My job requires me to travel, which I enjoy. Why do I feel so guilty?
I have three kids who range from 4 to 12 years old and I’ve been traveling since they were newborns.
Guilt is a funny thing. You likely feel guilty because you are enjoying something that you believe you should not. Although you can outwardly admit that you enjoy traveling, it sounds like you believe that you shouldn’t enjoy being away from your family. I would argue that being away can actually help you and your family if you allow yourself to enjoy the break and return refreshed.
When I started traveling for work after having my first baby, I had the “new mom guilt”. Now, I have “guilty pleasure guilt”. I have to admit, there are times when I look forward to escaping from the chaos of the day-to-day management of my family and have some quiet time for myself. When I travel for business I am highly productive during the day and when I return to my hotel room in the evening it is my time. There is nobody asking me to do anything for them – no kids, no husband, no dog…only me. Do I feel a little guilty? I used to.
The best way to combat mommy travel guilt is to truthfully assess what is making you uncomfortable. Begin by asking yourself a few questions:
- Is your child care arrangement with a quality provider? Do you worry that your friends, your partner, your relatives are overextended while you are away? What about your daycare or nanny? Do the hours accommodate the trip, or do you need to make an adjustment? If your child care situation is taxing on your family, then find another way to care for your children and this way, you can leave knowing both your kids and caregiver will be satisfied and not counting the hours for your return.
- Are your kids feeling your reluctance towards traveling and manipulating you? Are they getting you to drop some of the rules you have worked so hard to establish? This would include lax bedtimes, extra helpings of desserts, extra phone/text time, and lots of overpriced airport gifts. If you are falling into these common traps, your guilt is teaching your children to be manipulative and further implies that working is a bad thing. It isn’t so stop!
- Is your traveling requiring you to miss to many significant events in your kids lives? Traveling is fine, I have done it for years. Consider that maybe it isn’t the travel but the sheer number of hours you are required to be away that is weighing on you. Whether you are in Tahiti or Denver, if you are gone too long consistently this can be a larger source of guilt than the travel itself.
- Do you wish your kids missed you a bit more? Ahh…this one is tough. All of that fretting to call home and realize your kids are still making practice, still getting homework done, and still smiling. If this is the case, then you need to adjust your thinking a bit and become more comfortable with being a working/traveling mom. Your kids do miss you, and you miss them. You should feel confident that they are being well cared for and that you have established such a solid routine that your absence does not create a break from your family rhythm. This should be a source of pride so start thinking about it that way.
- Do you feel guilty because you DON’T miss your kids? Many traveling moms I know hesitate to admit how much they enjoy being away, assuming they are being viewed as bad parents if they vocalize that they like the separation time from their families. It is perfectly fine to enjoy your occasional independence from your family. Let it go…we all need time to refresh and take care of ourselves. Use the time to take care of you. Get the manicure you have been wanting, order room service, watch a PG-13, or *gasp* a rated R movie. Catch up with a friend on the phone. Whatever you do, keep the guilt in check and remember the reasons that you are working in the first place.
You work to better the lives of your children by being able to provide for them. You work to be a great role model for your daughter who believes that she can become whomever she wants to be. You work to empower yourself and be your best you! Now get out there and DO IT Proud Working Mom!
Do you see long work hours as a sign of character? A badge of honor? Do you feel like you have to show your face at the office to be perceived as working hard? Do you feel needed when you come back to your desk and find 20 voicemails and 150 emails? Do you feel compelled to be seen at the office, otherwise, you could be mistaken for a part-timer?
Ladies, working like crazy no longer guarantees a job for life. How many times have you heard about the dedicated 20+ year employee who got laid off? Working yourself to death does not guarantee a raise, a bonus, or even a promotion. What it does guarantee is not seeing your family very much.
I used to be there but have learned from my mistakes.
