I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love being a working mom outside the home. Having kids did not change that for me. It was never even a conversation with my husband as to whether I would quit my job when we started having kids. Just not our thang.
Quite the opposite in fact. Since having our first, I’ve made three steps up in the company I work for, and fully intend to keep going. I’ve given our family more financial stability than we thought was in our cards. And I’ve worked my a$% off to get us there. Are there sacrifices along the way? Of course! Since when did anything in life come easy?
Unfortunately, most of those sacrifices get transferred over onto family life. You see, my last two positions have required a decent amount of travel. In my most recent (current) position, I actually cover a market spanning through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington State. This requires me to travel every few weeks for 3-4 days at a time.
Gasp… A Working Mom Who Loves Her Job?!?!?
But how does this affect the family you may wonder? Well it’s not always unicorns and glitter, I can tell you that. But the pros far outweigh the cons. Not just financially either. There is a strong sense of work ethic I feel I’m handing down to my kids. Plus it helps create and reinforce the bond between them and my husband.
Are the Kids Growing Up Without Their Mom?
Absolutely not. If there are any repercussions of being a traveling parent, it’s that you are too present with your kids when you are home. The old saying “absence make the heart grow fonder” works both ways. I try to enjoy every waking minute with my family to the fullest.
But with ALL of the above being said, it can be a challenge not letting long hours and travel interfere with family life. Even when you know what you should be doing with your family, it’s easy to slip into jet lag and recovery mode when you get back from a trip.
Here are 8 simple tips that can help you connect with your family:
1) Be Present
It’s easy to be distracted thinking about everything you need to get done when you get home. Don’t forget your kids and spouse are more important than clean laundry. I promise. Challenge yourself to be 100% engaged when your little is telling you all about what happened at recess while you were gone.
Make an effort to assemble the most awesome Hot Wheels track when you get home. But don’t stop there. Stay and play. Race all the cars. Or get the crayons out and color a picture of your family tree together.
The point is, wait until you’ve given each and every family member proper love and attention before tending to things like dishes and laundry.
2) Make Eye Contact
This goes hand-in-hand with Being Present. I like to set whatever I’m doing down (most likely my phone), and make eye contact when my kids are talking to me. One time my daughter made a reference to paying attention to her instead of my phone. And ever since then I’ve tried to avoid ever giving her that feeling.
That’s not to say I don’t look at my phone while I’m around the kids. I just make a conscious effort to put it down and look at them when they want to tell me something, instead of doing the fake listen while otherwise occupied.
3) Don’t Forget About Your Spouse
Unfortunately it’s easy for the spouse to become pushed aside. I mean, you get home from a work trip. Pay proper attention to the kids. Love on the dog. Get going on unpacking and laundry and dishes. And so on and so forth.
There’s a million other things you need to catch up on. And you assume your spouse will just understand. Don’t assume that. Again, I’m not saying I’m perfect at this. But I try to apply all of these tips to my spouse as well as the kids. STOP and pay attention.
4) Thank Your Tribe
I can tell you right now, I am not great at this. Whoever you have helping out while you’re gone, it wouldn’t be as easy without them. Or it possibly couldn’t happen at all without them. Don’t take the village for granted.
You know how you’re so used to getting homework done, and remembering what letter show-and-tell is that week (usually)? Keep in mind all that is still happening while you’re gone. It’s easy to get caught up in whatever state you’re in (physically and mentally) and forget that your village is doing all of these things for you.
5) Bribery Wins Every Time
I’m sure there are a million studies out there proving why this is a terrible idea. But when I first started traveling for work, I never brought any souvenirs back. First of all, we couldn’t afford them. Second of all, the last thing we needed in our house was random airport knick knacks.
But then after I broke down and brought a few magnets and snow globes back, it actually became a fun little “thing” the kids and I shared. I don’t bring something back every time. But there sure are a lot fewer tears when my daughter is brimming with excitement and anticipation as to what I’m bringing back, instead of dwelling on the fact that I’m gone.
6) Quietly Overcompensate with Fun Activities
Okay, so maybe it’s not really overcompensating per se. But you definitely want to make sure you’re doing fun activities when you are home. Create lasting memories for the kids to hold on to while you’re out of town. Before you leave, remind them how fun bowling was and to start planning for the next outing.
Give them something to look forward to when you get home, like seeing that new movie that came out. Or plan an in-home movie day. My daughter loves to get the basement all dark, pop up a bunch of popcorn, and watch a couple of movies as if we were at the theater. She even crafts everyone their own “movie ticket”.
7) Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of It
There’s no need to point out the obvious. You know the kids are going to miss you, so don’t unnecessarily bring up any negative association. Why spend a perfectly good afternoon dwelling over the fact that you’re going out of town the next day, when you could be doing something fun instead.
Of course you don’t want to spring the trip on them. But they feed off of you. If all you’re doing is commiserating, then all they’ll do is commiserate. This creates unnecessary drama. So when it comes up. Tell them how much you’ll miss them, remind them briefly why you have to go, then move on.
8) Be Open and Honest, Be Strong
When it comes up, be sure to tell them why you have to travel for work. Remind them why you’re an awesome working mom. And that if they have the same work ethic you do, they will get far in life.
Point out that your job is the reason you are able to take fun family vacations. How fortunate you are to get to do something you love, and get paid for it. Shedding a positive light on your job and what you do will also give your kids a sense of pride in what you do. That helps them understand why you have to go out of town for work.
Being a working mom is noble, and admirable. And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, though there are people that will try. As with anything in life, there are pros and cons to all sides. You can’t let the noise fill you with guilt.