There’s nothing quite like those first few moments as the plane builds speed down the tarmac and whooshes up into the air.
There is no escape.
Work trip = locked in.
Anything prior to that moment COULD (in theory) be reversed. A last moment call from home with any manner of news COULD mean a cancellation. Then there’s the possibility of missing the checking deadline, a car malfunction, an amplification of mum guilt. Let’s face it, the reasons NOT to go are endless. So if you actually leave the tarmac you’ve no choice left but to suck it up and maybe even enjoy it.
As a mum who worked from home for most of my career (not anymore – yahoo!), as a sole trader I NEED work trips whether they are of the client service, conference or professional development variety. I need these trips for many reasons and on the top of that list is this.
I’m always happier when I have a plane ticket locked and loaded. Why? Because I know that the time to escape the madness or every day routine is actually going to happen at some point in the near future. Yeah I know I should never, ever admit that. But it’s the honest to goodness truth. Routine drives me mad. Full time mum mode tickles my crazy bone (well, if there’s a funny bone, surely there’s a crazy bone).
I know that with that ticket in hand soon I’ll have the opportunity to be me, not mum, just me. And while I’m always mum in my heart, while I probably talk about my family more than anything else, it’s good to know that THAT me still exists to.
While away I have two distinct choices. (a) I can miss my family and worry about their every moment without me or (b) I can respect the choice I made in leaving them in loving and enriching care and get on with the business of growing, learning and absorbing.
Move over mother guilt, I choose option B.
Right now I type from a hotel room. It’s a hotel with some unusual features (thus the kettle come toaster ‘toattle’). An anecdote that I wouldn’t have found in my day to day routine. Tomorrow I’ll run a workshop, hang out with new and interesting people and see a township I haven’t visited since I was in primary school. New, different experiences to contrast an otherwise ordinary life of raising kids, paying bills and morphing days around that (thank goodness for friends).
This trip is also a reflection of times gone where the balance between work trips and home wasn’t so great. Those times when I had to travel much more than I wanted to. The times when I left kids that felt too little, the times when there were fevers or snotty noses or tears of missing mum.
Perhaps it’s about knowing yourself, your limitations and what you need to feed you. I know that I can’t travel to that extent, however I need some degree of away time.
But that’s OK for me to say that because for the most part I have a choice. It’s not that easy for everyone and I really feel for the mums who soldier up and down the highways, tarmacs constantly juggling the push and pull of work and life. For those mums I say just do what feels right. If it’s not right for you create a transition plan, tell your boss (or clients) that it’s not working, think way, way beyond what you currently think is possible and create some solutions that sound crazy today – they may not tomorrow. And if you’re loving the travel, if it’s fulfilling and where you think you need to be explain that part to your family.
There is always another perspective, another way. Be true to you.
The other bit that is often forgotten is the army it takes to enable a mum to get away on those work trips in the first place. It takes military precision to ensure the pre-trip groceries are done, meals are frozen, kid activities are adequately arranged and life runs as normal but with you as an invisible additive. And someone still has to do the day to day. If this someone is a spouse it’s easy to see how conflict can arise when the refreshed returner greets the tired day to day-er. I have no answers for that, only ideas and that’s a story for another day.
One thing I know for sure is that in two sleeps I’ll open the door of the family home with fresh eyes. I’ll look at those who have continued the daily routine without me with a renewed sense of love and awe of their magnificence. They won’t feel like I do because their world has continued as it was. But quietly I’ll know that in serving me I’ve also served them as I am just a little more patient, feel just a little more love and a whole lot more in touch with me at the same time.