I rarely travel for work. I'm a writer after all, so it's
uncommon for me to schedule work trips. In fact, my days are spent clicking away on my
computer from the comfort of an elastic waistband. I don't need to
travel to an office, much less to another city. And though I work while my kids
are at school, at night and on the weekends, working all the time affords me
the luxury of controlling my own schedule. I get to be with the kids after school and I get to schedule around their
performances or events at school. It's the best of both worlds and I feel
incredibly grateful to get to work and be with my kids.
But this past week I had to travel to Arizona for a work conference, which had me leaving on a Wednesday and returning on
Saturday. The trip had been planned for
months. So when I looked at my son's school calendar to see that I'd be
gone during the school event he had worked toward all year, I was heartbroken. I knew my husband would be there and my son
would probably be fine with that. I just didn't know if I would be fine with that.
I had never missed a school event before. And I hated that I had to make a choice.
I considered canceling my trip until my husband advised
me against that. "This is your work," he said. "If you didn't work for yourself, you'd never cancel a business trip. These are the choices working parents have to make. It isn't always
easy, but this is your career and you need to go to that conference." He was right, but I knew he was really saying
something else. He was really saying that no man would cancel his work trip
because of an event at his kid's school. He'd hoped his child would understand,
but he'd never consider not doing what he needed to do for his work even if
that meant missing his child's performance or presentation at school.
I'd always assumed it was easy for (my husband) to go to work or to get on a plane. Sometimes I even envied him.
As the morning of my son's event arrived, I sat distracted in
my conference sessions. I kept looking at my clock calculating the time my
son's performance was about to start. What did he wear? Was he nervous? How did he do? I wondered if he noticed I wasn't there—or if he even
cared. I hoped he did well and hoped he didn't mind my absence, knowing full
well that it was me who minded my absence.
Sitting there, half listening to the presentation I was in
Arizona to hear, I realized the torn feeling I had about missing my son's event
is exactly how my husband must feel every time he travels (often for
weeks at a time). Sure, I knew he missed being home with the kids. But I never realized just how torn he, and every working
I'd always assumed it
was easy for him to go to work or to get on a plane. Sometimes I even
envied him. Working in an office meant someone else got to hear the kids fight
and got to negotiate TV privileges and homework. To me, my husband's work trips were always
exhausting, but nothing a little room service and not having to wake up with
the kids couldn't repair.
Now I know to never look at my husband's work day or
travel as some sort of break. No working parent gets the easy way out. Every day is fraught with inner conflicts and
a sense of letting every single person down, no matter how hard you try.
The good news is my son had a great performance and my husband sent relatively
real-time photos of what was happening at school. As for me I hope I don't have
to miss another school event, but chances are I will if I'm going to be successful
on my own path. It'll never get easier, but at least I know I'm in good
company. I'm just another working parent, trying to do the right thing.