12 May 2014

Have Family, Will Travel

I recently got back from a week-long all-staff trip, where I had all day (8:30-5:30) meetings and company dinners nearly every night and somewhere in the middle of it I squeezed in time with my husband and son, who were gracious enough to come along. The last time we had an all-staff, my kid was still under a year old and I was still pumping so I only ended up staying for two out of the five days. While I was glad that my company was flexible enough to allow me that schedule, I soon realized I'd missed out on a lot of important sessions. So this time around I decided to just ask my husband to come down with me.

This was an interesting experience and I thought there were enough lessons learned to share with others who might be considering doing the same. '

Business Travel with Family - The Good Stuff
1) MORNINGS - Waking up with my whole family was a nice way to start the day. I had breakfast with them most mornings before going down to the meetings. I felt like it put me in a good head space for the day ahead.
2) SLEEP - Since we were all in one hotel room, we all went to sleep pretty much when the kiddo went to sleep. This meant I was well-rested and refreshed every morning. By contrast, many of my co-workers used the evenings to socialize, enjoy the city, and stay out a bit too late (those of you who know how close the tie can be between drinking and tech know what I might mean).
3) SWITCHING OFF - After a day of non-stop meetings it can be hard to get my mind out of work mode, but with my husband and child there it provided an immediate context switch. I met up with them and found how their day of exploring the city went and shut down my thoughts/concerns/ideas about work for the day.
4) BEING HUMAN - On the first night we had an all-staff dinner that I was able to bring my family along to.  I was happy that my co-workers were able to see me being a mother and a wife in addition to their capable and hardworking colleague. My company is very geographically dispersed and sometimes it feels like we are just talking to faceless voices on the other end of the conference call line. Gathering for the all-staff once a year is a wonderful chance to put a face and personality to a voice and an email address and I can only hope that seeing me toddler-wrangler a bit will help to humanize me a bit more to people who might not actually be in a room with me again for another 12 months.
5) DOUBLE DUTY - It was nice to know my family was out doing something fun and new while I was working. They thoroughly enjoyed their time exploring this (new to them) city.

Business Travel with Family - The Tough Stuff 
1) NO R& R - I can't lie. I love a good hotel stay. I love using their plush industrially cleaned towels and soaking in their deep tubs and watching trashy TV while lounging in a king sized bed. When I business travel -- especially since having a kid -- it is a nice chance for "me" time. Travelling with family meant that I was never really alone. That said, I was able to steal one soak. Ahhh,
2) AFTER HOURS - As anyone in business knows, a lot of the important discussions can happen off the clock when people are being casual. Travelling with my family meant that once the clock switched off, I wasn't really putting in much extra time with my co-workers. I was more focused on making sure my kid got a bath and into bed at time. While I don't regret the time spent with my family this past week, it's hard not to feel like I missed out a bit.
3) TRAVEL WITH TODDLER - Travelling with a toddler is tough. He is a great child (sweet, gentle, good eater, good sleeper) and he in fact slept quite a bit on the flight, but he is a toddler, which means he is fidgety and loud and full of energy and wants to touch and play with everything. It was a short flight but I could not get off the plane or out of the cabs fast enough, both going and coming. Also, childproofing the hotel room was a daily struggle. He kept finding things to get into.

All in all, I am really glad we went as a family. The pros greatly outweighed the cons and while I sometimes felt overwhelmed or underinvested at moments, I think I was where I needed to be when I needed to be there. I surely can't do this all the time, but when it makes sense I hope I can do it again.

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