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While long travel for work can be hard on working mothers, these career opportunities are often too good to miss. Here’s how to take up the challenge!
At different points of our work lives, we get opportunities to travel for work. While most working women accept short-term work tours with gusto, longer tours (more than a week) can be a real challenge for working mothers.
We tend to say no to these vital opportunities thinking of the household responsibilities and inability to delegate them to others – especially the care of young children.
Based on my experience, here are a few tips to managing long work tours critical to your career.
Say Yes first, plan later: For most people in office-based jobs, long- term office tours are not that common unless you are in sales and marketing or senior management. Most of us get a chance to travel for many weeks on rare occasions and it is important that we first say ‘Yes’ to it.
Prepare yourself: When a man goes on tour his wife covers him at home but when a woman goes out, the home front shakes up a bit. At least Indian women take pride in thinking that! Acknowledge that in your absence things will continue at home. It may not be the same way as you want but as long as they manage them you should be fine.
The first step to manage long work tours is to prepare your mind for it. Stop being overprotective of your family and let go of your control on them. Working mothers with children younger than 5 may find it more difficult but it is doable.
Acknowledge that in your absence things will continue at home. It may not be the same way as you want but as long as they manage them you should be fine.
Discuss with your family: It helps me when I tell my child about the trip as soon as I know about it. I tell her, not ask her. I talk about the opportunities it will bring and how interesting it will be. Children accept a positive parent quicker than the one with self-doubt.
We hug each other and discuss how we will miss each other and how we will cope too! I discuss with my spouse on his plans to manage the home and partial role swapping. It is important that both of us are not away at the same time.
Reach out: I reach out to people who can be my back up. I connect to an extra number of people like a back up maid. I inform parents of my children’s friends for extra support.
Reassure family members: Calculate the time zone difference and keep the family informed on this. Give family members a tentative idea of when to expect calls from you or they could reach out to you.
Be fully present: Once the journey starts I try to keep myself mindful with my colleagues and the work I am in. These work trips are great opportunities to learn more about the team and find togetherness. I focus on the responsibility I am given. I strongly value face-to-face interactions and acknowledge that they are important in building a rapport between working partners.
Communication is the key: I do connect to my family regularly but not all the time. It is important to learn/ know about the most updated apps to be able to connect with the family back home. Skype and Voice Over IP works for me to call home and video chat, while Whatsapp and Facebook are for sharing photos and quick messages. It is extremely helpful when you have kids and they are eager to see you and know what you are involved with.
I keep my family informed about my working hours, any late evening meetings or official dinner plans so they don’t wait for my call on those days.
Explore the newness: Being a traveller in spirit, I enjoy exploring new cuisines and don’t worry much about home cooked Indian meals. I also prefer to buy local produce instead of carrying loads of ready to cook packets from India. But this is a personal choice. I would suggest to new travellers to be open to food choices and explore the newness they come across.
The same holds true for squeezing in some sightseeing into your busy schedule. These travels would not be the same as they are with your family but they will add to your experience and believe me, you will like them if you let yourself.
These travels would not be the same as they are with your family but they will add to your experience and believe me, you will like them if you let yourself.
Accepting the emotions: On long deputations, we are bound to feel homesick. I miss the good night hugs and dinner times with family. I know that they miss me too. We try to be objective about this and once in a while I do let it out.
Listening to music, watching a fun movie with a comfort meal and spending time in buying gifts for my family are some of my ways to keep myself from feeling guilty, homesick and lonely.
Acknowledge the learning opportunity: As working mothers, we are not often showered with challenges equal to our male colleagues and work tours are one of those challenges. Once I accept this, I try to make the most of this challenge to convert it into a learning opportunity for my professional growth.
Look at the plus side: My absence creates more camaraderie between the child and the father and I relish that. I truly enjoy listening to their endeavours at togetherness and I don’t panic at the small imperfections. My husband learned to make our daughter’s hair into ponytails during one such occasion!
Collect memories and wait for the next: For me travel for work (if spread out evenly) is always a refreshing event. For long tours, I do need to cushion it with extra planning and preparation but it is totally worth the trouble.
I do come back rejuvenated with memories of a good trip and look forward to the next long work tour. After all, it is only one life to live and work…
Pic credit: wwworks (Used under a CC license)
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