One of the problems working mothers face is that we don’t have very many role models to look up to. Instead, we emulate people we think are successful. Looks can be deceiving. That person we think is succeeding is working 24/7, trading office time for family time, and is constantly stressed out. Are long hours really the hallmark of a successful working mother? The answer is no.
The good news is that the world is changing and the expectations about working, hours, and face time in the office is changing too. I now have great success with my career, I have dinner with my family most nights, have some wonderful friendships, and even carve out time for outside activities like this wonderful site and the occasional exercise class.
How do I do it? I stay focused and set boundaries.
Change Your Thinking: Work more effectively for less time- After almost 20 years of working long hours, unnecessary travel, and unproductive office time, I finally realized something. If you do your job, and do it well, you will get ahead even if you don’t arrive at 5:30 am, and stay until after dark. Your biggest enemy is not your work schedule, your email box, or even an unsupportive manager… it’s the way you think about work. Stop assuming that working a lot means you are effective- they are two very different things. Ask yourself the following question every single day: am I being productive?
Demand Evaluations Based Upon Accomplishments (not hours worked)- I run a sales team. At the end of a long day, all that really matters is if we make our goals. If this can be accomplished in 60 hours per week or 2, it makes no difference. It is a dramatic example but the idea is the same for all professions (not just sales). When you are making a profit for your company, when you close a new account, or when you help to get major goals completed, this is much more valuable than office time spent reviewing email, chatting with co-workers, or filing reports. Make the time you are in the office count for both you and your employer.
Teach them how to work with you: “Hey, can you have this ready for me tomorrow morning?” “Can you make the sales meeting at 6:30 tonight?”
In my early years, I would work all night to meet deadlines, often even sleeping at my desk. I was always the first into the office and the last to leave. I would never miss evening meetings. But then I had kids. Life changed and so did my priorities.
Consider this radical idea: rather than just hopping to everything and killing yourself in the process, tell your co-workers how to work with you, not the other way around. Simply say that you want to give the project your best effort and will need four days to complete it – set a deadline that works for you. Or for that evening meeting, respond that it doesn’t work for you and give them a more realistic time (that doesn’t interrupt family time).
When you do this an amazing, almost magical thing happens: 99% of the time, they listen and adjust. Don’t assume they understand your schedule. They don’t.
Enlist the men in your life- get to equal parenting- We spend a lot of time talking about this at PWM. Dual career families are now the single largest group of families in the workplace. If you add in single parent homes you now have the majority of the workforce- not kidding. Get the dads in your life accustomed to the benefits of equal parenting. When we all support each other, we can build a new model (eventually a more popular one) of high productivity, reasonable hours, dual parenting, and self-management.
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For the past fifteen years or so, I have had a mantra. This mantra has gotten me over more than a few hurdles in my life. It is as follows: I am only one woman.
This phrase came to be one morning in front of an infamous Bronx County Supreme Court Judge who was barking out orders to one of my best friends, a fellow Bronx County Assistant District Attorney. This unnamed judge was known for being a total jackass and constantly yelling at young attorneys who appeared in front of him. On this day, he was unleashing his anger at my friend, asking her why she wasn’t more prepared, where was this police officer or that attorney, “I am calling your supervisor!!!” he roared. This was any given Tuesday for the Judge and it was always unpleasant. On that day, several attorneys (myself included) were cowering off to the side in hopes that they weren’t next. Instead of cowering, my friend held up her hand to stop the tirade and answered the Judge in front of a packed audience (and on the record):
Judge, I am only one woman!
It stopped the Judge in his tracks and after the laughter died down, the Judge realized that he was being completely unrealistic in his expectations and he backed down. This friend was (and continues to be) one of my heroes and although it didn’t change the Judge’s behavior, it changed mine!
That simple statement has gotten me through a lot of things. When I feel overwhelmed (which is often), I say it to remind myself that as one woman, there is only so much I can accomplish in a day. If I am trying my best, at the end of the day, it has to be enough. Many years ago, I even wrote it on a piece of paper and stuck it to a friend’s desk to remind her. I spoke with her the other day and she told me that although faded, she still has it taped to her desk!
