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How to Ace Work Travel as a Parent

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Work travel before kids may have felt exciting and glamorous. If work travel as a parent sounds like the exact opposite—you’re not alone.

As our world continues to become more global, work travel is a very real component to many careers. And that may not change just because you become a parent. But with the right tools and tips, you really can ace work travel as a parent. And maybe even enjoy it a little.

Kimberly Didrikson is the founder of Learning Motherhood, a platform that works to keep parents in the workforce by providing resources to employees and employers that allow parents to thrive both in their careers and at home.

“My goal is to help parents feel supported, heard, and empowered as they build their family and aspire to meet their career goals,” Didrikson told Vivvi. “And for many parents, that means traveling for work.”

Here are Didrikson’s most tried and true tips for nailing both parenting and traveling for work.

1. Make a plan.

Work travel means there will have to be some element of letting go, and for parents who find themselves in the Type A category, that can feel debilitating. That’s why Didrikson recommends making a plan for your work travel days.

Putting a plan in place with your partner, co-parent or caregiver sets you and your child up for success. A work travel plan is not one-size-fits-all, but having an idea of what you want the time away to look like for your child and your home is helpful in setting expectations.

“For employers and managers of caregivers, one of the most important things to consider when having these conversations with new parents is that this is their experience—so it’s crucial to listen to any concerns they are feeling about upcoming work travel.” Didrikson said. “Another thing to keep in mind in these conversations is that the make-up of every family has its own unique differences.”

The plan that makes your family comfortable may look like: lunches and dinners prepped or ordered in advance and a set bedtime routine. Maybe you want to write a daily schedule in advance to help caregivers stay on track with your goals. Your plan is for your family, to help you be comfortable during your work travel—it can be whatever you need it to be.

2. Invest in dependable child care.

Part of your work travel plan should include dependable child care. Nothing will make your work travel life run more smoothly than good child care you can count on.

Find out if your employer offers a child care benefit like backup care or care reimbursements through a company like Vivvi. Depending on your individual company’s benefit, you may even be able to access backup child care at your work destination, and travel with your little one in tow! (If your company doesn’t currently offer a child care benefit, this worksheet can help you figure out how to advocate for one.)

If your company doesn’t offer a child care benefit, take time to line up trusted resources for while you’re away. Set clear expectations and leave emergency contact info easily accessible with any caregivers that will be with your child. And remember, even if you have a partner that can take on the lion’s share of caregiving, investing in child care support can ease the transition.

3. New, trusted caregivers are good for your child.

Whether you’ll be staying down the street for one night or are in another city for a week, one of the scariest things about being away from your child for work is the anxiety of whether things will be done exactly the way you wanted them. Spoiler: they won’t. And that’s okay.

Welcoming new caregivers into your child’s world requires the acknowledgement that in your absence, other caregivers will do things differently than you—and that’s healthy for your child.

“My biggest advice to parents who are going through this is the importance of allowing your children the opportunity to experience different ways to learn and experience other caregivers,” Didrikson said. “This is such a gift to your children to have them learn new ways to do things, and a huge gift to your partner, co-parent, family member, or child care provider to build a stronger bond with your child.”

4. Allow yourself time to reboot.

Yes, the guilt may creep in – but try to take this time away from your family for what it is: alone time. So often as parents we become touched out or mentally overloaded. Take this time on the road to read a book about something that has nothing to do with Peppa Pig or sleep a few minutes later than you might usually when you’re on morning duty with your child.

“Taking care of your needs is an important box routinely to check in order to be the parent you want to be. We are a better employee, parent, spouse, and friend when we give ourselves the opportunity to practice our own self-care,” Didrickson said. “I remember struggling with this thought process after our first child; however, it was a game changer once I understood I was a better mom and employee when I took care of my needs. Now my calendar is blocked off routinely to support the things that fill up my cup, and we make sure to model this for our children.”

5. Lean on other parents for support.

Work travel may be a must for your job. And maybe you even sort of like it. But it’s still okay to admit being away from your baby feels hard.

Didrikson recommends sharing those feelings with your trusted circle or turning to other groups of parent work colleagues for support. If your employer has an Employee Resource Group for parents, this is a great time to ask for work travel tips or just some camaraderie from others who have been there.

“Don’t ignore the feelings you are having around work travel. The best way to navigate what you are experiencing is to address it with your boss, employees, and your partner/co-parent or supported caregiver,” she said. “You need to feel good just as much as those around you. Your needs matter.”

More Parent Travel Pro-Trips:

  • Think about what you can outsource. Consider investing in meal delivery or a cleaning service while you’re away if it fits the budget.
  • Increase child care support before, during, and after to support caregiving responsibilities while gone.
  • Encourage your caregiver to stick to daily routines for your child.
  • Avoid tough goodbyes that can be unnecessarily upsetting for your child—and you.
  • Prepare your child ahead of time by telling them what the goodbye will look like and don’t linger once it’s time to leave.
  • Connect when you’re away. For long trips, set up scheduled times to video chat and or send postcards in the mail for older kids to enjoy.
  • Make the time away special for your child. You may want to introduce “travel rules”, empowering your caregiver to create special playdates or field trips to a favorite spot. 
  • Bring back a little gift.This does not have to be a giant teddy bear that says HOUSTON, TX on its t-shirt; it can even be something you pick up before you hit the road.

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