Runway reflections as we take off. Headed for home.
I really enjoy business trips. Granted, I don’t do it regularly, but I added it up, and I’ve spent about 4 work weeks out of the office- and yes, away from my family- this year. A bit of a staggering amount of time to be away as a working mom.
And you know what? As much as people complain about the grueling life of a traveling businessperson, it actually hasn’t been that bad. In fact, it’s been great. I’ve been to Florida, California, and I’m writing this piece self-Brexiting after a week in Europe.
It’s not fun in the sense that I don’t have ANY free time in these posh places while I visit. There is no sight seeing, no shopping outside last minute airport souvenirs, no walking tours or people watching. It’s back to back meetings, inter-city commuter flights, meals in airport lounges, snapping photos from taxis and hotel windows, conferences where you never see the light of day. But it’s a nice change from desk work. It’s refreshing to speak to people who actually want to hear what I think. It’s enlightening to hear what other people think, besides those I sit next to and commiserate with day in and day out in the office. It’s not fun when you miss flights by 2 minutes, or get delayed, or sit in taxi traffic. But it’s unpredictable and gives me a sense of independence I’ve never felt before.
What about my kids? Well, what about them is right! Sure it may seem like I’m a bit of a delinquent mom. Even working full time to begin with gets some “Oh, you’re one of ‘those‘” responses from the busy, harried stay at homes. Then to leave my three impressionable youngsters for a week at a clip- multiple times a year!- is quite possibly outright abuse in the eyes of others. But, my kids are quite all right. Sure, they miss me, but I take comfort knowing that I planned for every contingency ahead of time. Clothes are pre-selected, play dates are scheduled, husband is well prepped and perfectly capable of holding down the fort while I am gone. The reluctant introduction of text for the older guys has been a great tool for necessary communication and affirmation of my love. FaceTime proves to be a challenge because sometimes it makes us all even sadder. (Apparently my nickname this week has become Voldemort, but everyone is better off not mentioning mom at all.)
While absence does in fact make the heart grow fonder, the other cliche of “out of sight out of mind” also rings true. There is something liberating about not waking up under the crushing pressure of the to do list, not coming home to chaos and whining and fighting, but rather a lovely, company-funded hotel room. A night’s sleep in a big bed all to myself with no snoring nor unwelcome guests. While I regret nothing about the life I’ve chosen and my family is by far my greatest accomplishment in life, being unencumbered by a trio of school aged humans for 6 nights is extremely reinvigorating and a reminder of who I know myself to be on my own.
Then there is the travel itself. I’ve been with my husband for more than half of my life (and yes, I’m under 40), so it’s fair to say we’ve grown up together. He is my rock, and as independent as my lifestyle may suggest me to be, I am actually quite dependent on him for sustenance, bill paying, logistics of all kinds, and to talk me down from multiple nervous break downs a week. I don’t do very much by myself at all actually, so to cross the country, heck, the Atlantic Ocean, not to mention multiple European countries with no chaperone in several days is in fact a big feat for me. I find myself surprised that I can even do it at all. The amount of anxiety I felt on the onset of this most recent trip was pshysioloicaltly palpable, as was the exhilaration I felt when I approached the gate to board my plane back home just moments ago. I am not a helpless, damsel in distress, as I secretly feared.
I hail from a family with a propensity for agoraphobia, xenophobia, fear bordering on mental illness, on both sides. While my great great grandparents ventured away from their home countries in search of adventure in America, the generations that followed saw no need to ever leave the US, or their states, cities, towns, and in some cases, even their homes. My people aren’t exactly people’s people. My parents would’ve been happy to have me live at home through college. They wouldn’t have supported a request to study abroad. Backpacking through Europe after school was out of the question. When I told them I was selected to go on a free trip to Israel, their response was “Why?”, and also “no” (note: I went). We didn’t even go on family vacations. So seeing any and all places is big for me, and an important example for my kids. I want them to be global citizens as I never had the chance. I am making up for a lot of lost time, on the company dime, but with the intention to bring the crew back to many of these destinations when they have the stamina, and we have the funds. No more walls, no more borders, no more small-mindedness going forward. It might be a simple business trip, but it feels monumental, it feels like a tectonic shift, it feels like vindication.
I am going to return home to my family tonight. My kids might be less excited to see me than I would like. They might feel abandoned, but that will subside, and they don’t realize the longer leash will lead to a stronger sense of independence over the long run. I didn’t get much sleep this week, and certainly no down time, but I am well rested. I am freer than I was before I left. Something about this trip, all of these travels, smells like victory. I didn’t buy any perfumes in the duty-free shop as I rushed to catch my flight, but I truly love that scent..