For the record work travel ends up being way more bedraggled than jet set. My friends & family imagine me like a Michael Kors add, but it is more like what one finds in the archived pictures at Ellis Island. Yes, I stay in nice hotels. Yes, I get an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Yes, I shower alone and have the bathroom all to myself. Yes, someone makes dinner for me (and sometimes even brings it to my room.) I’m grateful for all of those things.
What one doesn’t appreciate until they are doing it themselves, is you always have to be on.
You constantly are paying attention as you navigate a new place. Also under appreciated is that nobody cares you aren’t in the office and instead spending 10 hours of your day in meetings. Everybody, including your boss, still expects you to respond to their e-mails promptly. As a result of that single factor I usually get less sleep on the road than I do at home. Sad & maybe my own doing.
The hardest part is that I miss my family. Last week when I was traveling, my daughter had a huge milestone while I was gone. Thankfully, there is technology and I was on FaceTime with her the moment she got home from school to praise her and hear all about it. But I wasn’t there to hug and love on her.
My last day of the trip was a long one. My meetings wrapped up at 5:30 and I had trouble catching a cab so I Ubered instead. I love Uber, but the guy driving thought he was a NYC cabbie, but he just wasn’t. 25 minutes into the trip after traveling approximately 4 city block (a function of traffic not the driver), I thought I was going to throw up. This always induces sweating for me. Always. I started peeling off my jacket, opening the window, probably looking like I was going to vomit in the back seat of his overly new-smelling Camry Hybrid. We finally got out of Manhattan and moving a little more consistently. In the mean time he had started sweating and asking me when my flight was. I told him it wasn’t until 7:30, the flight probably would be late, and that there was plenty of to make it. Never have two sweaty people parted so joyfully.
Security was a breeze, which never happens. Once scanned, I headed to the bathroom only to see what the poor cabbie saw in his rear view mirror. Horror. No wonder he was trying to drive fast! I tried to pull myself together, but the reality was that I was getting on a plane in 30 minutes where nobody would know me or, frankly, notice my disheveled existence.
As I walked out the bathroom door to my gate, there stood the CFO of a company with whom I work. We’ll call her Sheryl (that isn’t her real name.) I mostly wanted to slither away hoping she didn’t notice me, but that is not my luck. We had met mid-day, so there wasn’t a lot to cover from a business perspective.
We got to talking about our kids instead. She has girls that are 8 years older than my son & daughter. We mostly commiserated about working motherhood and how awesome and awful it can be at the same time. I mentioned that I wouldn’t be home in time to put my kids to bed and how much easier it was when they were really little and didn’t know the difference. She paused and said, “I hate to tell you this, but it gets worse.” What?!?
My son always asks before I fly, “Are you going on a blue and orange plane or a red and gray one?” Followed by a, “Will the pilot bring you home soon? I miss mommy snuggles.” How on Earth could it be worse than that? I was about to find out.
Sheryl proceed to tell me that it was her daughters’ first day of school that day and that her younger one called crying that morning because she didn’t know what to wear. I’m nearly certain I will miss some first days of school. Simply unavoidable. I had made peace with the missing out on celebrating triumphs as occurred days earlier, but the thought of not being there to pick my daughter up when she needed me was shattering. Sheryl must have seen the look of abject horror as I processed what the future might likely hold. This conversation could have gone two ways at this point, Sheryl could have told me to buck up, appreciate having a great job, and get over the fact that I would miss out on some things with my kids. She didn’t. Instead, Sheryl said that through the tears they used FaceTime to go through her closet and outfit options together with an agreement that the older sister would make the final approval, because she knew what was cool, and give her sister a hug from Mom. As if reading my mind, she looked me in the eye and said, “You will use your resources too. Nobody does this alone.”