I was never quite sure that I was ready for or even wanted children. Of course, that doubt immediately erased itself the moment my son was born. But as my paternity leave ended and my life traveling for work resumed, I planned for that first trip with the complete opposite anxieties as I approached parenthood. Would he forget about me while I was gone? Would I miss a major milestone? Was I a bad parent for pursuing my career goals?
While it never gets easy, the following strategies will help you cope with the apprehensions that parents who travel for work all deal with.
Keep the Trips Short at First
If you have any control over the length of your business trips, try to keep them short in the beginning. Aim for a night or two maximum until you and your baby can adjust to the rhythm of you being away. Whatever you do, fight any temptations or influences to make that first trip an international one. Different time zones only complicate matters.
The trick here isn’t just having the intention to FaceTime or Skype, but to deliberately schedule a time to talk. Without a date, schedules get crazy and calls get missed. Try putting some time into your TripIt itinerary so you remember when you should call home. Sometimes, I’ll admit that the baby is sleeping, but I still enjoy watching him sleep. It’s not like he can talk to me at four months anyway.
Stay Connected via Snapchat
I actually enjoy these more than my scheduled family video dates. While it’s great to interact with my family, very few spontaneous moments occur. Snapchat allows your significant other to capture those moments and send them to you. It’s like opening a Christmas present whenever my phone randomly buzzes with a snap. If it’s a moment worth saving, be sure to have the sender save it.
Record Special Moments
I don’t want to sound harsh, but you will miss milestone moments when you’re traveling. Your baby’s development isn’t going to wait until you return. Make sure whoever is home with the baby captures those moments on photo or video.
Change Your Screensaver
If you’re at all like me, you probably have a lot of photos of your little one on your phone. The problem is that you need to access your photo gallery to view those photos. I always save a favorite baby photo as my background screen before leaving, that way I can see him each time I use my phone. Right now, it’s a photo of him wearing a shirt that says, “I crawl… I walk… I travel…” It reminds me that someday soon he’ll be accompanying me on my trips.
Indulge in the Time Away
Seriously, don’t be afraid to pamper yourself when you’re gone. Enjoy a dinner without trying to feed yourself and someone else at the same time. Watch a movie the entire way through without interruption from a crying baby. Meet colleagues for happy hour and relish in conversations that aren’t focused on how many diapers you’ve changed.
Enjoy the Uninterrupted Sleep
This is probably my favorite part of being away—a night of uninterrupted sleep. Even if you’re of the sort that never sleeps well your first night in a new place, you’ll easily sleep a solid eight hours (or more) as a new parent. Enjoy it because the luxury ends the moment you arrive back at home.
Schedule a Day Off When You Return
If you’re seriously worried about missing your baby too much while you’re on the road, try to schedule some time off for the day after your return. It will allow much needed bonding and teach you that nothing changed between you and your baby. It will also give your spouse a needed break.