I am currently in T5 awaiting my flight to LA. I got up at 5.15am tiptoeing around the house planting kisses on everyone and snuggling with the cat before my taxi arrived. I left little notes for the kids and some hallucinogenic Smiggle merch in a little box for them when they woke up. I studied photos and videos on my iphone obsessively the whole way to the airport, until eventually we were far enough down the M3 and I’d seen enough of their little faces to spill out a few tears. I looked out the window into the dreary rainy sky and asked the universe to tell me if this was ok? Should I be doing this? Will they remember these times I went away and resent me when they’re older? Will this be the week where one of them gets sick, or achieves something great, and I’m not there for them?
And for the love of god, will my husband ever forgive me for leaving him for 12 days to parent solo?!!!
And more to the point, will the cat remember me when I return?!
One day at a time.
It is by a long shot, the longest time I have ever been away from them. This is a trip with multiple tasks to be done. The TPL US office has officially opened this month and I’m off to complete a project out there and then go spread the word. Once the 12 days are up, and school is out, Ben and the kids will join me for a holiday. That worked out well. We’ll need it. I’ll need it, as I attempt to re balance things, spending focussed, switched off time and building memories for life in the California sun, undoing our time apart one fun-day at a time.
Will my husband ever forgive me for leaving him to fly 16 hours on his own with 2 kids?!!
In our world, 12 days is really long time for me to be away, but we still have it pretty good in comparison to others. I think of those in the military away for months on end with no idea when they might go home, those working unsociable hours who are continually out of kilter with kid-time, those ‘proper’ business people (obviously I’m not a ‘proper’ business-person) who have no choice about when, and for how long they go away for and have to leave at moment’s notice, and also the doctors and surgeons who are pulled away at the beep of the phone. I am lucky that I have some control and notice over when and how often I travel, I am thankful for that. I have a few guidelines which make my mama-travel in our house more manageable which I will share should they be of any use to anyone who also travels with for for work:
- 4 days away max
- At least one month notice to prep them in advance
- No more than 6 big long haul trips a year
- Booked annual leave afterwards (preferably travel to happen at end of term when a school holiday is approaching)
- No key events to be missed – sports days, big memory moments etc
Last year I’ll admit, I broke too many of my own rules, sometimes it’s just not always possible to stick to them. In the second half of last year I found myself travelling to the US every other month with a really intensive schedule when I was over there. By the end of the year I was burnt out. Was it worth it? I never really know the answer to this question. When I look back at 2017 I don’t see any issues at home, the kids flourished in our new home (oh yeah we also moved house and relocated last year too…maybe also explains the burn out!) and I know that the work I did when I was travelling was important; it had an impact on the business and it enabled us to grow, hit our targets, and it developed me personally, I learnt a lot.
But every now and then you’ll tell someone you’re going away or that you travel with work, and you’ll either hear the gasp, you’ll see the little eye roll, or you’ll get the ‘oooohhhh, I could never leave my kids like that’ and it’ll wrench you into a dark place where you feel misunderstood, unfairly judged, anxious and wishing everyone would just back the hell off.
So, I never know the answer.
I don’t think there is one.
However, though it is hard and sometimes stressful, I do honestly believe that positives can be said for time apart. These only really kick in if you have the right foundational emotional relationships with your kids and partner and if you have unbreakable solid support when you’re away – ultimately, you all need to be able to function without each other for a bit and I realise this is different for everyone. The kids are pretty used to me travelling now, I give them lots of warnings and reminders it’s coming up, I try to take them on the journey with me, explaining what I’m doing (luckily I have a job that interests them as it’s usually something to with kids films, toys or tech!!) and I’m very very open and honest about why I work, what it means and does to our lifestyle and about how and why I work hard. The feeling of missing people and places and appreciating what you have is no greater than when I am by myself, in my own headspace and sometimes uncontactable. I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for, and return energised and inspired, often with lots of ideas of how to have fun, new adventures to plan and where to take our lives next (and also with presents. That always helps too).
And that’s not to mention of course the peace of being on a plane watching a film by yourself, with no kids to look after and no phone signal to reach you. Now this is something that should be prescribed as standard mental health treatment for all knackered parents. I will never take that for granted.
I have no idea how these next 12 days apart will go, I’m pretty sure there will be tough moments for everyone (mainly for Ben, god, I am sorry Ben!!), but before we know it, the time will have flown by and we’ll all be together again having our next adventure. I can’t wait to greet them at the airport, overpriced balloons flailing behind me and to feel their little hands slip into mine like we’ve never been apart.
EDIT TO POST: Brooklyn Beckham is on my plane. I repeat. Brooklyn Beckham is on my plane. If I said anything above about not being sure if this is a good idea, I TAKE EVERYTHING BACK. THIS IS THE GREATEST TIME OF MY LIFE. I can’t breathe. Must take off. Hopefully we’ll be BFF’s by the time we land.