There is always a lot of discussion about balancing work and family as a woman, but lately it seems I can’t check my Facebook or Twitter feed without seeing a new perspective. It started with Sheryl Sandberg’s famous (infamous?) Lean In, then the realistic yet depressing piece by Anne-Marie Slaughter “Why Women Can’t Have It All.” Today, I read two personal stories that have left thoughts about balance swirling in my mind. First, Katharine Zaleski’s apology to all the mothers she’s worked with over the years, and finally Farnoosh Torabi’s piece for Daily Worth, “How I Balance Business Travel and Family.”
The last one really stuck with me, and I kept thinking about it between meetings and presentations this morning. Obviously I can relate to a lot of her points, as a business traveling mom. Doubt about doing the right thing? Check. Enormous guilt for leaving a child home? Check. Middle of the night tears? Check. Lots and lots of checks for that one.
I recognize that this is about her experience, and not meant to necessarily be a guide for all mothers who travel for work. Finally, I know that a large segment of Daily Worth’s target audience is entrepreneurs who may have more flexibility over their schedule than most traveling moms. That being said, I feel like this piece is really narrow in its focus. Her solutions to the business travel/mommy conundrum? 1) Only be gone for 24 hours; 2) Only take business trips that are financially worth it; 3) If the trip will be longer than one night away then she brings her son, along with her mother or husband to care for him.
Before I start, I want to make it clear that I recognize how privileged I am. I have a job that I really like, and there is some degree of flexibility for scheduling travel. If I feel like I’m away too much, I’m sometimes able to push trips back and have a couple of weeks at home. In addition, I have an extremely supportive husband who stays home with our son and takes care of the myriad household details (while managing his own small business). If my husband worked a traditional job it would be much more difficult for me to be gone as much as I am, so I owe a lot of my professional success to him.
But let’s be real. If I told my boss that I couldn’t do trips that had me gone more than 24 hours, he would laugh. He’s a great, supportive, family-oriented boss—but my job sometimes requires me to be gone for a week at a time, and most trips are 2-3 nights. While I definitely factor in financial viability for travel, I personally don’t make additional salary for longer trips. And while there have been a few occasions that my son and husband have traveled with me, we quickly realized it was less disruptive for everyone if they stayed home.
Now that my son is two and a half, his growing awareness means he notices when Mommy is gone. He cries when I leave, and doesn’t understand why I have to go to work for so long. It breaks my heart. And I know as our family grows travel will be even more difficult. At some point, it may not make sense for my family for me to be on the road all the time. Right now, we make it work, despite the challenges and heartache.
Honestly, I’m not totally sure what my point is. I am constantly balancing motherhood and business travel, and lots of the time (most of the time?) it feels like my balance is faltering. My solution thus far has been to try when I’m able to only travel two weeks per month. (That worked in January, but in February and March I’m traveling a total of seven times.) Then when I’m home, I’m home. I don’t check email after hours, and I spend as much time interacting with, playing with, and caring for my child as I can.
Is it the best solution? Who knows. But I’m doing the best I can.
My situation is not unique, nor is it the worst there is. It’s just one woman’s perspective on the struggle so many of us face.
Readers, how do you balance parenthood and business travel? Are you able to plan your own schedule?
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