A Working Mom’s Fears About Work Travel


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.

27 thoughts on “A Working Mom’s Fears About Work Travel

  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!

    1. 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!

  3. Do you have any video of that? I’d want to find out some additional information.

  4. We’re a couple years out but this post is still as relevant today as it was in 2013. As an engineer who travels 100% for work with a 1year old and a loving husband at home, I get it. It’s rough. But what I have also experienced is the freedom of being able to let go and knowing that the cogs will continue turning without you. The best part about traveling for work is that it makes the time spent at home THAT much sweeter. This is exactly what we need, to be working moms without guilt and against guilt..
    ~Kiki Crabapple

    1. Kiki, I travel 90% for work and I’m 27 weeks pregnant with my first baby …. I was googling for support groups to prepare myself for after maternity leave and this post came up…. Did you read any good books or know of social media groups that have helped you work thru any guilt?

      1. Umeda Islamova says:

        I traveled for my job the past three years. I had three under 4 years of age. As one of the ladies mentioned, it was much easier when they were going to daycare. My husband had the flexibility of dropping them off and picking them up any time between 6 am and 6 pm. It got a lot harder when school started. Although we could have probably committed to before and after school program. I opted out of this job because it just got so hard. When I came home from travel, I wanted a day to gain my balance back from the travel, have some alone time after all the hours around crowds of strangers. But I was welcomed by three children hungry for my attention, caring, love, and time. In addition to that, my house was a huge mess and I had to do a whole lot of cleaning and laundry in a short time instead of my usual a load a day or a room a day kind of thing. Plus, during travel (client-facing), all my other work tasks piled up and I needed to catch up on that. It was just too much to take. I started dealing with anxiety (be careful with this one because it’s silent, then blows up on your face.) As much as I had my husband and parent’s support, it was nowhere close to taking loads off my shoulder. Amie, I looked in so many places for active blogs and forums and just couldn’t find one. I really enjoy how active this group is. And Reddit also has a fairly active mom’s group. Take care and let me know if you have any other specific questions for when the baby comes and how that will work with travel.

  5. This is a great group. I used to travel quite often and I had a older child from my 1st marriage so it would work out just fine. The problem I always have is with my new husband. When I return, he finds ways to punish me emotionally and psychologically for being gone. Like being particularly moody, needy, and angry. We decided to have a baby this year so I found a job that only required me to travel for one week, twice a year. He’s a stay-at-home dad. We got his mom to help out and all seemed fine. He did it again, sabotaged my welcome return. He purposely didn’t pick me up from the airport, when that was the plan. It’s been hard enough that my baby daughter isn’t recognizing me much and prefers her dad, but this man is really unable to deal with my career travels. Not having support at home is awful. Do any other moms here have little support at home while they are gone? I can’t keep putting my career on hold for the biggest baby in our home, my husband. At this point I’m seriously considering divorce because I am so guilted and miserable for having a wonderful career.

    1. Nicki I can’t really relate but I do have colleagues that have mentioned this. Have you straight out tried telling him I need support and giving him examples of what support looks like (ie to me that is picking me up from the airport and not moving away from plans)? Were you able to discuss why he changed plans why he gets this way? If it is that he has a hard time bearing all the parenting while you are gone, perhaps his Mom isn’t helping as much as he would like, or perhaps they aren’t getting along while she is there. I’m wondering if employing additional help – housekeeping, laundry, taxi service for you, might be an option for you financially while you are traveling for work – if not, you could also look at a mother’s helper (high school student, 8 to 10 dollars an hour – clearly set up job expectations, like caring for kids so he can relax or get something done or doing light housework – putting laundry away, washing dishes, etc. . . ) for the nights you are gone to just give him some relief. The most important thing is to discuss why this is such an issue. Has he decided being a stay-at-home Dad is not his thing. . . perhaps he wants to go back to work or is just tired after a time without having his partner at home. It may be hard for him to get a grip on his feelings and so he isn’t expressing them lovingly and clearly to him or to you. Before you make any decisions the most important thing is to try to get to the bottom of what is going on and come up with solutions that work for your new family. I suspect he entered the marriage knowing you travel for work but he might be having a hard time adjusting to this new schedule. Also if he wasn’t a stay at home husband before he was a stay at home Dad that is a massively huge adjustment. Men tend to find their self-worth from work and he might be having a hard time finding his self-worth now. Additionally, in our town, there is a group for Stay-At-Home Dads and they get together with the kids and without the kids which I see really helps support their families.

  6. Hello everyone. I am a first time mom with 8 weeks baby daughter. I am a breadwinner in our little family. My work requires me to travel 80% of my time. I am on my maternity leave now but need to travel on my first day back to work (my baby will be only 11 weeks). My loving husband is more than willing to take care of our baby with the help of my mom-in-law while I am gone. The challenge is little one doesn’t want to be someone else except me. Especially when she is cranky and during evening and night. I am so stressed about this and so confused and so sad that I have to leave her at a very young age.. has anybody experienced this? Thank you for sharing!

