The Great Escape: Traveling for Work

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The Great Escape

During the first year of my daughter’s life, I made the conscious decision of not traveling for work. Even though I had a few opportunities presented to me, I knew that as a new mom, I just was not ready to be away from my baby.

The week before my daughter turned one, my supervisor asked if I was planning to attend any conferences in the upcoming semester. I work in higher education, and attending conferences are woven into the culture of the field. I shrugged and disclosed that although I was interested in going, I still felt guilty leaving my daughter for a few days. She said she understood, and to let her know if I changed my mind.

I left the meeting and instantly began to think about conferences I had been to in the past. My mind wandered to the memories of meeting new people, catching up with familiar faces, and discussing important issues in higher education. Conferences had been a huge part of my professional development for years, as they had been the perfect place to not only learn about new techniques and hot topics, but to connect with colleagues and network with other professionals.

I decided to do some research into a regional conference that I had been to in the past. This year, it was being held in Portland, Maine, about four hours from home. It was three days long, so I would need to be away from my daughter for two nights. The thought pained me, knowing that I would miss her sweet face if I decided to go. But then I asked myself: would she miss me? I mean, yes, she would notice that I was not around, but she has so many other loving people who care for her, it’s not like she would be with strangers if I was gone. I knew that I should go. Before I could talk myself out of it, I quickly filled out the proposal paperwork, and submitted it.

Being surrounded with like-minded professionals is invigorating, and as soon as I arrived in Portland, I knew making the trip was the right decision. For a whole three days, I was able to be Caitlin, the hard-working, dedicated professional; something that had not happened since before becoming a mom. Between going to sessions, listening to the keynote speaker, having dinner with aspiring professionals, and catching up with old friends, I hardly had time to think about the fact that I wasn’t with my daughter.

Great to see old colleagues present!

Of course, once you are a mom, you are always a mom, no matter where you are physically located. Colleagues from other schools asked about my daughter, and “ohhhed” and “ahhhed” over the photos I would show off. I exclusively pump, so my hotel room was filled with bottles and pump parts. And most importantly, I made sure to take a few minutes each day to FaceTime with her. It was so good to see her smile, and hear her adorable toddler words/mumbles. She was already a pro at shaking her head “no,” but had also been working on “yes,” so I was able to see her progress while we were on the phone.

Miss the kids? There is always FaceTime!
Miss the kids? There is always FaceTime!

On the (long) drive home, I intentionally took some time to reflect on my escape to Portland. It was a much needed time to refresh, and to validate my career. Attending helped to remind me of why I do what I do, and why working with students truly is my passion. I am so thankful to work in a setting that values professional development, and now that my first few days away are over and I have seen that my family will survive with me gone, I can look forward to my next conference-related adventure.

I would encourage all the working mamas out there to think about doing the same. While it is not easy to arrange to be away, even for a short amount of time, it is so worth it. If our careers make us happy, and if taking advantage of traveling opportunities make us happier in our careers, than I believe that we will be much happier at home, too.

The Love Locks fence, near the Portland Pier.

 

 

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Meet Caitlin! Caitlin grew up in Fairfield, CT and after some time living elsewhere, she is ecstatic to call the town home again. She works full-time in higher education at a local university and has found great joy in supporting college students for almost ten years. Caitlin met her husband, Matthew, in college. They were married in 2009 and welcomed their daughter, Parker, in December of 2014. She spends her free time at yoga, writing, watching sports, and attempting to change the world through advocacy and involvement in social justice movements. Connect with Caitlin on Twitter @CaitPereira.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Such a timely article. Thank you. My wife is a nanny for a celebrity in NYC. For the first time in a long time she has to travel for work and is in London as we speak. Our son did not make it easy on her at all. There was a river of tears that lasted a long time after she got into the elevator of our building and disappeared from sight. She texted me later that she barely kept it together during the deluge. As the parent staying behind I didn’t take it personally.

    As a nanny for this celebrity’s 3 daughters she’s up before the dawn to get to work by 6:20. She does get to come home and take my son to school. But her day continues until she arrives back home at 6:45-7PM. By then she’s got about an hour maybe 90 minutes to hang with our son before it’s night nights. Days like hers leave her with exactly enough fuel for him and that’s pretty much it. He crawls into our bed at around 1 or 2AM and is all over her (A different conversation and different topic thread).

    When the weekend arrives, they make up for lost time with each other. He’s by her side throughout. My wife doesn’t really ever get a break. So when I heard she was traveling to London for work I was excited for her. A first class ticket, undoubtedly a 5 star hotel, a chance to have a cup of tea and read a magazine or book, if she’s lucky a chance to toodle around the city for some shopping….all without an almost 6 year old pulling at her and most importantly getting a good night’s sleep. She needed this trip for herself because she has difficulty balancing it all and doing stuff for herself. And it’s not long before she gets overtired, overwrought, cranky, down agitated and an entire gamut of other negatives. Her guilt about being a working mum and probably resentment of me for being the pick up guy from school and the tubs/dinner guy weigh heavily. I do my best to backfill and support but when my wife’s around it’s mummy mummy mummy. Add to this the fact that my wife being a Brit (Read Mary Poppins), she’s stoic to a fault about her day. She puts on a brave face and doesn’t indulge in a rehash of the day. So is it important to travel for work….Absolutely! Thanks for posting this all important article.

    • Mike,

      Thanks so much for the response! I am sure that your wife appreciates your support, both while she is home and traveling. Hope you and your son enjoy some father-son time while she is in London!

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