I recently boarded a plane headed to my first national conference since having my two children. Exhausted, I comfortably sank into my seat, glanced across the aisle and watched as two adorable, well-meaning parents worked feverishly to calm the little one on their lap. The baby continued screeching in a high octave while the flight attendants dimmed the lights. The plane took off and I closed my eyes – surprising myself by how easily I could block out the cries that didn’t belong to my own babies.
But only for a minute.
While I should have been enjoying the short hour of solitude, the screaming baby nearby quickly reminds me of what I have left behind. My mind began to swirl through a mental checklist of all the things I was needing to do before departure:
Tomorrow is pajama day at preschool. Did I take the Paw Patrol jammies out of the dryer? Because really, they’re the only ones presentable enough to wear in public, even if it is just preschool. Which reminds me that I’ve had new jammies on the list for the last week, but in my late-night Target rush, I forgot jammies. And milk. So, I remind myself to text my husband when the plane lands about the milk situation. He likely won’t smell the last few drops of milk in the fridge before giving it to the kids, and let’s just say we have varying opinions on what constitutes acceptable milk. The milk is next to the amoxicillin and I can’t remember if I wrote down the dosage, or even where I left the paper that indicates the dosage. Did I even mention which kid gets amoxicillin?
The plane lands and in between keynote speakers, I’m texting for updates on the ear infection, calling with reminders to take dinner out of the freezer and emailing the preschool office so they know that the kids will be late due to morning swim lessons.
It’s not the TSA lines, crammed leg room, long hours or tireless networking that’s exhausting, it’s the emotional turbulence and guilt as I think through what’s going on at home. While I will not physically be there to control the outcome of any of it, I still feel like I carry the responsibility for how it goes without me there. My husband will figure it out. All the things for all the kids, he will figure out. I know this, but I still worry about all the things because as moms, it’s just part of how we’re wired.
As if crushing this working mama thing wasn’t hard enough, it’s extra challenging being a working, traveling mom. Especially if you’re doing it while barreling through the air in an enclosed capsule, pumping in lavatories and often straining to block out the cries of other babies while missing your own.
The truth is that the working world can be less than friendly to moms with little ones. I know you working traveling moms prep late at night for presentations, hope to find a suit free of spit-up and schedule redeyes home just to make it back before breakfast. I know you pay for it with worry, time away from your family and long hours making up all the work you missed. I know you don’t always get to pick the days you’re gone and end up missing the school play, student of the month presentation or your baby’s first steps. Work travel is so not glamorous, and it’s not a vacation.
On this trip, I was only gone 3.5 days. The silver lining (because I’m convinced there has to be one) is the wide-eyed, gap-toothed smiles I got from my two littles when I got home. I gave my husband a grateful look of relief that both kids were alive and happy. The look I got in return was nothing short of “I told you, we’d be fine.” And of course they were.
A shout out to the working, traveling mamas as you go through this season of life. You got this.