I'm heading out to New York later this week, for BlogHer '10, and while I'm excited (no one waking me up at 3 a.m. because they need to go to the bathroom! Woo hooo!), my youngest kids most certainly are not.
I don't travel much for business; the last conference that took me away from home overnight took place before my youngest two kids were born, and every other work-related trip has either been a day-long affair or I've hauled my family along with me. Back when my husband and I worked opposite shifts I was the one who was home at night and now, even though we both work days, most of the bedtime routine still falls to me. That's not a complaint, it's a statement of fact. And the bottom line is that, on the rare occasions when I am away at night, the little kids are thrown for a little bit of a loop.
You already know that taking advantage of network opportunities like BlogHer is good for your career. (And, possibly, your sanity. Hello, uninterrupted shower!) Your kids, though? They don't necessarily get it. And, if they're little, the biggest thing they'll register is that you're going somewhere -- gasp! -- without them. So, how can you help them cope?
1.) Leave them something to listen to while you're gone. Make your own book-on-tape of you reading your child's favorite story. Don't forget to include a reminder to turn the page! ("Next page, Sweetie!" is better than a generic "beep," though any funny noise will do.) If you sometimes sing your tot to sleep, tape that, too. Software suggestion, for PC users: try DigiTells Read Along With Me.
2.) Bring along one of their stuffed toys, and take pictures of it in your hotel room. If you're feeling especially brave, take the toy out on the town. Email the photos home for your kids to look at, with a little note written from the toy's point of view (or look at them together when you return).
3.) Send postcards. It doesn't matter whether you'll be away for a day or for a week, your child will be thrilled to receive something in the mail, even if it arrives after you get back. No time to buy some? Bring a card or two with you and mail them during the trip -- the picture on the front matters way less than whatever little note you jot on the back.
And, a tip for you: Give yourself permission to enjoy the time away, even if you're working. Those of you who travel frequently know what I mean, and maybe it's stating the obvious, but still: If your paycheck pays the mortgage, continuing to earn it is you doing "what's best for your family." No guilt required.
Those of you who travel often for business, please weigh in: How do you help your kids cope?
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