by Kathleen Barton, MBA
Sarah frequently travels on business. Having two small children, Sarah worries about missing out on time with her kids. Her last business trip to Chicago was longer than usual – one week long. When Sarah called home her two-year-old had a melt-down and cried hysterically on the phone, “I want moommmyy…” and then demanded, “You come home now!” Sarah tried to console her daughter without much luck. Sarah was devastated! What’s a mom to do?? As a busy woman traveler, how can you stay connected with your kids while you’re gone, and make it easier on everyone involved? Here are some tips to keep in touch with your little ones while on business travel.
Before Your Trip
• Find out in advance about special events at your child’s school, such as performances, awards ceremonies, parent/teacher conferences, etc. Then schedule your business travel around those dates if possible. However, sometimes it’s not always possible. If you miss a performance, be sure to have dad or grandma bring a video camera to videotape the performance for you.
• Prepare your young children – let them know of your upcoming trip and how long you’ll be gone. Let them know who will be taking care of them while you’re gone. Also, assure your child that you’ll be talking by phone each day.
• If you regularly travel to a certain location and stay at the same hotel, then buy a postcard that shows a picture of the hotel. Leave it with you child to show him or her where you’ll be staying. While working at Hewlett-Packard Company, I taught regular leadership seminars in San Francisco. I sent a postcard to my children on my first trip. At the next seminar when I called home, my four-year-old son would grab the postcard and ask me questions like, “What floor is your room on? What do you see out your window?” It gave him a level of comfort knowing where I was.
• Write a short love note or words of encouragement to have either dad or your caregiver put in your child’s lunch bag. The note can be as simple as, “I’m thinking of you. Have a great day!” Your child will like the surprise, and enjoy reading your note when she eats her lunch at school.
• For young children – Leave a night shirt or nightgown with your scent on it for your child to snuggle up with at night. Your familiar scent will give your child comfort and assurance at nighttime.
During Your Trip
• If your schedule permits, call your children after school to find out how their day went. Ask what they did in school, and share what you did during the day as well.
• Call at bedtime to talk to your child. You can still go through at least part of your bedtime routine by telling a bedtime story, singing to your child, or saying prayers over the phone.
• If the business trip is longer than overnight, be sure to send a postcard. Kids will love to see a picture postcard of the city or hotel where you’re staying. They’ll look forward to getting the mail when you’re gone.
• If your child brings home artwork or other projects from school, have dad or your caregiver save it to show you when you get home.
After Your Trip
• Homecoming is always special. Enjoy the reunion with lots of hugs and kisses. Of course you’ll want to tell your child how much you missed him, and how happy you are to see him!
• If you travel frequently, you may wish to bring back some type of small trinket or memento from your travels. I don’t suggest going out and buying a gift for your kids on each trip, as this will set a precedence. Then they’ll expect a gift after each trip! As busy as you are on your business trips, you may not get a chance to go shopping. Instead, you can bring a small memento home from your business event or hotel. When I attend tradeshows I always pick up the “giveaways” from the booths. One time I brought my son a squishy ball (stress ball) with the company’s logo on it. Another time I brought him a keychain with an electric guitar on it. He loved it! When I teach training classes, the coordinator usually puts candies on the tables, so I bring home candy for my kids from my training classes.
By putting some of these tips and ideas into practice, you’ll stay connected with your children while away. Your children’s fears will be eased, they’ll feel more loved, and be better able to cope while you’re away. As a result, you can avoid the dreaded melt-down!
Kathleen Barton is a keynote speaker, workshop presenter, and life coach specializing in life purpose, career success, and work-life balance. She is the author of Finding Your Purpose and Passion in Life and The Balancing Act: Managing Work & Life audio/workbook. Kathleen can be reached at www.YourLifeBalanceCoach.com.