    1. The first time I traveled my daughter was only 11 weeks old too. I also travel a lot for work. I shared your feelings and no way around it, it was really really hard. A positive is that your daughter will stretch her social boundaries and grow a great relationship with her dad and grandma. My daughter now loves her daddy and I think part of that is because of my time away. Have him send lots of pictures and FaceTime. Good luck!

    2. When I am home our son prefers me, to the point of, I don’t want Daddy, only Mommy. However, when I am traveling, my husband says he is fine with him. I hope you find that to be true as well as your child gets older. To Alyse’s point, using Skype or FaceTime at a regular time each night will really help. Our one year old saw me last night and was just loving it, blowing kisses constantly the whole time and kissing the screen. This also helps me emotionally although sometimes I do want to just up and leave and catch the first flight out!

  7. I am a mother of a 5 year old daughter. I found a passion in working for the diamond mines, 8 years ago, that is located 200 km’s north of our hometown. We leave for two weeks at camp, and spend two weeks at home. After my maternity leave, I found myself flying back to camp when my daughter was 11 months old. I was a hot mess and crying so hard to leave her. Just yesterday, was another hard one, where she woke up at 5am, when I was waiting for my cab to the aiport and she was balling in tears for me not to go. This is a first for me, she is getting older and more vocal with her emotions. I do think, she was super tired and emotional. We have always made it work and I devote 98 % of my time with her when I am home from camp. I really felt compelled to look online for some advise from other moms working away from home and their children. I know my daughter is in good care when we are gone. I call her every night on the phone, and video chat as often as we can. She is a very low key, reserved girl as I am. This is the life she knows. But my heart breaks everytime, and yesterday it was something, I still feel emotional about. I do cherish our two weeks of quality time together. And the extra two weeks of holidays, and one week of personal if I need through out the year. Just needed to shout out to some moms, who go through what I do. Because my situation is kind of unique, while I sit here and work and think of my little girl sleeping at home. My heart hurts and I suffer emotionally from it. But I try to remind myself that there are more pros than cons to my career I truly did love right from the beginning.

    1. Natasha Callbreath says:

      Hello Melanie
      I am a first time mom of a 6 week old boy and the thought of leaving to return to work is hard to think of. But reading your post made me more confident. I am currently on maternity leave from a Gold mine and my schedule will be 2 weeks on , 2 weeks off. The feeling of guilt of being a working mom is hard. Any advice how to deal with it or prepare for the return to work?

      1. Hi Natasha, Going back to work is really hard. What’s made it more bearable for me is having whoever is taking care of my LO take pictures/videos of her during the day (even one picture a day) helps and once I had a bunch on my phone, being able to look through them when I was missing her more than usual helped a lot. And since you’ll be away – facetime/skype is always a great way to stay more in touch. Keeping in mind that we moms are strong and can get through this, that my baby wouldn’t forget me (remembering that mom’s have a special place in their baby’s hearts) and to remember to make those times when I was home really special and taking the time to just breath her in, hold her, and play/read/sing. Hiring help (if you’re able to) when I was home so that I could be with her more rather than having to clean the house. Keeping in mind that what I do for work helps provide for her too. For me, it got easier with time. Good luck!

        1. Thank you ! Your words are comforting. I am only heading to back to work because I am the breadwinner of our family at the moment. My spouse will stay at home with him for a year before he gets another job. It’s just hard imagining leaving my little boy. I look at him now and hold him extra tight and kiss him 20 times because I know I’ll be heading back to camp and won’t be able to kiss him. Still hard. How was your first shift back from camp? How did your daughter react?

  8. I have an 8 month old baby and just found out that I am pregnant which we are trying to get our heads around. I will return to work in a couple of months and will be staying away during the week and coming home at weekends (I am hoping I can work at home sometimes but not sure yet). My baby will go to full time nursery and we will have a childminder for later afternoons and early evenings for consistency. Plus my partner has two children who stay with us 50% of the time and go to clubs after school which is why we will have a childminder to help with dinner and getting ready for bed.

    My partner is very nervous about managing our baby and his children while I am away but it is important our baby spends time with her siblings and doesn’t travel every week which is part of the reason put baby is staying with him.

    I would be happy to work closer to home and not be away but that just isn’t possible right now for several reasons which I am working on.

    I know it will be tough for me and if we continue with the second pregnancy it is putting even more pressure on our situation. Has anyone faced a similar situation and/or how has their partner coped?

