Diary of a BlueSuitMom: The Business Trip
by Maria Bailey
Traveling for business isn't easy for anyone. It's not easy for the person that stays behind and it's not easy for the person who has to travel. My husband reminded me of this only hours ago as I prepared for a business trip to Chicago. Now, anyone who knows my husband knows he is the best-and I say this unbiasedly. In fact, he is probably called "the best" more often by my friends than by me. He's the reason I've been able to move ahead in my career and still maintain a family life with our four young children. For a year, I commuted to Denver from Florida every Tuesday and returned on Thursday. He never complained about altering his schedule to accommodate school pick-ups and assuming the full dinner-bath routine while I was away. So as I recount the conversation a we recently had, I have to give him the benefit of not knowing both sides of the story.
As I scrambled around the house to finish packing my overnight bag, assembled backpacks for camp and plugged in the crock pot so my family can eat while I'm away, my husband announced to the family that, "Mommy is going on a two day vacation." Vacation? He couldn't possibly think leaving my family behind, waiting for delayed flights, eating dinner alone and shaking hands with strangers for two days is truly a vacation. If you are a road warrior, you can relate to the tolerance it takes to put up with novice travelers who don't know how to go through a metal detector or insist on cramming a 24-inch bag into the 18-inch overhead compartment. You will never again eat Sabarro pizza and not think of an airport.
If I'm going on vacation, then how come I didn't get the benefit of the exciting anticipation of the trip? Instead, I spent two days preparing my family for my time away. I'm sure my husband didn't notice that the refrigerator is stocked with all our kids favorite, easy-to-serve lunches and dinners, or that I have conveniently arranged for play dates for the older children and pre-packed our toddler's lunches for day care. But it's the goal of my "work and family business travel strategy" that he doesn't notice my preparations. I made the personal commitment a long time ago that I didn't want my business travel to disturb my family's schedule. In order to execute my strategy, I must spend the weekend carefully drafting a refrigerator schedule, color-coded, with each family member's weekly activities. I also make additional after-care arrangements, stock the cupboards and prepare dinners that are easy to heat and serve. Then I have to pack for myself. The latter is more than just throwing some suits into a bag. It means charging the phone and laptop so that I can stay caught up on work that needs to be done regardless if I'm in the office or not, grabbing files of reading materials, and assembling lists of phone calls I can return while waiting for the inevitable flight delay. As part of my business travel strategy, I also try to include one of my "bring up" projects. Those are the projects I'd like to do, but never seem to find time to start or complete. They can range from personal notes to old friends to organizing my marketing plan into an excel spreadsheet. I've been known to make birthday invitation for one of my children during a flight or fill in facts into a half-empty baby book. It's all part of the stress not represented in my husband's comment.
My travel mantra, "Try to cram as much into my time away as possible." Whether it's returning calls in taxis or plugging my laptop into an airport electrical socket, every minute counts while I'm away. Unfortunately, I can count on more than one hand the number of times I've traveled through two time zones, conducted meetings, gone to dinner with clients and been back home within 24 hours. It's what I think my husband would call "a little mini-vacation."
I learned a long time ago that everything is relative. Perhaps from where my husband will sit tonight, my departure does look like a vacation. He'll be contending with the bewitching hours of 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. by himself. Four kids to one adult. Four baths, four sets of teeth to brush, four dinners to serve and four bedtime stories. And all of it alone, solo. And if he thinks that's hard, just wait until tomorrow morning when he discovers what happens in his house each morning after he's gone to work. Wait until he finds out how many times he'll have to ask a five year old to get dressed before it actually happens, how long it takes to make breakfast and pack lunches and how many times a 18 month old spills food on her clean clothes. He'll also find out how long it will take to drop four kids off at two different schools. My little vacation will look like a trip to paradise by the time he arrives at his desk tomorrow.
All of this leads me back to the obvious. Business travel is not fun for anyone. The grass is always greener. I may get a night in a big bed with the air turned as cold as I want it, the opportunity to take a long undisturbed bath, but without the good night kisses of four little angels and my prince charming this trip is a long way from a vacation.
Week Two -- Reflections of Motherhood
Week One -- A trip to the grocery store
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