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Work, Travel, Toddler: Does it mix well?

I have been open with my recent challenges, juggling  a full-time working from home routine with our recent child.  One of the more stressful juggles has been the travel.  With my organization's 60 staff spread nationwide, we get together for a big staff meeting at one location every 6 months.  

One year ago, it was New York.  Lucky for me, we have family there.  It was the perfect opportunity for my in-laws to meet our newest baby, who was about 4.5 months old then.

Last fall, it was in Seattle.  I felt lucky to have it so close, as I worked with another mama to make a trip of a lifetime: two mamas, two toddlers, full-day schedules, one nanny, one two-bedroom apartment (that is an epic story for another time). 

There have been a few other overnights mixed in: Oakland, Tucson, San Francisco.  These are places where I have had some extended family or friends who could watch the babe for a bit while I focus on work.

Next week, it's Memphis.  Not only do I think about the challenge of two-legged flight cross country, with a center seat assignment on all legs (will he be entertained and generally still in that center seat?), I also think about how much less portable this babe is, as small as he is.  As baby grows into toddler, I am wondering when I should draw the line?  My previous children nursed until 2.5 years old.  Am I destined to be traveling for work with this child for another year if we intend to nurse until then?  Part of me is not ready to be away from him, not for a whole night.  I wasn't ready to be apart from him when he was 9 months old, and I'm not sure I am ready now.  Another part of me worries that I just cannot juggle it like I used to, now that he likes to bounce balls, clank spoons on tables, and draw on everything.  I can't just tote him into the meetings, nurse him, bounce  him to sleep in a carrier, and continue to focus on the meeting at hand.

Part of me worries still about trying to nourish him at all times, nursing on demand every moment possible and feeding him high-calorie foods to bulk him up.  I could not do that if we were apart for 4 days.

I know my situation is very unique.  I bring my baby to meetings all around the country.  I like to see just how "family-friendly" the organization really is.  And, managers are tolerant and accepting of my choice.  Dare I make the long haul next week?  Would you?

Also, have you heard of employers that offer traveling employees an allowance of up to a certain amount (I've heard up to $1500) to cover costs of a sitter out-of-town or the cost to travel with a sitter?

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It is hard to juggle a toddler and a career, let alone adding travel to the mix. I returned to work when my son was 10 weeks old and through no choice of my own, was expected to make multiple overnight trips (within the state) and had to remain on-call 24/7. I tried bringing a babysitter(I had to foot the bill) with me on out of town trips, but being stuck in a hotel room while I was working wasn't good for my son or the sitter. In the end, it was just plain too hard. Do you have a partner you could bring along and make it a *vacation*?

I brought my husband and both kids along on a couple of overnight trips while I was breastfeeding my youngest — only on trips to cities where we had family or friends my husband could visit during the day with the kids. My organization paid for the extra travel and lodging costs, since I told them I couldn't travel otherwise. The trips were pretty miserable for all of us, to be honest — juggling 2 kids' naps in a single hotel room was stressful, and nobody got any sleep at night. I also took my dad along as a babysitter on an overnight trip when my older son was 8 months — that was easier because we had a friend's house to stay at and two bedrooms.

I think the specifics of your travel and lodging arrangements make the difference — it's worth going if you have a comfortable place to stay and a safe place to leave your kid(s) while you're working. When the arrangements were not good, all I did at the conference was worry about my kids, and I was so exhausted I couldn't concentrate on work anyway.

I am impressed that you've done it as long as you have. I have not gone to our last two national staff meetings because I'm just not willing to schlep my entire family to DC. Maybe when the kids are older (they're 1 & 3 now).

Given my daughter's personality, I absolutely wouldn't have done a trip like this with her when she was this age. It would have been way too stressful for everyone involved. In our experience, better to have the kid be completely apart from the mom for a few days rather than disrupt routine, have mom disappear & reappear for meetings, etc. However, I'm one of those that was fine with leaving her alone with my parents for overnights quite early. If you were ready to be away from him for the duration of the trip, would it be an option? I.e. do you have enough milk stashed away and have a support system in place at home?

