5 Tips for Working Moms Who Travel
For people that have never traveled for work, it seems like an all-expense paid vacation. To people who have traveled for work, it is a special circle of hell. Leaving your family, sometimes two or three time zones away, for a week presents a lot of unique problems that are totally out of your hands. Meanwhile, working moms are expected to attend conferences, haul suitcases all over strange cities, avoid getting lost forever in the subway system and answer emails over your gourmet room service cheeseburger.
While you can’t be in the same city with your family, here are 5 ways you can make it easier for them in your absence:
Meal Planning – While my husband is at home with our two toddlers on his own, I know that all meals will require a maximum of two steps for preparation. Those steps are heat and serve. To ensure my kids don’t survive on instant mac n’ cheese for 4 days, I make ahead and freeze a couple of dishes that they can eat two nights in a row. Lasagna and enchiladas are popular in my house, but there are plenty of other recipes out there to get them through.
Meal Skipping – Another guarantee while I’m traveling is that my husband will inevitably decide that he hates lasagna (or whatever is easy and prepared for him) and couldn’t possibly eat it that week. Before I leave, I clip coupons for a few of our favorite take out restaurants and hang them on the fridge. If they aren’t going to eat what you made, at least they won’t break the bank on their last minute dinner trip.
Laundry Madness – Maybe I’m neurotic, but I’m particular about what my kids wear to daycare. I like their bottoms to match their tops. I like them to be relatively clean. I like them to be the right size. Since my daughters are only 16 months apart, managing all of their clothes and tracking what belongs to who is a challenge. One easy trick is to find outfits for the whole week for each kid and put the top and bottom together on one hanger. Use a specific color hanger for each kid. As a little extra reminder, leave a sticky note with the color code on it nearby. Be sure to leave out a jacket or alternate weather outfit for those wacky rainstorms that come out of nowhere.
Shared Calendars – Success relies on communication and determination. But being 3,000 miles away from your family can make communicating tricky. My husband and I both have Gmail accounts, so we use our Google calendars regularly. I make sure my calendar is entirely up-to-date before I leave so he can check to see my flight info and when I’ll be out of meetings and available to talk. I also put the meal I’ve planned for that night on the calendar at dinner time and any scheduled activities for the kids with reminders as shared meetings between us. This means he gets reminders from Google, not me. No nagging here.
Backup Plans – Kids get sick. Tires get flat. People work late. Flights get delayed. There is too much that can go wrong to not have someone as a backup. Be sure that you have one or two alternates that can step in and pick up or watch kids while emergencies are handled. If you don’t have family nearby, try services like Care.com.
It’s not easy being away from your family, but sometimes you have no choice but to travel. A little advanced planning can help keep things in check until you return and save the sanity of your family at home.