  9. I am 6 months pregnant and my job requires frequent local travel and a few international trips a year. I am in a small town and know no one else who has been in such a situation. I have been fighting so hard to keep the position/responsibilities (travel and all) that I’ve worked so hard for the past few years while not having a clue of how it’s going to work out once the baby comes. Luckily I have a husband and we both have family in the area. I cannot tell you how amazing it is for me to read that I am not alone in this.

  10. I have been declining promotions at my company because the new role would require me to travel more. I live on the West Coast and my company is on the East coast. I work from home 100% and the occasional travel to the company office should not seem like a big ask. But in my case, I have no family anywhere in the country that could help out with childcare [kids age 4 and 2]. So if I leave, it means my husband has to skip days at work to watch the kids [with help from a sitter]. And that is not something he wants to keep doing. Declining promotions repeatedly must be affecting my image as a passionate employee. But the fact is that I love my job and feel blessed to have the ability to work from home but I am in a perpetual state of debate on how to manage travel and family.

  11. I had a son in October (2017) and have also have a seven year old. I received a promotion last June and accepted it knowing that I would be traveling 70% of the time. I returned from maternity leave in December and picked back up traveling in January. My husband works but has set office hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) We have no family where we live but a great support group and an awesome daycare facility. Finding resources on how to make it work isn’t easy. I am currently trying to continue providing breast milk while flying in and out of locations and sitting in 4-6 hour meetings where I might be the only female in the room. Logistics can be a headache and I am not advocating for myself nearly enough. It is hard and emotionally exhausting. I am thinking about changing jobs just so I can be at home more and be mentally present in my kids’ lives. However, I also don’t want to give up on this job because I love it.

  12. I am a mom of 2 young kids, age 7 years girl and 4 years boy. My daughter is in primary one meanwhile my son is in pre-school. My hubby attached to a IT company and worker a regular hours.
    Recently i was offered a job that requires travelling which i never done before for my living. But this opportunity is good for my career development as the company will allow me to gain further management experience and i really love to give it a try.
    But I’m scared that i will miss the daily routine with my family, like wise if i can manage it i will be happier.
    The thing is i have never had a travelling job before, now i got this opportunity is very hard to not grab it. My husband giving all the positive thoughts that we can manage it. But i have a operation background , and it was not that good. So I’m confused , should i think positive and grab the opportunity or should i just stay in my current position as a HR & Training manager, which i have to wait at least 5 years for my career development, as i see no higher salary or promotion will be imposed yet that soon. Please advise.

  13. Happy to have found this thread which has helped me to feel less alone in this matter. I was offered a paid fellowship abroad in Italy, where my husband and I ultimately hope to relocate. It will be for 10 months and requires me to live on a university campus full time, spending all nights there as a 24/7 on-call assistant to the students. My husband and son, who will be 10 months old when the fellowship begins, are required to live separately in their own apartment (they cannot live on campus because of liability issues.) We are not sure yet how close their apartment will be to me. Additionally, my days are packed with obligations that would leave me short on time to be with my family–I have no designated hard “time off.” Fortunately, the pay is enough to allow my husband to be my son’s full-time caretaker. I’m excited about the fellowship itself, and think it could be an excellent means to an end…the end being a better life for our family, but concerned about spending so much time away from my son. It is hard to find helpful advice and an impartial opinion on whether not I should accept the position. The grandparents are devastated, friends who don’t have kids don’t understand, friends who do have kids don’t understand.

  14. I have kids who are 7 & 9 years old and am considering an opportunity that would be have me away from home 2-3 nights per week but working from home at least one day per week. Has anyone with older kids had this experience or know anyone who has and whether it worked out okay? I can manage getting my husband and babysitter to help, but worry about the impact on my relationships with my boys and husband (and my happiness). The intellectual opportunity is great but I love my family too. Currently I work full time in an office but only travel a few nights a month.

  15. So excited to have found this post. I have accepted a position that will require me to be away from home through the week and hopefully be back in time for weekends. I have a 4 year old and a 6 year old and they have a rough time being away from me so long as do I but I am often conflicted with being a good mom and a good employee. I love my job and have worked so hard for this position and my SO is completely supportive… we just haven’t figured out if a big move is the best for us too.

    Thank you to you all for making me feel like I’m not alone.

  16. I’m a mother of two lovely girls (4 and 2 year olds). At my current job I was just offered a promotion which means more responsibility and a higher salary. I also already accepted a position that would require me to travel 70% of the year. Travel would be probably two or three times a year requiring me to be gone 5 to 8 weeks at a time (with a possible extension of two more weeks). My husband is a stay-at-home dad and supports me following my dreams and taking this job.

    I feel I need to stay at my current office and take the promotion but I also feel a part of me is crumbling. It’s been a dream of mine to have a job where I travel internationally since I was young. I know my husband could handle it but I feel my children need me emotionally.

    I need to take my decision by Monday.

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