Why I Passed Up Work Trips to be at Home with My Kids

Why I Passed Up Work Trips to be at Home with My KidsThe past several months have been some of deep reflection, as I’ve been *blissfully unemployed* and contemplating my next career move.

I have worked in a corporate environment pretty much since I’ve been out of college, and for the past 8 months or so have enjoyed the freedom of picking up some freelance projects while working with my husband at our family real estate business.

I’ve been thinking about the highs and lows as an employee where parts of my job entailed taking work trips. With two very young children at home, sometimes that was feasible and sometimes it was not.

There were several factors at play: separation anxiety from my kids (it was on my part – not theirs), a work/life situation that involved my husband frequently traveling abroad, and the challenge of lining up reliable childcare.

With young kids at home, I’d try to limit my work trips as much as possible. My superiors were not very understanding, supportive, or sympathetic about this and it caused me a ton of anxiety. “Why can’t I just get myself together and get on the plane,” I’d berate myself.  Sometimes I did, and other times I did not.

Once, I literally got sick with a fever right before a planned work trip and had to cancel. To this day I wonder if it was psychosomatic. There were also a few trips where I arranged for my mother to accompany my toddler so she could watch him in the hotel room while I attended a conference. After the conference, my colleagues would ask why I would not be joining them for dinner and drinks. “I’m meeting some friends,” I responded sheepishly; later averting them in the hotel lobby while pushing my kid in a stroller.

I remember a well-meaning single and childless colleague asking me why I didn’t want to take more trips and “have a break from my children.” Of course, I wanted a break. My kids were a serious handful. I liked my breaks in small increments that were not too far away from home. Dinner and drinks at a nice bistro with a friend, sitting in my car for a few hours while listening to music and scrolling social media, checking my boys into my gym’s Kids Club so I could lie down in the yoga room (I was too tired to actually work out) – these were the breaks I savored.

Packing up and saying goodbye to a sleeping toddler and young child in order to catch an early flight to a city-I’m-not-interested-in-visiting where I’d cry myself to sleep in a budget hotel room – that’s not a break. That was torture.

Some of these trips should have been great, and I know that there are a lot of mothers that would have literally jumped at those opportunities. Yet I felt powerless to suppress the way I felt at that time as if I was fighting the laws of nature by willingly traveling far away from my young kids.

Now that my boys are a bit older, I may be more inclined to travel for work if and when the opportunity arises. Until then, they’ll just have to get used to me being at home. All. The. Time.

Does your work have you on the road? What helps you get through those work trips when missing your kiddos?

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Dana is a working mom of two active boys, ages 4 and 8. She was born in Tel Aviv and raised in Atlanta. With a background in journalism, she spent 12 years chasing deadlines as a news and documentary producer, writer, international news desk editor, and web editor.  After the birth of her first child, it became obvious she was not going to be the next Katie Couric or Christiane Amanpour. She was still dedicated, but the only thing gained from the grueling weekend and overnight shifts was a case of gastritis. She remembers being "so busy" she could not step away for lunch/dinner/breakfast and would have to shove the food down while hovering over her computer. The disgusting crumbs piling up in the keyboard were hers. As luck would have it, another round of layoffs was near and she seized the opportunity (having survived a few layoffs before). Several months into her severance she was fortunate to find a job in PR and Communications, promoting a subject that felt like a natural fit.   The most important lesson she's learned since becoming a mom is: NEVER say never. "I will NEVER shop at Costco, drive a car with a carpool number, become a 'soccer' mom, live near my parents in a house in the suburbs."  She now does all those things and more she never thought she would with the utmost feeling of gratitude.