I travel a lot for my job. In the last eleven months, I’ve been on nine business trips. I’ve left my daughter behind for all except once. We’ve come a long way since that fateful first trip away from her when she was 17 months old. You know that trip. The one where I met my now fiancé? Before that trip, I was understandably anxious, and I even felt a little guilty about leaving her. Although I knew she was in good hands, I was still nervous about leaving her when we’d never spent even a few hours apart. Things are a lot different now. Now, although I still don’t like leaving her, it’s definitely a lot easier to do that it was before. Through trial and error, I’ve developed 5 simple rules of travel that seem to work when I have to leave for business. Now, they aren’t totally ironclad rules, having an almost 4 year old, nothing is EVER ironclad, but they will definitely help.
1. Talk to your young child ahead of time to let them know that you are leaving. Give them as much information as possible. Let them know where you’re going, who you’re going with, what you’ll be doing, and when you’re coming back. Don’t worry that won’t understand…my daughter is 3, and she gets it, even asking questions about my destination.
2. Schedule a time to talk with them every day with whoever will be watching them. For younger children (preschool age), you may want to steer clear from bedtime. Call them during the day when they’re having a good time and in great spirits. Be upbeat, ask them about their day, and remind them when you’re coming home. Don’t do too much “I miss you sooooo much!!!!” That will just upset them.
3. Promise to bring them something back from your trip to give them something to look forward to, but don’t get into the habit of bringing something big or expensive. A pen and pad from the hotel you were staying is a good way to start conversation about the trip that you were on.
4. Remember to share with your child what you did while you were away, especially if you are going to be traveling often. Instead of saying, “Mommy was working”, say, “Mommy went to a conference where a lot of people were talking about computers.
5. Be where you are. You are traveling for a reason, so be present in the moment. Don’t worry about your child back home. You’ll miss them, of course, but you have to trust the caregiver that you have chosen to take your place while you’re away. They may drink more juice than if you were there, they may eat more sweets, but the reality is it won’t be the end of the world. Really be intentional about using the time that you are away on a trip to better yourself, or network with others, or whatever it is that you’re there to do. Your little one will be okay.