How I’m managing working mom guilt lately

Work trip to our new Seattle office. Happy hour with a view!

[Spoiler alert: Not well]

In the last two weeks I’ve traveled to Indianapolis for fun, Seattle and New York City for work. Without children.

I have something honest to say: Sometimes, work travel is glorious. A productive day of off-site meetings pairs nicely with dinner and drinks. Especially when your dinner party knows how to use silverware. A solo hotel stay can be luxurious, too. No midnight wake-up call from my teething toddler? Trashy reality TV instead of Peppa Pig? Bliss.

But if I’m really being honest, work travel isn’t always easy on mom (or dad). A few weeks of travel has me feeling tired, disconnected and guilty. I’m lucky to have a job where travel is occasional, not regular, but any amount of travel is challenging for families.

Arranging schedules is the easy part. It’s hard to give my husband detailed instructions, though, about the tasks I take care of without even thinking – like checking the school calendar to see if it’s Show and Tell day.

Finding time to connect across time zones is difficult, too. When you add up full-day meetings, dinners, cab rides, security lines and flights – you’re lucky to get in a few minutes of phone time each day.

Then, there was the video my husband sent . He’s playing a marble game with our four-year-old son. “If we have seven balls and we take away four balls, how many balls do we have?” Without missing a beat my son says, “Three!”

And just like that, I missed his first math problem. Pictures and videos are lousy substitutes for milestone moments.

That’s the reality of what it means to be a working mom, though. Chasing your career dreams and your toddlers is hard to do at the same time. You won’t just miss some moments, you will miss many moments. Guilt is inevitable.

When I have weeks like this, I try to remember the advice a mentor (and fellow working mom) once gave me. “You can’t measure work life balance by the day. You’ll always lose. Measure it by the month, instead. You’ll have long days, nights away – but you can make up for that with good, quality time when you’re home.” This has become my working mom mantra.

We filled our cups with good, quality time the last few weekends. Water play, mountain trips, pool dips, birthday parties, lightning bug chasing. Those are the moments they will remember most, I hope.

Here’s to all the ladybosses out there having busy, travel weeks. Enjoy your travels. Don’t sweat the little moments. Make time for the big ones.

You’re doing great, mama.

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