home. I reveled in their happy faces and tight hugs, promising “mommy is not going to do any work tonight, we’re going to read Harry Potter!”