Although Statistic Brain reports that 61 percent of working mothers work from home, even the most home-based of us may have to travel on business occasionally — which means that many of us know the anxiety involved in leaving our families behind as we set off on that mission-critical trip.
I travel quite frequently to attend and speak at different industry conferences and to meet with clients. My family is used to it now, but it wasn’t always easy. Here are four business travel tips for the work at home mom that can make the situation less stressful for everyone involved:
1. Get your childcare system in place. If your kids attend daycare, make sure your spouse understands the daily drop-off and pickup schedule. If you’re a single mom and you worry about the reliability of Aunt Tilly, a friend or the neighborhood babysitter to handle this task, consider hiring a professional home care provider. BrightStar Care, for example, offers a “KidCare” program that includes transportation to and from activities among its sitter, nanny and pediatric care services.
2. Separate work finances from home finances. I know from first-hand experience that there’s nothing more confusing and frustrating than trying to sift through a shoebox full of receipts at tax time. Allowing your business and home expenses to intermingle will inevitably play havoc with your home and business budgets. Fortunately, your trusty smartphone can help simplify matters tremendously. ExpenseDocs, for instance, enables you to input expenses on the fly into categorized documents. Additionally, if you’ve been putting off setting up a dedicated business checking account or taking out a credit card for your company, this trip might serve as the perfect reason to move forward with it.
3. Create a task schedule. Create a list of daily or weekly tasks, assign them to the appropriate people, and have them check off completed tasks one by one. If your kids are computer savvy, you can even create a Google calendar or other cloud-based schedule that allows you to actually see this process in action. (As convenient as Web-based scheduling might seem, however, don’t fall into the trap of serving as CEO of Mom, Inc. — stay focused on the reason for your trip!) If you have older children, this trip might prove an ideal opportunity to nudge them into the world of domestic responsibilities. Take some time before you leave to show them how to run a load of laundry without accidentally dyeing your white tablecloth pink, how to keep floors and carpets clean and how to give the dog his medicine. Most importantly, show them where the emergency phone numbers are and instruct them on how and when to dial 911.
4. Help your kids cope. Despite your best efforts to explain, your little ones may not understand why Mommy has to go away, and they may even worry about whether you’re coming back. Julie Weed, writing in the New York Times, notes several little touches working moms can employ to relieve these anxieties. Placing a big calendar on the wall or refrigerator door, with the dates of your departure and return clearly marked, lets your kids see exactly when you’ll be back and cross off the days until you return. The ExpenseDocs app mentioned above lets you add photos to a “travel journal” that you can then email to your family. As for communication, a video-ready smartphone or Skype-enabled laptop provides an extra degree of reassurance over an audio-only phone call, but just the sound of your voice will help your child (and you) cope with the separation.
Have a safe journey!