As working mothers, we often set ourselves up for disappointment because our goals are impossible. There is always so much to do and most days, not enough time. When you make that mental to-do list on your way to work in the morning, the most important thing you need to do is make sure it is realistic. In other words, is it possible to accomplish all of that today? Once you have a realistic to-do list, get to it and accomplish your goals!
My hope is that you will adopt this as your mantra and if you have a friend who is overwhelmed, share it with her!
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They say that marriage is all about give and take. In my 14 years of marriage, I have definitely found that to be the case. I have had to make compromises, I have had to work hard, but so has my husband.
Today, I am taking a risk and talking about marital currency. We all know what this is but maybe not by name. And even if we know it by name, we would never really talk about it.
The term ‘marital currency’ refers to the state of affairs within your marriage or partnership. In any marriage or partnership, there is ALWAYS someone that has more currency. The person with more currency is the one who didn’t play in a golf tournament this past weekend, the one who remembered to fill the car up with gas, or the one that didn’t loose her temper with the kids this week.
We have all been there and this week, I find myself behind in marital currency. My husband is out of town on business and while comparing schedules, I noted (with a hint of superiority) that he would be coming back on the 24th, OUR ANNIVERSARY. There was a pause and he shot back-
“No, I’ll be back on the 23rd, which is the actual date of our anniversary.”
Crap. There was a long silence and while he didn’t say anymore, I could here the cha-ching. That was the sound of marital currency being deposited into his account. This now means that instead of getting jewelry and going out for a fancy dinner for our anniversary (which is what I would like to do), I would be cooking steak for him at home and surprising him with a sexy number from Victoria’s Secret (his preference).
That is how this ‘marital currency’ thing works. There is always a give and take. Sometimes I am ahead, sometimes I am behind. It is part of marriage. In the end, my husband and I are a true team and focused on the same goal. So, I want take a moment and wish him a Happy 14th Anniversary and tell him that I love him!
And I’m not worried at all, I think he has a golf tournament coming up soon! Cha-Ching!
I remember the first mommy mentor I ever had. Her name was Megan and she lived in the neighborhood that I moved into when my first son was 6 months old. Megan was about my age and had two beautiful girls. Her oldest was about 3 and her youngest was about a year old at the time. I was struggling with working and being a mom to one measly newborn and Megan made it look easy. She juggled work, motherhood and anything else that came her way with ease. The thing that I liked most about my mommy mentor was that she did not judge me. Instead, Megan took all of her wisdom and shared it with me. She was always there to help me if I needed it, to offer advice when I sought it, and to make me laugh when I was crying. And boy did I need it for those first few years. Megan was the person that told me about all the nifty gadgets that I needed to have and informed me that half the crap I registered for in my baby shower was not needed. She was the one that told me about all the great places in town to take my baby and on occasion, would help me get there. Megan was one of the wonderful women that made me a confident mother to my newborn. Here are some of her pearls of wisdom:
- You can have cheesy eggs for dinner…every night
- NEVER take your baby/toddler through the gift shop at the zoo because you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of pain, expense, and stuffed animals
- It is ok to subscribe to People Magazine. If you ever get free time, it is the only thing that will make sense in your sleep deprived state
- Yes, you CAN give gummies to a two-year-old
- Yes, it is also acceptable to bribe said two-year-old with those gummies to get him into his very expensive Halloween costume
- Let the two siblings fight it out, they will probably survive
We have all had a mommy mentor at some time or another. Not one of us completes this journey on her own. Since we are all working moms, I hope that you will share your wisdom and what you have learned along your journey with a new working mom. Vow to be a source of support for a fellow Proud Working Mom today. In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mommy mentor for all of the things she did for me! Thanks Megan, love you!
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