For many working moms, business travel is a necessity of the job. It can be a welcome opportunity for some “me time” or it can bring on separation anxiety. For me, I usually experience some combination of these emotions when I travel without my little one. Moms tackle the job of balancing business travel and motherhood in a few different ways; here are my best tips for you:
Baby Stays Home
In most business travel scenarios, the child(ren) stays at home with a spouse, partner or other caretaker. These are some of the best strategies I have used or have heard about to stay connected with your young child while out-of-town:
Infants: What made me feel connected and ok to be gone from my daughter when she was very young was the reassurance that came from regular updates at each of her milestones for the day (e.g., “she went down easily for nap just now,” “she ate pureed spinach and two bottles of milk for dinner before I put her to bed”). I also loved receiving pictures by text. I felt like so much of our bond at that time centered on the routine of the day; feeding, diapers, sleeping and mood. By being in the loop on all of it while I was gone, I felt a sense of continuity and calm.
Toddlers: As my daughter entered her toddler years, staying connected was made easier by FaceTime (or Skype). I love asking her about her day or even just watching her play in the living room for twenty minutes before bed. My trusted mom friends have given me some other great ideas I plan to use in the near future: marking the days on a calendar to show her how long I’ll be gone; having her mark off the days on a calendar to countdown my return; writing a note and/or leaving a little gift (stickers, piece of candy) that she can open each day from mom.
Special Note for Breastfeeding Moms: If you are breastfeeding, you’ll need to do some additional planning before your trip(s). Read up on your rights when it comes to airplane travel and breastmilk (TSA). Call ahead to the hotel you are staying at and request a mini fridge to store your milk; there may be one in the room already and if not, most hotels can arrange for that for you (as they would for someone who has medical supplies that need to be kept cold). A trusted mom friend that recently pumped on a business trip made another smart move – she called ahead to the office where her meetings would be all day and made arrangements to use their employee lactation room.
Baby Comes with You
Before I had my daughter, I attended a conference where a colleague brought her young child on the trip. She paid for her own mother to come as the caretaker. The child did not attend business functions (at least not those where it would be inappropriate – there were some very casual social gatherings where everyone was excited to ooo and ahh over the little tyke), but she was able to spend some quality time with him in the mornings, on breaks and tuck him into bed at night.
I thought the idea of bringing baby along on a business trip was really cool, so I tried it myself when my daughter was about six months old. The trip was really fun (and actually productive)! It provided the added benefit of not having to transport milk as I was still breastfeeding (if you do need to pump and bring milk back, see my notes above). My mom came with us and took my daughter to some fun sites during the day; a great time for them to bond. I loved being able to snuggle with my daughter at the end of a long day of meetings. There were some downsides: I was a little distracted knowing my daughter was down the hall, I didn’t get the “me time” that I would have had if I traveled by myself (not to mention she still woke up at least once per night at that age) and of course, the expense to bring two people with you (though she was still a lap baby and we all shared a hotel room). In the end, I would do this again if the right opportunity presented itself, such as a trip to a really cool city my mom or husband wanted to visit and that would provide my toddler with fun activities too. Other than that one trip we took together, I’ve done all my other business trips without baby. Leaving your child at home is definitely the norm in business travel and logistically a lot easier; but it was fun to mix it up by bringing my daughter with me and also helped a lot emotionally in those early days transitioning back into my job.
I’m headed to Kentucky from Washington, DC in a couple of weeks. I’ll be there without my daughter and have a pretty good handle on it now. But even though I have confidence to get out there and do my thing (and enjoy the space and time to myself), there is absolutely nothing sweeter than walking back in the door after the trip to hug my daughter. You can bet that the minute I step on the train, I'll be counting down the minutes until I’m back.
What are your travel tips for moms with a baby or babies at home or in tow?