Career – The dilemma, travelling for work when you have small children

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The very nature of my job is one that requires me to regularly travel both within Australia and internationally. To be honest, this was initially what really drew me to the role. I love love love travelling (well really, who doesn’t?) and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel all over the world. To say I have the travel bug is definitely an understatement, so the idea of being able to see more of the world and have someone else pay for it, is my kinda awesome.

Generally speaking, I’m required to travel to Asia (mostly to Singapore) a couple of times a year and interstate (to either Adelaide, Canberra or Brisbane) every second month. It was great in the beginning, but after a while travelling to the same old places all the time starts to wear a bit thin (and really I don’t have to travel that much). To make matter worse, I was getting called to Singapore at the drop of a hat for fly in fly out meetings. I would literally spend more time in transit than I did on the floor.

As annoying and exhausting as it was, for the most part I accepted it as just being part of my job, and really there are other people that would kill for the opportunity to travel, so who am I to complain? That was until I had a child. Before children, it was relatively easy to reorganise my schedule (although I didn’t think it was easy at the time), so if I had to travel at short notice, I’d be annoyed, but I’d change a few things around and a couple of days later I was off. It’s just not that easy anymore. I can’t just up an leave, I have a fully dependant little person to think about.

I knew it would be much more difficult to travel once I had children, so before I had my son, round about the time I decided I was ready to have kids, I started changing things at work so that I wouldn’t have to travel as often. In the name of cost cutting (I’m head of finance, so no one questioned my motives) I encouraged everyone to utilise online video conferencing tools instead of travelling for meetings. Then I put forward a case to our head office in Singapore to reduce the number of international conferences to save more dollars and to my delight they brought it. Although there has been a reduction in the number of trips I’m required to do, it hasn’t cancelled out the need to travel all together.

I returned to work after 9 months of maternity leave in February this year and to date I haven’t had to travel once, but that’s about to change. I have to travel to Singapore for a week in July and I’m starting to freak out. Don’t get me wrong I love the idea that I get to go back there and although its very selfish, I’m looking forward the getting away from home. On the flipside, me being away for a week puts a huge amount of stress on my husband and parents.

At the moment, I work four days a week, three in the office and one from home. On the days I’m in the office, my parents look after my son. My husband starts work quite early in the morning, so I do the morning drop off and he picks up my son after he finishes work. Me not being around will make it really hard in the mornings. The husband will  have to get the baby up insanely early to make sure they’re both organised, do the drop off and still get to work on time, but it also means my parents will have to be up much earlier than usual which makes me feel really guilty. I hate that they have to put themselves out to accommodate me. They’d never complain, but it still doesn’t make it ok.

Another option is for the husband to take the week off work, but I don’t think it’s fair for him to have to waste a week of annual leave because I’m away.  Again, I don’t think he’d complain about it to me, but secretly I think he’d be annoyed.

He said he can try and negotiate with work to start a bit later so he can still work and it won’t be as hard in the mornings, but something tells me it won’t be received too well with his work. He works in commercial construction, so it’s a very blokey environment and one of the guys taking time off for the family isn’t perceived all that well. Crazy right? We talk about discrimination against women in the work place and in a funny way, the guys cop it too. For example (from what I’ve heard on the grapevine)  if one of the guys on site has a sick kid and can’t work (you know, because he’s a good guy and he’s sharing the load with his working partner) a cross gets put against his name. If it happens too often, chances are he’ll be one of the first ones that gets sacked when redundancies are handed out.

The only other option is for the little guy to stay with my parents for the entire week to avoid the morning logistics and the husband can go and see him at night. But as with the other options, it makes me feel so guilty putting that burden on my parents because they have their own lives and they’ll need to change everything around to accommodate the little one. Plus, and most importantly, I think it’ll be really unsettling for the little guy. He’s never spent a night away from us and although I’m not against doing it every now and then, I think we need to ease him into it as opposed to going from never being away, to having a week away from us.

Am I making too much of a big deal about this? Really it’s only a week and I’m sure they’ll all cope. I just can’t help but feel guilty. You don’t have children to put the burden on other people, but I guess this is one of the many trade offs when it comes to having a family and a career.

Have you had to deal with anything similar? Got any tips?

2 thoughts on “Career – The dilemma, travelling for work when you have small children

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