As I have been preparing for this trip, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my family will do in my absence. My husband is a capable, hands-on parent and will do fine. Plus, my mom, thankfully, arrived yesterday to stay for two weeks to help out, and my mother-in-law has offered to pitch in, so I am confident everyone will eat, wear clean clothes, and get to school on time. But that doesn’t mean my being away will go unnoticed. Having a change in the routine—and having mom or dad far away—can be unsettling to little ones.
For my family, the 10 days of my trip will the longest we’ve ever been separated, and I know I will miss them a lot. I know they’ll miss me. When I went on a business trip this past summer, my kids had a hard time. There were lots of tears. There was clinginess. There was sadness. So, this time, I resolved to handle everyone’s emotions and worries better, implementing three techniques to make my business travel smooth and (hopefully) stress-free:
- Prepare – This was my lesson from my summer business trip: I didn’t prepare the kids enough; I sort of sprung the trip on them a few days before I left in an effort to not cause any upset. This unexpectedness led to confusion and upset, so, this time, my husband and I have been talking about “Mommy’s trip” for a few weeks. We’ve been answering a lot of questions (Where is India? How far away is it? What will you do there? When do you go?). I even practiced the presentation I’ll be delivering at a conference in Mumbai in front of them, though it was sort of disastrous (little kids don’t want to sit through a PowerPoint presentation). I may have taken the preparations a bit too far with that one.
- Track – I turned our family calendar into a “Mommy’s trip countdown.” I noted when I’m leaving, when I will be away, and when I will return. I reviewed the dates with the kids and let them draw pictures on the calendar (witches, for Halloween, were popular). We’ve reviewed the calendar frequently together, crossing off the days as they slip past, and it’s been a good way to address any questions they have about our separation. I also placed the calendar at their eye-level, and I’ve observed the two of them reviewing it together, counting the days I will be away.
- Surprise – The other night I packed 20 small gifts for the kids, one for each child for each day I’m away. They are small items – stickers, lollipops, crayons, blank notebooks for drawing and writing stories, a “coupon” for me to take them out for frozen yogurt when I get home, and the like – designed to distract them from being sad about my being away and to remind them that, no matter, the distance, I am always thinking of them.
So far, so good. The kids seem fine with my trip. In fact, I’ve been the one who has been the most stressed out (I had so much to do before I left!), and that’s how I’d prefer it.