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March 15, 2007

ROAD WARRIOR MOM: MESSY HOMECOMING

Anne Tergesen

Lots of working mothers travel regularly on business. I don’t know how they do it. I just got back from my second overnight business trip in eight years—I went to the West Coast for three days—and I’m grateful I don’t have to travel more often. There were lots of fun things about it: Sitting on a plane for six uninterrupted hours (yes, my life is so pathetic that that counts as a good thing!); staying in a nice hotel; having the TV to myself (no cartoons!); getting a break from my daily routine; meeting interesting people; checking out a new city.

But by the time I boarded the plane to return home, I was sick and tired—literally. I had woken up at 2:00 that morning with a stomach bug. When I called home before getting on the plane, I learned that two of my three sons were home with the same thing. (Shared germs aren’t the way I had hoped to stay in touch). I was also completely fried. My husband, who travels for work a lot, said that’s just the way it goes when you’re on the road: The schedule is jam-packed with meetings and late night dinners, never mind jet lag.

My flight landed early (!!) and I got in a taxi. Still feeling sick, I was so happy to get home. When I opened the door, it was uncharacteristically quiet. The kids were at the neighbor’s. The cats barely glanced my way. I was thinking about taking a nap…. Until I looked around. There was cat vomit on the living room rug. The cat litter – well, lets just say no one had paid much attention to it in the three days since I’d last been there. Toys were strewn everywhere. The beds were unmade. Mail was piled up. The message light on the answering machine was blinking. The Internet connection wasn’t working. There was no food in the refrigerator. When our nanny returned with the kids, she told me my husband had forgotten to check over the homework. One of the teachers had mentioned something about a problem.

On the one hand, I’m grateful all the important things were attended to: No one was missing or in the hospital. The house hadn’t burned down. I hate to be arrogant or ungrateful. I know how hard it is to keep the show on the road as a solo parent. But this was ridiculous. My husband isn’t a total slob – in fact, he’s fairly neat. But if I ever wanted proof that he leaves me to run the household, here it was—staring me in the face upon my return. My story isn’t unusual. Most of the working moms I know have similar experiences. They complain about having to leave long notes full of instructions for their husbands before they get on a plane. The silver lining: I’ve got proof I’m indispensable.

10:00 AM

Travel

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I have to say - this is where the double standard really comes out in our house. We have 3 kids 7 and under. My husband travels fairly frequently for work in sporatic clumps. I travel once in a while. Before his trips he's all about getting HIMSELF ready and when he comes home he's exhausted and useless for a couple of days. When I go on a trip - I am all about preparing the family for my absence - groceries (even though they'll just eat pizza) laundry, meds, school forms, the works. And when I get home - HE's exhausted and it's all about Mommy. The best thing I did for marriage was just acknowledge that when he gets back from a trip I'm not getting a break - at least not for a couple of days - just more laundry... Okay - sometimes I'm not very good at that - but I try. It truly isn't fair - but aren't we trying to teach our kids that not everything is fair.

Posted by: maria at March 15, 2007 11:20 AM

I have been on about 6 business trips in the 8 months I've been back to work, and I can totally relate to the "fun" things you mention- I seriously caught up on a ton of reading on a business trip to LA, and loved it! But being sick on business is not fun, kids or not. Luckily, I haven't had that experience yet. But for sure, like Maria, when my husband travels and comes home late at night, you'd better believe I'm the one getting up with the baby in the morning and the house is in tip-top shape. He's allowed to bend the rules a little more! Oh well, all's fair in love and business travel, I guess.

Posted by: Selfmademom at March 15, 2007 12:58 PM

I usually take my 2 year old daughter with me on business trips, and I STILL come home to a dirty house. Yes, there is a double standard here. Drives me nuts, but fighting it seems to make it worse.

This is a problem you can throw money at. Even if you don't normally have a cleaner, hire someone to come the day before you get back (or hours before you get back if you can swing it). For around $100, you can walk into a clean house, and kick your feet up after your trip, and enjoy your husband instead of yelling at him.

Posted by: techymom at March 15, 2007 03:50 PM

The only, only way to make business travel work in my life is to have a totally supportive, self-employed husband who can flex his hours and a stable of helpful grandparents, aunts and uncles to pitch in during a crisis!

Posted by: Heidi from Botanical PaperWorks at March 15, 2007 11:43 PM

I've had the same experience- the empty fridge, the nuclear explosion in the living room, unmade beds, after returning home from a short business trip. And the response from my dh was, I don't care about the mess, and you don't need to clean so much either. And let's order pizza. I guess the question is, why do we need to make the beds and have the house in "tip top" shape? As long as it's not "dirt" (old food or something), why stress over mess?

Posted by: Rebecca at March 20, 2007 01:25 PM


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