When I came back to work after my son was born nearly four years ago, I knew I needed to have a job that I really enjoyed. That opportunity came about a week later but unfortunately required me to travel quite a bit. At first it was once or twice a month, but not nearly as much now. There are some perks with traveling for work … nice dinners, getting to see new places, uninterrupted sleep, and racking up the frequent flyer miles that I can in turn use for trips with my family. However, there is definitely a downside as well – it’s never easy being away from my family, especially when my son was a newborn! My husband has always been super supportive and there is no way I could have done it without him!!
Last month, I had to travel a couple weeks in a row. It had been a while and for some reason this time was very different for my 4-year-old. He started the night before telling me how much he was going to miss me and that he didn’t want me to go. And for some reason it was particularly heartbreaking for me to have to leave. I remembered an article I had gotten one time about “Helping Children and Families When a Parent is Away” and thought I would dig it up and share a couple of nuggets that I found most helpful. I think a lot of these tips could also apply when both parents are leaving (hopefully for some fantastic kid-free getaway) to help keep you and your children connected.
Excerpts taken from Bright Horizons e-family news:
Staying Connected at Home
While you are away, your child (with some help if needed from another family member) can:
• Mark a calendar. Circling the return date creates a sense of journey with an ending.
• Communicate via e-mails, phone calls, and notes.
• Keep track of where you are on a map. Your child can also track where they are (home, school, at Grandma’s etc.)
• Store “treasures” in a keepsake box to show you when you get back.
• Do chores around the home to help out.
• Read the same book as you and share their thoughts with you by e-mail, phone, or notes.
• Use special stationery to write notes to you.
• Track the weather where you are.
• Send you mementos for you to carry.
• Create “While You are Away” journals and portfolios. These could be “What I would tell you or draw for you today if you were here” collages, collections of objects found today, and photographs.
Staying Connected While Gone
While you are away, you can:
• Take lots of pictures to carry with you (I actually used to pack one of Jacob’s blankets when he was a baby and I’d have to be away – it was nice to sleep with it and think of him at home doing the same).
• Send or collect little inexpensive gifts.
• Collect coins, photographs of places or people, postcards, flags, natural materials such as stones, pinecones, etc…or anything that has a sense of place for your child. (Postcards have been a huge hit for us – especially when I go to the same place more than once, we pull out the corresponding post card).
• Tell your child a story over the phone.
• If possible have your child meet you at the airport upon your return. That’s fun for all involved!!
Another thing I did for my latest trip was to stick a special card in the mail for Jake to receive while I was gone. My husband made sure to let him check the mail that day and he was so excited to not only get some mail, but that it was a note from mommy. I will definitely keep that one in mind for future trips! I would love to hear if anyone else has some tips or tricks to make the time away a little easier.