Q: I have several colleagues (and at times I am included in this group) who feel overwhelmingly guilty about the amount of travel we do away from our children. While we are all trying to earn a living to take care of our families, society in general seems to frown upon a “traveling mom.” What are a few things we can do to ease that nagging feeling, and to help other people become more accepting?
A: My brother once gave me a wonderful piece of advice: Don’t let people live rent-free in your head. So first, try not to dwell on what “society” thinks, but instead stay focused on what you and your family need to deal with your travel schedule. No one understands what those are as well as you do, so trust yourself and your instincts. Realize, too, that your own feelings of guilt can cause you to misinterpret what other people have to say. Second, talk with your family. Just because you’re feeling guilty, don’t assume something is broken for them.
If all is fine at home, think about what’s missing for you and how to fill the gap. Use your time away to treat yourself so when you’re back you can turn your attention back to the family, guilt-free. Third, focus on the quality of your parenting, not how much time you spend traveling. Your kids know the difference.
Here’s something that works for me. When I come back from a trip, I sit down with my kids and give them my undivided attention. By giving them a chance to catch me up on their lives, I remind them they’re the most important people in the world to me. I have a moment to catch my breath. And less than five minutes later, they’ve run off and it’s back to life as usual.