Reader Needs Advice: Post Maternity-Leave Travel

by Love, Work 12 Comments

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Once in a while, we get a question from a WMAG reader that seems like it would be best answered by the community at large (i.e., all you working moms out there who have such a vast array of collective experience and wisdom). So I’m throwing this one your way, and I hope you’ll come through with some helpful advice.

Marty is a new mom of an 8-week-old. She’s also a training director and travels one to four nights a week for work. She’ll be hitting the road soon for the first time since her 3rd trimester. Do you have any advice for her?

I’ll start things off. Marty, you can expect to miss that little baby like crazy. If you feel your heart physically hurting while you’re away on a trip, that is normal. Just make sure your baby is in the best possible care when you can’t be there, and then remind yourself of that frequently when you start feeling bad. Remember, wee little infants don’t know that Mom is on a business trip — they just want to be fed, changed and loved by a caregiver. So you’re the only one feeling bad. Baby will be just fine! And eventually, so will you. Just look forward to those precious moments when you’re with the baby, and savor them whenever you can.

Please leave your answers and thoughts for Marty in the comments below. Thanks!

Susan Wenner Jackson

Susan Wenner Jackson is the cofounder and editor of Working Moms Against Guilt. She lives in her hometown of West Chester, Ohio, with her husband, two children, and their dog.

12 Comments

  1. Give yourself permission to enjoy and even look forward to complete nights of sleep and long showers. You'll be better rested and have immense to love on little one when you return.

  2. Not sure if you're pumping but if so, figure out if the hotel has a fridge you can use and what your airline's rules are about transporting milk. Or be prepared to pump and dump.

    Also there is a weird misconception that babies will not remember you when you return. I remember a co-worker freaking out before a trip saying "My baby won't remember me!" she will totally remember you when you will return. Lots of cuddling and no problems at all once you return.

  3. Jensational,

    You hit the nail on the head! My baby forgetting me is exactly what my worst fear is and I'm the one who put it in my head. It's strange, I know, but that fear is so strong because she's so young, and I wonder how she can remember so much so soon. But, I'm going to jump right in starting next week with a 2-night trip and hope for the best.

  4. Hi Marty

    I don't have kids yet but my DH and I plan to try soon. I am concerned about all of these things! I recently wrote a blog post about it, after doing some research and bugging all of my friends (http://bit.ly/6sBwWF). The main tips I got are to do as much prep as you can ahead of time (getting bottles ready, etc), take pics of baby with you that you can look at when you miss her, and try to plan a pumping schedule before you go if you need to. Good luck! Can't wait to read about your journey.

    Road Warriorette

  5. Guilt sometimes tells us things need to be adjusted in our lives. I traveled a lot when my daughter was small, and now that I have two, I travel a few times a year. I sought opportunities to fine tune how long I was away from home based on how much I could tolerate. I found my gut knew how long being away was too long. I know we can't always snap our fingers and change jobs, but if you want something bad enough, if it is important enough, you will make it happen.

    I think something that has given me pause lately is when our pediatrician was arrested this year. I began to ask myself as a mother how much I truly knew the support network I had in place when I travel. I adore my daycare, I trust my sitters and family that help out, but in the end they aren't me.

    I am not trying to scare you or say you shouldn't travel. You'll find a balance that you are comfortable with.

    I love getting away and doing business and having time to recenter. I love seeing new places and gathering energy from my coworkers. But whenever an especially long trip comes up, or a few in a row, I get that feeling in my heart that I know I need to find another way- a webmeeting, a teleconference, combining trips, or just plain passing up the project despite the potential backlash.

    Things aren't the same when I am gone. That's OK in small doses. And I know they are well cared for. But I don't want to look back and realize that I managed my kids instead of really engaging with them. I'm coming off of a period of managing them, and working hard to find my way back.

    Good luck!

  6. I think when babies are really little they don't actually grasp the concept of time passing nor do they understand that you still exist when they can't see you. So she doesn't see it as abandonment when you put her to sleep at night and she won't realize that you're gone for longer than one night anyway because of the whole "can't understand time passing" thing.

    I had to travel for 5 days in the fall and my son is older but when I got home he gave me a big smile and a hug and looked me right in the face and said "Dada!" which wasn't 100% correct (I'm the mama) but still, all was good.

  7. Marty-

    I feel so connected to you, I work in training at a large corporation and have a 3 month old named Ella! Like you, I am totally overwhelmed with travel, a very busy job, and being the best mom I can be. I have no advice for you, but wanted you to know someone else is in the same boat and hasn't sunk yet!

  8. Thanks everyone for your wonderful advice and comments. I love WMAG readers. You are so generous and empathetic!

  9. 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 3 hours away from my school. I was lucky to be able to do 3 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 8-12 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 4 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 6pm, 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?

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    Reader Needs Advice: Post Maternity-Leave Travel – Working Moms Against Guilt

  11. […] 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 […]

  12. […] Note from Susan: Please welcome back to WMAG our guest blogger Sarah Travaglio, who was inspired by a recent reader’s question about going back to work (and business travel) after maternity leave. […]

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