I am a working mom and on occasion need to travel for business. I used to carry around some major guilt with me each time I stepped out the door. It’s the kind of extra weight on me that felt as if I were lugging around an extra bag – or as I call it, a bag of guilt. This guilt is a combination of not being there to help with homework, being home when the kids get home from school, and a guilt for loving my job. I felt guilty because enjoying my job is something I thought was wrong. Because it felt nice, it must be wrong - guilt is funny that way. What I have learned is there is no reason why a working mom can’t successfully travel without guilt. It may take some tough lessons, but in the end you will soon find that these trips can be a good thing for you and your family. Here are four strategies that can help conquer mom guilt when you’re headed on that next business trip.
Finding the Controlling Guilt
You first have to determine what it is that makes you feel guilty to begin with. You will then be able to get to the bottom of how to make the guilt flee. Is it child care arrangements? Determine if the traveling is worth the additional money needed to spend in order to have someone to care for your kids. This is by far the most stressful guilt for me, but I’ve found it can be arranged with the right amount of time. Are your kids upset that you’re leaving? Being sad that you are leaving is normal, manipulating the situation is not. The worst thing you could do to your kids is let them manipulate you. Working is not a bad thing and when you overcompensate for traveling (later bedtimes, promising to bring back expensive gifts, dropping the rules while you aren’t home), you are showing your kids that you feel guilty for leaving in the first place. Rid yourself of that guilt and be firm. Keep all routines in place and don’t feel like you need to make it up to them because you work.
Happy Mom = Happy Kids
So admitting that you enjoy traveling for work is a bad thing, right? Wrong. Say it out loud if you need to. I like to travel for work. I love my job. There you go, saying that and telling others this does not make you a bad mom. Being away for trips helps me to disconnect the family and work life. Because I work from home, I look at work trips as an escape from the same day-to-day routine. I eat, sleep and work at home. That can get pretty mundane, so work trips to me are now moments I can feel a part of a team and also time to take for myself. I always return recharged and ready to tackle those “mom tasks”. Work trips actually help me to enjoy a bit of a break and return rejuvenated.
Share Your Trip Details With Your Family
As soon as you know that a trip is approaching, communicate it with your family. It is so important to let the kids know way ahead of time so they have time to be comfortable with the upcoming trip. Talk about the trip with them and let them in on why it is so important. Follow-up with them every couple of days, and in the final week before travel, talk about the trip daily. A fun tool we use is a family calendar on the fridge. Since kids really don’t have too much awareness of the days and time passing, marking the days off is particularly helpful as a visual reminder for them. Over-communicating the schedule is a plus!
To Check In or Not Check In?
This one is like a double-edged sword for me and will be different for each person. I learned early on that my kids aren’t the type that need check in’s, if anything it upsets them more hearing my voice. Depending on how long I am gone, I will determine if I check in at all. If I am on a short weekend trip, then it is not needed. When I travel for more than four days, I check in once a day, and calling to check in with my nine year old is easier than my three year old. It is great to hear their voices, but if it upsets them don’t feel guilty about not calling. Use your better mom judgement on this one. Remember, it is about what works for you and your family.
If you’ve read this and still feel like your bag of guilt is still heavy, don’t worry – it takes some time! Just remember to stop feeling guilty for not feeling guilty. You will soon notice your bag of guilt will start to weigh less.
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