Last week, I had the opportunity to take my first overnight work trip for my new job, which was a one-night stay in Minneapolis for a training session. I jumped at the chance, not only for learning purposes, but also, I must admit, for a little break from my mom-related responsibilities.
I was excited. I’d never been to Minnesota, and traveling for work in my younger years was always a thrill for me. I loved wading through the other businesspeople in the airport, shuffling along with my briefcase and little rolling suitcase. It made me feel important in some small way.
I also must admit, the thought of my own hotel room, where no one could bother me for an entire night, had me feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve.
As I packed my suitcase the night before my adventure, my two year old looked at me, concerned.
“What are you doing, Mommy?” she asked carefully.
“I’m packing,” I said. “Mommy is going on a big airplane, to Minnesota!” I wondered if she could sense the excitement in my voice.
“To Minnesota?” she replied slowly. “You’re going on a big airplane?”
“Yes,” I said. “Mommy has to go to work. But I’ll only be gone one night.”
She seemed to accept this, and I explained that she needed to be a good girl for Daddy and help take care of her little sister. All seemed well.
Later that night, when everyone was asleep, I realized something. This trip would mark the first night I would be away from my youngest daughter, who just turned 15 months old.
I didn’t really panic at this; instead, I stared at the ceiling, wondering if she was even old enough to realize I was gone.
The next afternoon, I was checking in for my flight at the Birmingham airport and walking through security. But instead of the ecstatic rush of freedom I expected when I stepped onto the airplane, I felt … uneasy. Anxious. Worried.
I missed my babies already. And I wasn’t even out of the city limits.
After an uneventful flight to Atlanta and a short layover, I was on plane #2. Then, during the Delta safety video, tears started rolling down my cheeks as I watched a toddler buckle her seatbelt on the screen.
“Get a grip,” I told myself as I wiped the tears away.
After landing in Minneapolis, I was distracted as my co-worker and I got our bags, found our Uber and made our way to the hotel. We grabbed dinner and I practically ran to my room. I was way too excited about a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
Then, at 10:00 p.m., just as I dove into a pile of fluffy pillows (all for me!), my phone rang.
It was my husband. And my two year old, bawling.
“She misses you,” my husband said. “She keeps asking where you are.”
I cringed. Apparently it hadn’t sunk in and she didn’t understand.
I carefully explained to her that I was at work but I would be home tomorrow. I told her I missed her and I loved her and that I needed her to help Daddy take care of her baby sister (who was sleeping soundly in her crib, unaware of anything out of the ordinary) and her dog.
She sniffled and whimpered. “Ok,” she said.
I hung up the phone and lay there in my pile of pillows, feeling guilty. However, I was still able to fall asleep, and I did get a solid six hours of shut-eye (definitely a win).
The next day, after a morning of meetings, I was heading back to the airport. I bought a souvenir for the kids, and wished our layover in Atlanta wasn’t so long.
When I finally got home that night around 9:00 p.m., I practically ran in the door just as I had sprinted for my hotel room the night before. I couldn’t wait to hug them.
The house was dark, and everyone was asleep. I tiptoed into my bedroom and saw from the light of the television my little girl, curled up next to my husband. We try not to let her sleep in our bed much, but that night, I was glad she was there. I crawled into bed and she rolled over. With sleepy eyes, she looked at me and smiled so big I was worried she’d fully wake up and be wired. Instead, she wrapped her arms around me and whispered, “Mommy, you’re home.”
I kissed her forehead. In that moment, the sleepless nights, the temper tantrums, the whining and crying and not sharing and potty training and overall terrible twos all escaped from my mind. In that moment, there was nowhere else in the world I wanted to be.
I’m still trying to find balance as a full-time working mother. It’s not easy. I love getting opportunities to grow personally and professionally, but I love my girls, too. I didn’t expect to be so happy to be home.
Give it a week, though, and I’ll probably be ready for my next solo adventure.
Can you relate? Tell us how you feel when you travel for work and leave kids behind!