I honestly cannot even fathom traveling for work with my toddler. when I have had to travel for work I've always left baby girl at home with her dad. Really, I enjoy the break (for exactly 2 days, then all I want is to be home with her). I've also never heard of company's paying for a sitter - though I love the idea and it might make me travel with my daughter to work trips.

wow - you live in a different world than I do. I work for a small firm and it is hard enough to reimbursed for millage for myself to get to and from a meeting. Can't imagine asking them to foot the bill for my childcare bills.

My job generally requires two 10 day trips a year, but my employer has been pretty co-operative about letting me get out of it since my son was born. I took him on one trip to the Seattle area with my Mom as a sitter when he was a year and a half. This fall when he was almost 3 I went to TX for a week alone. It was my motivator to get him weaned and sleeping in his own bed. My MIL came out to help my husband survive a week without me :). I've been pretty lucky so far. Hope I can get get another few years off from travel as I'm due in a couple of week.

Memphis is a pretty neat place. Take advantage of it without the toddler.

I've never heard of an employer who would permit toddlers at meetings, or pay for childcare, or frankly tolerate absence from all staff meetings due to an employee not wanting to leave a child. I'd consider yourself very lucky.

Sometimes I think it's harder on the mamas than the babes. My first break from my youngest wasn't until they were almost 3. So, I get that.

But it sounds like you have made a choice as a family that mom will be working, and work requires some travel. So be it. If you enjoy your job even a smidgen, then go! And don't feel guilty or as if you need to worry about providing him with nourishment every chance possible because for the duration of 4 days, he will be fine. Put a stash of breastmilk in the freezer, as well as healthy foods in the fridge and pantry and he'll be ok.

Grab a book you've wanted to read for a while, or a girly magazine, or whatever is relaxing, and make it into some you time.

I've admired you from afar for quite some time now--I think it's impressive and inspiring how you've managed to juggle the demands of a full time job with the constant-ness of mamahood. I think it's awesome that you've been able to bring him along with you on so many trips so far--both on your part as well as your company's. At some point it wont be as easy--he won't qualify for a free plane ticket, and will need more attention than nursing and bouncing in meetings. I have never heard of a company paying for a sitter to travel with, but I have heard of companies assisting with added childcare expenses to allow the parents to travel.

Kudos to you for listening to your "mama voice" and believing in the fact that you know what your child needs. Stay strong. As more companies work hard to retain valuable employees who have children, I expect to see more of them offering pre-tax credit for women who want to maintain breastfeeding and travel for work. Oregon law covers women with infants up to 18 months in the workplace, but not while they travel. Of course an employer who "lives" their mission, vision and values will express these through forward thinking policies like the travel credit you describe above. It is so much more reasonable to extend this benefit to women who need it for such a short time, than to lose a valuable employee. It may be stressful for you and a bit uncomfortable, but protecting your breastfeeding relationship with your child is a stated value of yours and it seems as though your workplace is definitely supportive. I would like to think they are all part of the new economy that values a humanistic approach to employees and the practical needs of the families they belong to.

Missy's comment is exactly why we need Family Forward Oregon and The Mother PAC. Workplace flexibility and family supportive policies shouldn't be a mystery. The fact that people aren't aware of the possibilities and haven't seen them successfully implemented is very troubling.

I also have not heard of any employers who allow children at meetings. Btw. I couldn't even focus on anything if I had my toddler with me. She is well behaved for her age, but won't sit still or quiet for hours (and frankly shouldn't have to). I am not sure how it even works - there is a meeting in progress and a toddler says: "Mom, me all done." Mom doesn't react and the toddler repeats it 10 times (as they frequently do at this age). Mom says: "We are not all done yet. We will be done in half an hour." Toddler: "me going bye bye" and again repeats 10 times.
I am not trying to be judgmental. I would love to have my daughter with me the whole day instead leaving her at daycare, but how exactly would it work? At home, I have hard time finding 10 minutes to check my email because she wants my constant attention.

We just ran into this situation and since my hubby couldn't come along, I decided to pay our nanny (who was available and willing to travel, also had passport) to watch our 14 month old son during the times I had meetings. I'm self-employed so the extra costs were covered by myself, but having her there was worth her weight in gold! My extra costs were her plane ticket, extra hotel room, her food costs, and her full day-rate (8 hrs worth) for each day (even though she didn't technically work 8 hrs each day she was with us, I felt it was right to pay her for each day she was traveling with us since she couldn't work elsewhere during those days).

