Just finished my first week of travel for work last Friday and, well, it kind of sucked.
Red-eye to Atlanta on Sunday night (no sleep), 3 hours at the hotel (no sleep), cab to the wrong office (turns out we have more than one office in Atlanta), worked from 11:30am on Monday until 1am on Tuesday. Workshop with the clients from 9am-noon on Tuesday; not sure how my colleague pulled off a good presentation given that he’d actually been on more flights than me during the previous 24 hours and also worked until 1am, but he did it. I was barely awake. Then long work days (and evenings) the rest of the week before a Thursday night return. Aside from the hours, it did make a nice change to engage in intelligent conversation on interesting problems with adults while wearing my pre-pregnancy work clothes and actually feeling pretty good in them for the first time in a while.
I video chatted with Carys once or twice a day while I was out and she always seemed fine; she would start laughing when she saw it was me on the screen and we would play hide and seek (she loves to cover her eyes with her hands to ‘hide’ and squeal with joy when she is ‘found’). Alvin didn’t tell me until I got home that she was good during the days when distractions abounded, but in the evenings she would lie on the sofa after she finished her milk with her head on his chest just staring at him. Normally she’s running around the house like a crazy woman until we announce story time, so this was quite different.
I got home after her bedtime on Thursday so Friday morning was the first time she’d seen me since Sunday night, and I was actually surprised at how un-excited she was. She laughed when I went into her room but then pointed out the nightlight and camera and her stuffed cheetah, Hobbes, and didn’t seem too bothered about a hug. But after our nanny arrived and I had to go for work the tears were unleashed – every time I went in the bedroom they would start flooding out. I guess she thought I was leaving again, although by the end of the day, and after a lot of reassurance – and a tantrum that kept us from an afternoon hike – she seems to be somewhat back to normal.
Travel is just part of the job for a consultant most of the time and while I’ve been lucky so far in that I’ve worked most projects from home, there’s no guarantee that this can continue. It was hard on Alvin as well, as he had to work from 8-4 (with an hour commute before and after), spend 3 hours with Carys in the evenings, and then work again from 8-11pm after she went to bed to make up the hours he lost during the day. While many of my colleagues – and scores of other working parents – leave their kids with a nanny for all of their waking hours because they have no choice, that just doesn’t feel right to me. I believe that a big part of the responsibility of being a parent is spending time with my child, and I’m lucky that we are in jobs that for the most part allow at least one of us this luxury. But my current job pretty much requires face time with clients if I’m going to keep on moving up the ladder, and many of those clients are a long way away. I really don’t know how I can reconcile extensive travel with my vision of parenting.
In the short term, I was supposed to go back to Atlanta on the red-eye on Sunday night, but they found someone local to take over my role instead.
A reprieve, for now at least. I have to go to New York next week but that’s a one-off for a series of meetings, so hopefully we’ll get through it and won’t have to do it again for a while.