A Working Mom’s Fears About Work Travel (Guest Post)

sydney-guest-blogger

WMAG reader Sydney recently left a thoughtful and poignant comment on an old post about post-maternity leave travel. I thought her comment deserved its own guest post, which she generously agreed to. So here’s Sydney’s conundrum — can you offer her any advice or support? – Susan

When my daughter was born, I had another semester of college left. Classes officially started the day after she was born. I ended up living at home three hours away from my school. I was lucky to be able to do three courses online, but two had to be done in person. I was never away overnight, but I remember how hard it was to keep milk production up when I was gone even eight to 12 hours twice a week.

Even though it was hard to balance the milk production, I don’t have any regrets about the time I spent away from my daughter or working so hard on class work, even when she was so young. She is a happy, healthy toddler who loves to cuddle and be held and adjusts quickly (perhaps no more easily) to changes in her care schedule. I don’t feel like that travel impacted our bond at all.

I made a decision before she was born that she would live her life for her, and that I would be there when I could. When she learned to walk or talk or roll or whatever, I decided it was ok for her to do that for herself. For me, mentally, that helped to make it ok if I wasn’t there when she hit a first, or if I was clearly missing her much more sorely than she was missing me. I could more easily be calm and happy for her, and cherish the time I do have with her and all the firsts I have witnessed. I think it makes me the best mom that I can be.

I have tremendous respect for those women who can completely immerse themselves in motherhood. I have nowhere near the internal security or the ability to self-entertain that this must require. I’m a more confident, happy person because I work and I bring a paycheck home. I think that shows in the fact that I am 100% in that space when I am with my daughter. I have more patience with her than I otherwise might (me, personally–not every woman).

I am expecting my second child now. I have a potential job opportunity that would let me work from home 20 days a week, but I would need to be away the other 10. I am certain that the minimum stay is probably something like four nights.

I have been pursuing this option with everything I have because it would not only bring amazing flexibility to my life, it would also mean a second income while my new baby is young (read, paying off the car and the student loans and having a little something in reserve in case of medical bills or other minor catastrophe). On top of that, it is a huge step up for me and would put me where I want to be in terms of my career ambitions.

My biggest fear is that traveling for days– even a week at a time– on a regular basis will spread me too thinly. Will my toddler forgive me if she’s sick and I’m not there? Will I be able to be a good mom if I have to hire someone to help me watch my infant while I work during the day, and then try and split my time between two children, a man I love, and myself in the evenings and weekends? Will they get enough love? Will this second child bond to me?

My next biggest fear is if it will put too much strain on my relationship. I have a great man, and he’s excited to be a father and involved every moment in my daughter’s life and in the life of his child who will soon be born. He’s excited for this opportunity for me. He also has a demanding, burgeoning career. He’s very good at what he does, and he has a lot of responsibility. Can his career take the hit if he has to spend more days taking care of children, leave more often before 6 p.m., maybe even just plain take days off or work from home sometimes if I need to be away?

I’ve just read a great article in Cosmo by Sheryl Sandberg about empowering women to move fearlessly in the workplace, and I realize that with my first daughter I did and it worked out well.

With this child I haven’t been acting that way, I’ve been letting my fears get in the way of contributing 110% at work and feeling confident that, should I land this new position, that I will do a good job with it. I’ve stopped going to certain meetings regularly that are on the periphery of my main job function, as well I’ve been training my colleagues like crazy on stuff that I am responsible for so that I am easily replaceable. Well, that stops this very instant. Not that I’ll stop training eager colleagues or supporting their ability to advance and function, but I won’t be cornering them and forcing them to learn things. And I’ll be going to meetings.

So thank you Sheryl Sandberg. But… could someone please tell me that they traveled a lot with a young baby and the world didn’t end?

Has anyone traveled for extended periods of time with an infant at home? How did things go? Did that hurt your husband/partner’s career? Did your children develop behavioral problems or separation anxiety?

Sydney works as a development engineer in the middle of southern nowhere. She lives and works with her best friend of six years– an amazing man who is helping her raise their 2-year-old daughter and pursue their careers. She is expecting her second child in September.


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GuestContributor

GuestContributor

We love sharing expert advice, and we often feature guest posts by specialists in child development, work/life balance, women’s issues and other topics of interest to working moms. If you’re an expert and feel you have something to offer our readers, contact us with your credentials and pitch. Please keep in mind that we prefer original content as opposed to re-posts.

Comments

  1. Sara Bennett Wealer says:

    I travel quite regularly for work, and it seemed to be easier when the kids were younger. When they're older (preschool and grade school), they have a lot more scheduling issues to work around with school and activities, plus they do tend to notice your absence more, although they certainly haven't developed any behavioral problems or major separation anxiety. I try to have my mom come to town to watch them when I'm gone so that my husband isn't stretched too thin with his career, etc. I also have co-workers who have a "nanny" to stay with their children because both husband and wife travel together. Another option is a trusted "nanny" to do the care until husband can get home. I realize those last options cost money – possibly a great deal. But if your salary allows it, they're something to explore. Good luck!

  2. I travel monthly for work, gone for a week at a time on the other side of the country. I have a 3 year old and am 22 weeks pregnant with my second child and I am currently wondering how I can keep my current position and juggle two young children. Like the new position you’re entertaining, I work from home and have a great deal of flexibility when I’m not traveling, which is so nice. But being gone for an entire week puts a strain on everyone else in my life. My husband and I are fortunate to have the help of both sets of grandparents in town and I’ve always traveled for one reason or another with work thanks to their help. I really feel that this has mostly benefited my son. He is close with his grandparents, he is fairly independent and does not have separation anxiety. Now that he’s getting older he is starting to act out a bit, but that’s pretty new so right now I’m just trying to be aware of it and not freak out. i think it’s more of a normal 3 year old thing, rather than it being because I am gone. BUT – I did travel when he was a young baby and the world did not end! :-)

    I don’t think there is one right answer. I’m the breadwinner of the family, love my job, and will always want to be a career woman AND mom. I am currently trying to figure out how to make a compromise work, while feeling like I’m being the mom I want to be and keeping the job I enjoy even if it has fairly significant travel requirements. If I have any bolts of lightening, I’ll let you know. More than anything I wanted to say thanks for sharing – it’s nice to know that I’m not alone! Let us know what you decide to do.

    PS – Love Sheryl Sandberg!

    • I will definitely let you know what I work out. In my mind right now, I am thinking about moving to a less rural area (read, room for a home office and more available resources for childcare) and hiring someone to help me in the house during the day and while I’m gone. I think that if I get this job, my first child will stay in daycare full time. This is very positive for her because she is learning so much and having so much fun with the other children.

      Definitely keep me posted on what you end up doing, yourself. Thank you for the encouragement. I will update when it is appropriate. My interview last week seemed to go well, but who knows, all this could be for naught. I am busily working on ways to make this a relevant conversation!

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