Logistically, I would nurse him before I left the hotel in the morning. Then in the afternoon when I had a 2 hr break, I took a taxi back to the hotel to nurse again and play for a bit. I would then come back for the evening to spend that time together and skipped the cocktail hour and dinners that everyone else participated in. We did take him to dinner with us when we had the big group dinner, but again, the nanny was there to be in charge. The baby and I stayed in one room, and the nanny stayed in her own room next door. I could have had all of us stay in the same room, but felt that it would be nice for each of us to have "alone" time and not feel weird with changing, showering, etc. I don't mind, but who knew if she would and I didn't want to put her in an uncomfortable position. I ended up nursing 3 times during the day, but could have pumped for the afternoon feed. He nurses at night still as well, so since he was with me, this worked out flawlessly as well.

I would totally do this again next time, it worked out pretty much flawlessly. I always had a second hand with luggage, on the plane, etc. It was someone who my baby was familiar with and I trust her immensely. He was entertained both at the hotel alone, and when they joined us for events like the dinner, and party. Everyone knew I needed to have him with me since I am a nursing mother, and frankly, I think they enjoyed having some cute baby distractions at the appropriate times!

and I thought I was lucky my job let me work in a different branch office one day a week to get my 3 year old to preschool.... wow how lucky some of you are. I hope you all know that. I do not think I could ever bring my child to work at actually get work done. I have worked from home a couple times and as sad as this is depended way too much on a movie ect to keep him from interrupting me so I could actually get work done.

Nancy:

most women and men in the workplace do not have the luxuries that we're discussing here. It's not amatter of "awareness", it's a matter of keeping your job. The receptionist cannot bring her baby to work, even at the "progressive" companies. Companies with less than 25 employees are not required to comply with FMLA or OFLA, so you could actually lose your job for staying home with a sick kid.

So the disconnect for some of us, is that we do really live in completely different worlds when it comes to family friendly policies, which most often do NOT apply to working class, pink collar, and lower level jobs.

To be honest, bringing a toddler along to work meetings is totally inappropriate. I would like to suggest that you are feeling guilty for working full time, which is why you bring your toddler along on work trips and nurse your kids until they are 2.5 years old! You probably missed out on a lot of your kids special moments due to working, which is why you have 3 kids. Maybe if you spent more time with the first or second you wouldn't need a third, etc. If I was your boss you would be fired by now and if I was your husband you would be divorced by now and if i was your kid I would be looking for a new mom.

My thoughts exactly, ProtestMama.

Anon - please keep in mind that the urbanmamas forum asks first to keep comments respectful. If that is not in your scope of practice, then comment elsewhere, please.

After spending much time in southern Europe, where children are such an integral part of work and social life, I feel that sentiments like 'Anons' are one of our countries greatest tragedies. In my experience, having lived in Spain and Italy, families are closer and generally more content, because of an infrastructure that allows families to work and play as a unit.

How quickly I've forgotten the days when I traveled frequently for work. With my first son, I use to fly with him very frequently. I had a lot of meetings in Minneapolis and the Midwest where he would spend time with the grandparents while I was in meetings. I left him once with the grandparents while I spent two days in Kentucky.

I also traveled when I had my second child to three conferences. The entire family accompanied me on the first, I left him with my sister on the second trip, and I left both with their grandparents on the third and drove from Minneapolis to Madison.

With the third, I couldn't fathom taking him with me on my annual trek to DC without my sister in town. I was still nursing, and pumped the entire time I was gone lugging back nearly a gallon of milk through security. I did end up taking him along with his two brothers with me on a business trip, but it was to Minneapolis.

I feel lucky that I've been able to take the kids along when I can. I've declined traveling when I cannot make it work with the family. So, traveling a toddler in tow works in some situations. For me, it was when I had family available to spend time with the kids. Whenever I travel with the kids, I find it much more stressful than when I travel myself. And to mix in work adds a whole new level of stress. However, I admire those that can do it. The juggle is not easy.

I work a couple times a week and my toddler comes with me. Employers CAN make accommodations, most choose not to because they don't correlate their employees happiness with productivity. Weird. Every time I've been made to feel valued (vs. dispensable), I work harder, feel more of an allegiance to my employer and in general toot my company's horn to anyone who will listen.

Travel + Toddler = I couldn't do it without my spouse. Mixed with work? Well, that'll be a disaster. :(

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