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Guest blog: Should working moms with infants have to travel for business?

Categories: Balancing Act, Career Talk, Guest Blog

8 comments

Today’s guest blog post is from Lee. If you’d like to have your guest blog post featured on Work It, Mom!, send it in an email to nataly@workitmom.com. Please make sure it’s relevant to working moms and is around 300 words or so.

Take Me Away… or Not

We all know that traveling with young children can be… challenging. Less of a vacation and more of a full-time job, on top of your other job (which you probably lug around via your laptop), right?

But what about business travel? I recently had to schedule my second business trip since becoming a mom. Thankfully, my first trip didn’t take place until well into my son’s second year. I wasn’t pleased, but I handled it. I was comfortable with our daycare and our normal routine. My son was 2, separation anxiety had waned. I would have been a mess if I’d had to travel earlier on; for instance, if I were still nursing my baby.

Alas, my coworker now finds herself in exactly that situation. She, too, has had to schedule a business trip, and she is nursing her five-month-old. In my empathy for her, I want to cry, “She just barely returned to work 2 months ago! And there are perfectly capable single people here, who could do this trip.” Instead, she’ll juggle her babysitters, burden her husband, pump and pump some more, and manage her emotions somehow. I feel bad for her.

Now I know, rationally, that we have chosen to work outside the home due to finances or career enjoyment. Our jobs come with “some travel required,” so we just have to be brave and do our jobs. Also, I realize that my friend and I don’t have to do this particular job — we could seek employment where travel isn’t required. But I wish there was a clause at the end of every maternity policy specifying “no travel for the first year,” because I think it’s just too hard, emotionally and logistically.

On the other hand… some working women I know really cherish the mental break. “A hotel room all to myself?” they ask. “Sign me up!” What about you? How do you react to a travel assignment? Or is travel a very normal part of your job? Do you order room service and a pay-per-view movie? Or fly out on the red-eye in order to get home sooner?

I, personally, take my bubble bath with me, but find this one of the hardest things to reconcile in my work-life balance.

Lee Thrash is a copy editor and web producer in Atlanta, juggling life with a 3-year-old and preparing to add another baby to the mix in 2008.



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8 comments so far...

  • I honestly found that it was much easier to travel when my kids were infants. Once they were over 2 it got much more difficult.

    And when they are in school it got even tougher as I felt like I was missing out on school and afterschool activities. That’s part of why I created my own business in order to have more control of our family’s lifestyle.

    Often my trips were overseas and the time away was over a week. If you can keep your travel time shorter you might enjoy the break from home!

    BUT DON’T FORGET TO BRING HOME A GIFT FOR YOUR LITTLE ONES!

    Dashin Fashion Children's Clothing Worldwide Guide  |  October 30th, 2007 at 8:26 am

  • I might sound like a horse’s ass for this comment but I think once someone has returned from ANY leave of absence they should perform all duties as agreed to upon hire. Unless (of course) there is a medical reason why someone that has returned to work should have a modified workload or no travel. But otherwise, if your job requires some travel and you are not on leave, yes, I think it is your job to travel if requested. And if for any reason (becoming a parent, becoming a single parent, etc) you decide you can no longer travel for work (or no longer desire to travel for work) you need to have that conversation with your manager.

    Also, there may be other people that are qualified to take the trip instead but there may be ADDITIONAL skills that your friend brings to the table which is why she is being selected to make the trip. Maybe she is one of two senior level developers. Maybe she has been noticed for having outstanding people skills, negotiation skills, etc and maybe those soft skills are why she is in demand for this particular assignment.

    Just my two cents.

    KathyHowe  |  October 30th, 2007 at 11:10 am

  • I have a non-profit dance company. It is my own business but there was alot of travel that was necessary right from the beginning. It was much easier when my daughter was an infant and content to just be close to me, and I was careful to create situations that were very infant friendly, so that her presence was not an issue. (one of the benefits of being in an artistic filed and having some freedom in terms of attitutdes towards what is appropriate or not for conducting business). I chose not to find a job that would limit my ability to spend time with her or my flexibility in how I managed that time. It invariably pays less, but it is more than worth my personal satisfaction. It is much harder now that she is 3 and wants to be with her friends more and more, so we are coming to the end of frequent travel and the necessity of at least one parent being homebound. (my husband is also an artist and currently in school halfway across the country) I have to confess that my husband has been invaluable through the process so far, in REALLY accepting an equal role in childcare and rearing (not once have I heard him describe himself to be babysitting) and in helping me remember why I love my work when I begin to be consumed with guilt. While I think the entire culture does need to be more “family-friendly” and we need to reassess the relative importance (or lack) that we place on quality of life over ‘productivity”; we are currently requited to live with the expectations of our workplace; find a new workplace, or start your own business that works the way you want. All practicality aside, though, I do think that is is not unrealistic to discuss not traveling within the fist year. Sometimes I feel that in order to survive we almost have to pretend we’re not female; that PMS and cramps DO NOT affect us; that being pregnant, giving birth. breastfeeding etc. are NO EFFORT AT ALL. We do just take it all in stride, but I think its O.K. to not be OK sometimes. I know we’re women, we’re still only human now and then.

    DancingMama  |  October 30th, 2007 at 11:31 am

  • All that being said. I do love the moments when I travel alone, put my feet up, take myself to dinner, have a glass of wine and watch cable TV. And then there’s extra-late dinner and drinks!!
    I love my kid, but boy does it feel good to not be needed for a while!

    DancingMama  |  October 30th, 2007 at 11:34 am

  • Kathy, I don’t think you’re wrong — I fully acknowledge that job requirements are just that, requirements. I guess this is more of a “wish” or a “whine.” :) As in: man, it would be nice to have Canadian maternity leave.

    Your point about my coworker’s particular skill set is a good one, too — and something I should comfort myself with, I guess, if I get to feeling down about traveling.

    Lee Thrash  |  October 30th, 2007 at 3:23 pm

  • One of the problems in today’s workplace is that jobs are defined as having requirements that assume the employee is free from caretaking responsibilities. Most employers feel the way that Kathy does, and it is the reason so many women are pushed out (rather than opting out) of many careers. We NEED the ability to ease these requirements for people with infants and small children, and to make it possible for them to ramp back up to full speed later.

    SoftwareMom  |  October 30th, 2007 at 6:39 pm

  • [...] 31, 2007 I just read a post on Work It Mom blog about whether working moms should have to travel for business. I don’t know whether [...]

    Working mom’s and travel « Mommy CEO  |  October 31st, 2007 at 12:59 am

  • My son was about 10 months old the first time I had to travel out of town for a trade show. While my husband was terrified at the prospect of taking care of him alone for the first time, I was secretly delighted at the prospect of three nights of uninterrupted sleep - for the first time since the boy was born. It was wonderful!

    Katherine Chalmers  |  February 16th, 2008 at 5:34 pm

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