Being a working mom is not easy and being a mom who travels for work is even more complicated.
Working moms need to balance important strategy meetings with the mayhem of back-to-school; they need to be experts at dealing with over-the-top emotions with calm composure whether faced with a disgruntled CEO or a three-year-old not wanting to eat his or her greens.
It’s daunting having to juggle a successful career with a busy household. When you throw a business trip into the mix the challenges become almost insurmountable.
Luckily, there are ways to make it work.
1. Ditch the guilt
Whether you’re a seasoned road warrior or embarking on your very first business trip, the feelings of guilt and worry can be overwhelming.
ESPN commentator Sage Steel, who often travels for her demanding job, said in a blog: “The night before I leave for a work trip, at least one of my three kids gets upset. I thought it would get easier over time and as they got older, and in some ways it has, but it’s still hard for them to say goodbye, even if it’s just for a day or two. Through the years, I’ve experienced just about every emotion, with guilt being at the top of the list.”
Mommy guilt is a very real thing, with most working mothers experiencing it at least once during their careers. However, the latest research shows that there’s no need for working moms to feel guilty.
A study by Kathleen McGinn and her colleagues for Harvard Business School purports that working mothers are more likely to raise successful daughters and caring, empathetic sons.
In the study, McGinn reassures working mothers that they’re doing the family a great service as she notes: “There’s a lot of potential guilt about having both parents working outside the home. However, this research says to us, not only are you helping your family economically – and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love – but you’re also helping your kids.”
Dr Laura Kastner, psychologist and author of ‘Getting to Calm: Cool-headed strategies for parenting tweens and teens’, explains that guilt is a negative emotion that will not help yourself or your kids.
“Remember that parents telegraph to their kids their feelings, spoken or not. Our brains are open WiFi systems. If you feel guilty, sad and despairing, they will know it. Moreover, perhaps they will feel even more insecure with your travel, even if you are terrific at communication upkeep, keeping it to a minimum and spending great times with them when you are home. If you are spilling out your guilt, go see a professional because it is hurting everyone.”
2. Make sure you stay safe
Worrying about your kids’ emotional wellbeing while you’re away is challenging enough without you having to fear for your own safety.
Research done by the Global Business Travel Association recently revealed a fast-developing irony: awareness of the risks faced by female travellers in general and female business travellers, in particular, has never been higher. However, only 18% of corporate travel policies specifically address matters related to the safety needs of female business travellers.
By entrusting your travel in the hands of a professional Travel Management Company such as Flight Centre Business Travel (FCBT), a significant number of these fears can be mitigated. Andrew Grunewald, FCBT Brand Leader, explains that active Duty of Care practices are a crucial consideration when managing travel. A Travel Management Company (TMC) can help you choose safe lodging options as well as reliable ground transfers.
Says Grunewald: “During their travels, employees may encounter some adverse conditions that could include everything from minor inconvenience such as cancelled flights to more serious health, safety and security concerns. This is where Duty of Care becomes vital. Simply put, a comprehensive Duty of Care plan will make sure your company has the right procedures in place and that it is possible to react effectively if something unfortunate happens in a destination country. TMCs can assist companies in knowing where your people are at all times.”
3. Book in advance and put together a family calendar
In a recent UK survey aimed at female business travellers, 40% of women said they preferred to arrange their travel between two weeks and a month in advance. The reason for this is that it allows travelling moms sufficient time to organise childcare and prepare everything at home.
Not only does booking in advance help working mothers arrange things at home, but it also helps the company save money, says Grunewald. He explains: “The company can save up to 21% of its travel spend by simply booking flights in advance. Business travellers can pay up to 200% more for airfares purchased one day out from travel.”
4. Delegate the travel arrangements to the professionals
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 instead.
Organising flights, hotel bookings, airport transfers, lounge passes, insurance, car rental and loyalty points, as well as dealing with any problems that may arise, takes a lot of time.
Research done by Flight Centre Business Travel shows that travel arrangements for almost 45% of all business trips are changed at least once. Managing these changes – and the effect they have on every other arrangement made – can be a nightmare if you’re not a travel expert.
Working with an expert like FCBT means you’ll have 24/7 access to a dedicated member of the team who can manage all aspects of your travel arrangements and assist you with any changes or travel-related concerns.
5. Keep in contact with home through technology
Travelling mothers across the world agree: technology has made it easy and quick to jump on a video conference to talk to our loved ones. Even a five-minute short video call to say hi, ask about the kids’ day and blow them air kisses can make all the difference.
Dr. Kastner advises it’s a good idea to use your child’s favourite social media avenue for connection. “For small children, it will be some kind of video, like Facetime, Skype or Zoom. For teens, it will be Instagram, text, or Facetime if you’re lucky.”
She warns however that connecting with older kids can be tricky. “Just like college kids, teens at home are tricky communication partners. You need to accommodate their schedules, moods and need for independence. They resent accommodating yours. Don’t expect empathy about your travel schedule, but humbly assert yourself about your needs and insistence on some connection mode,” she says.
Once you have found the right way of communicating with family back home, it’s vital that the technology is available to help you connect. Grunewald explains that by partnering with FCBT, you’ll have access to the SmartSTAY programme which offers numerous perks such as reliable and free WiFi at your hotel.
6. Bring the kids along or enjoy some me-time
Although this isn’t possible on every trip, taking the kids along and enjoying a few days’ bleisure after your conference or meetings is a great way to leverage being a working mom. When dealing with FCBT who has the global backing of the Flight Centre Travel Group, you will benefit from having a range of ‘bleisure’ options available that can be added seamlessly into your booking.
Even if you can’t take your little ones along, it’s still a great idea to view some of the sights or take time to explore a local restaurant. Parenting is a full-time job and one where moms rarely get time to themselves. If you need to be away from the kids, you might as well make the very best of it.
7. Don’t forget your partner
While getting caught up in trying to get the balance between the needs of your career and your kids, it’s important not to neglect your partner, warns Dr. Kastner.
She says: “Partners at home need nurturing too. Moms tend to worry more about insufficient nurturing of children than spouses. And yet more damage to children can come from that family system upset than from short parent-child time. Children are like little fishes in a fish tank—if the family ecosystem isn’t thriving, neither will the child.”
Although it can be challenging to juggle frequent – or even infrequent – business trips and raising young children, it definitely is not impossible. With the right partners at your side, business travel can become a rewarding part of any working mother’s life.