When you were single you probably loved traveling for work. After all, when else were you going to get to see the American gem that is Toledo, Ohio? Plus, you didn’t have to worry about what was going down at home because your cat honestly didn’t give 2 craps that you were gone anyway.
But now you’ve got a partner and child. These people are not cats. They care where and when you’re going. Also, they don’t poop in a box. So that means it’s your responsibility to keep them informed, happy and familiar with the fact you’re the paterfamilias. This will make work travel the bane of your work-life balance. Here are some ways to make it easier.
Helping Your Kid Cope
Your absence will likely be most strongly felt by the youngest member of your family. It’s particularly hard on toddlers who really have no concept of time or why exactly you’re not around. These tips will help them get them accustomed to your occasional or regular work-related journeys:
Tell Them 2 Days Ahead Of Time
Your kid might get anxious if you give them too much time to mull it over. That’s particularly true with fragile toddler concepts of time. Which makes them like David Tennant stepping out of the Tardis every time they leave a room.
They might not get the gist of where you’re going and when you’re coming back, but they understand more than you give them credit for. Help them out by showing them pictures of Des Moines before you fly there for a conference. Research the most interesting things about Des Moines with them. Including … Um …
When you go, leave notes or goodies behind for them to find and think of you. You can leave them with your pillow to sleep with or an item of clothing connected to you. Probably not your Pink Floyd boxers though.
Once Daily Check In
You don’t need to check in more than once daily via Skype. More than that can cause too much of a hiccup in your partner’s day. Try to make the calls at a regularly scheduled time. If your kid is making like a clam, ask open-ended questions to get them chatting.
That said, you shouldn’t hesitate to send pictures or texts to document your day. Your partner can show them to your kid at their leisure.
To avoid the gift situation getting out of control, go small and cheap. For extra points, start some kind of souvenir collection. Pins or small stuffed bears with the city’s name on them are good options. Avoid shot glasses.
Helping Your Partner Cope
The increased load your partner is carrying can result in resentment. That can make them less empathetic to you and cause a negative feedback loop. Remember that your partner has been chauffeuring, feeding and bathing. They’ve also been the sole disciplinarian. Happily, there are some ways to help shoulder the burden of your travel.
Don’t Undo Decisions
If a decision has been made in your absence, whether it be connected to discipline or not, you need to be part of the united front. Undoing decisions, or taking your kid’s side will lead to resentment and chaos.
Do Day To Day Stuff When You’re Home
You don’t just get to be Fun Dad when you get back home. If your trips are fairly frequent, you need to take an active role in household duties. Or else your partner will start to feel like a nanny, and not the fun role play kind.
Get One-On-One When You Get Back
This applies to spending one-on-one time with your kid and your partner. Reconnecting is crucial. So plan outings with your kid to give your partner a break. And plan dates with your partner to give you both one.
This is really all about reinvesting on reentry into family life. You may want to find a quiet place to unwind when you get home, but you’ve got to fight that urge. Block off time to devote to play and conversation with your partner and kid. Even if that’s just in the car ride home when they pick you up at the airport.
When you do finally get home, don’t worry about tracking down the cat. The cat still definitely doesn’t care about where you’ve been.