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, however, 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 babysitter…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 (realizing your reluctance towards traveling) manipulating you and 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 that working is a bad thing- it isn't. 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, think about it differently.
- 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. To be a great role model for your daughter who believes that she can become whomever she wants to be. To empower yourself and be your best you.
Jennifer Barbin is the founder of ProudWorkingMom.com, a site dedicated to the empowerment of working mothers.