Guilt is the price we pay willingly for doing what we are going to do anyway.” ~Isabelle Holland, author
Guilt and parenting are synonymous. From the moment a mom-to-be discovers she is pregnant, the two become inseparable bed partners. Moms know eating healthy is important, but morning sickness is not often conducive to the healthiest of foods; she may find herself eating Cheez-Its out of the box at 4am because it settles her stomach and her worries.
For many Americans maternity leave is a mere 12 weeks, and even less for Dads. Returning to work carries its own set of guilt about leaving this little person with someone else, but also, excitement to talk about something other than feeding, or BMs. With both of my children I returned to work at 10 weeks. I often wonder why I didn’t take longer, but the truth is I missed my work and the travel.
Travel is one type of parental guilt society seems to expect working parents to have. But somehow, I don’t, and refuse to pretend it’s so. I travel frequently in my professional life. My husband travels as well; it can be a juggling act to balance schedules.
Well-meaning people ask, Don’t you miss them while you’re away? Isn’t it hard? Wouldn’t you rather not travel, or not work at all?
Well, yes I do miss them; I’m their mom. Yes, it can be hard. Being a parent is hard no matter what choices you make. The answer to the last question is more complicated. While I miss my family when I’m away, the fact remains I love to travel, thanks to a serious case of wanderlust I contracted following a high school trip to France.
- Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Despite the inconveniences of airline travel today, I still find flying an incredible experience: the whir of the engine, the immense pull of force as the plane lifts into the clouds. The feat of engineering never ceases to amaze me, that humans created a machine to traverse the sky like a bird, whisking you from one side of the country to another at startling speed.
The seats may be small, but there’s something cozy about operating in your own little box, where everything has a place. While in my bubble in the sky, I avoid logging on, and find I accomplish much during those precious hours, disconnected from everyone else.
Then, there’s Uber once I arrive. There’s nothing better than being able to zone out while someone else figures out where and how to go: I value these peaceful moments gazing out the window to a new city beyond.
- Compartmentalized Effort
When I’m on the road, I work a lot. The hours are long, but the work is interesting, and the time with clients is energizing. I like that my work is in compact chunks like this. I focus on what I’m doing while I’m there, in the hopes that when I go home, I can be with my family. Truthfully, it doesn’t always work out this way; the work may follow me home, or I may catch a cold on the road, but home is a healing place.
- Shared Love
All the travel means I FaceTime with my kids from all over the country. I show them the crazy yellow rental car I have today that looks like a school bus. I show them the view from the hotel’s 31st floor, overlooking the vast lake and bikers below. I bring them a book from a museum, or a toy from the airport.
This reminds me of my Dad, and how I would cherish the things he brought me from the road: a much worn T-shirt from a crane company, a neon green furry stuffed monster proudly displayed on my desk shelf for years. I feel close to him in this repeating of the past from one generation to the next.
- Free Range Independence
I like to hear what my kids are doing at home while I’m away. I listen as one tells me she built a rocket ship, and the other shows me his favorite car. I know they need my love and my time, but it’s amazing what they come up with when they’re free to be on their own. I happily remember hours spent in my basement as a child making up games and stories. It was my favorite place to be, and I want this experience for them too. There is no time for imagination like childhood, before the realities of life place constraints on its possibilities, and all the wonderful things that could be.
- Passing the Bug
The best benefits of travel are status and points for personal travel. We’ve just started to travel in earnest as a family, seeing Chicago in the winter, and Florida in the spring; next will be the desert in New Mexico in the fall. I can’t wait to show them my favorite cities, ones my husband and I went to before they were born, and explore new places together as well. On a recent trip, they were so excited to pack their Thomas the Train and Lightning McQueen carry-ons and motor them through the airport. They shrieked with glee when I said up, up, and away as the plane climbed into the sky. My 5 year old exclaimed this is the most exciting day! As a gazed out to the diaphanous clouds below, I thought, indeed, it is. Travel days always are.