Any woman trying to juggle a successful career with parenthood deserves a medal. Throw in business travel on the back of a pandemic and it’s fair to say working moms are real-life superheroes.
Corporate Traveller would like to recognise South African business travel moms and share some tips to make life on the road just a little easier:
Keep fit, healthy and safe
Safety has become an important concern for every road warrior, but for female travellers in particular. A sad reality is that travel policies often don’t address the specific risks faced by women on the road. Prior to the pandemic, research done by the Global Business Travel Association revealed that although awareness of risk faced by female business travellers has never been higher, only 18% of corporate travel policies specifically address matters related to the safety needs of female business travellers.
Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller, explains that this where a professional Travel Management Company such as Corporate Traveller comes in. “We will put together a comprehensive duty of care programme that is mindful of the specific concerns faced by women. We will make sure to suggest safe lodging options, reliable transfers and the best times to travel. After all, we want to make sure any business travel passes the ‘mom and pop’ test so that nobody in your family (including you) needs to be worried about your safety,” he says.
- Ditch the guilt
Mommy guilt is a very real thing, with most working mothers experiencing it at least once (if not all the time) during their careers, especially when they’re spending long days on the road. The good news is that research has shown that working moms have nothing to feel guilty about as they tend to raise very successful daughters and empathetic sons.
Former American First Lady Michelle Obama once noted that “mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation”. But she also said that being a mother made her a better professional, because her daughters reminded her of what she’s working for – and, at the same time, being a professional made her a better mother, because she’s providing a role model for girls who have big dreams.
Obama’s insights undoubtedly strike a chord with mothers throughout South Africa, especially as we emerge out of the pandemic. On the one hand, lockdown gave us a chance to spend more time with our families and bond with them over activities we otherwise wouldn’t have had time to explore; on the other, the loss of ‘me’ time has made many of us yearn for the space to rediscover our own interests.
“Business travel presents exciting opportunities: not only does networking with fresh faces give you a chance to exchange new ideas, but exposure to a different horizon can be stimulating and inspiring,” comments Anneke Bornman, Corporate Traveller. “And, while it’s obviously difficult to say goodbye to your family, it’s important to remember that there are many benefits for children who see their moms engaged in work they enjoy.”
- Prepare the troops
Things will always feel easier and more streamlined when you’re well prepared. So, book your travel in advance. Not only will this help the company keep tabs on their travel spend; it will also allow you as a busy mom enough time to organise childcare and prepare the troops at home.
One very simple – and yet helpful – action is to talk younger children through their feelings, says Bornman. Tell them that it is perfectly ok to feel sad and perhaps even a little angry that you are leaving. At the same time, remind them that they will be safe with their caregiver for the next few days, and that you will be back soon.
Making arrangements for lift clubs, school lunches and homework supplies while you’re away on business will keep you busy, so delegate the nitty gritty of your travel arrangements to a professional travel consultant.
Creating a ‘timeline’ of your trip may help your children understand how long they have to wait until you’re home. For example, fill a jar with one biscuit for every day you’re away, and tell them to eat one of the biscuits each day you’re gone. This gives them a visual representation of a concept they may otherwise battle to understand.
- Leverage tech
From toddler to grandparent, the past two years have taught everyone the ‘joys’ of video calling. This comes in handy when you’re away for work. When you have a moment, jump on a short video call to say hi and ask about the kids’ day. If you’ve got teens, try reaching out on Instagram – or if you feel very brave: make a TikTok video of your location. Chat to your travel consultant to make sure Wi-Fi is included in your stay.
- Take the kids – and hubby – along for the ride
Are you still feeling a bit apprehensive about leaving your family behind? There’s a simple solution, says Desai. Just take them along!
Bleisure travel has been proven to generate more productive meetings and better performance. With personal time on the horizon, employees are motivated to make the most of their time working when on business trips.
Of course, it’s not always possible to take everyone along. But if you can, a few days’ bleisure after your conference or meetings is a great way to leverage being a working mom.
Although it can be challenging to juggle business trips and raising children, it is also very rewarding. With the right travel experts at your side, business travel can be a fantastic part of any working mother’s life