Business Travel and the Lonely Mom

It’s week two of three on a business trip and I’m ogling small children on the street in a way that scares their parents. I have this nearly uncontrollable urge to race over and cuddle them. Fortunately, I’m not a total nut. But I am going a little crazy from being apart from my young daughter.

When I took the three-week consulting job in another country, I thought I could handle it. Actually, I thought it would be great. Uninterrupted sleep (my daughter still wakes two, three times a night), quiet mornings reading in bed before work, the freedom to go out at night without consulting anyone. It was great for a few days, but now I’m having nightmares that my child has gone missing, and waking each day and pathetically imagining she’s crawled into bed for a morning snuggle.

We talk frequently via Skype, but it seems to make matters worse – especially for me. She’s confused. “Mommy, why are you in that room in the computer?” Foolishly I try to answer sincerely. Business Travel and the Lonely Mom

The first time she asked, I explained that it wasn’t a room in the computer but that the technology allowed her to see me in a room in a hotel in another country. “Hotel” didn’t ring any bells, nor did “another country”. She asked if I could come back to our room in our house. The next time I explained that I would be home soon and missed her very much. She blew me a kiss and ran out of the room. The third time, I swore never to be away so long again and then made an excuse to go so I could cry.

My friend Monica who lives in Georgia, the country where I’m working, gave me a book. The Business Traveling Parent offers more than 100 ideas on how to stay connected to your kids when you’re traveling on business. It’s full of clever tips that I will one day use: gifts you hide for your kids to find after you’ve left, airport tours, farewell meals and bedtime stories together. The ideas are wonderful, but I’m already far away and when a child is three it’s tricky to keep their attention via a computer screen.

While the work has gone well – largely because there are no distractions – I’m failing on the emotional front. On Skype, I’m like a distant relative talking to a child for the first time. I ask banal questions about her day and then sit quietly waiting for her to do something adorable.

My daughter, on the other hand, seems to know just what to do. She blows me kisses, dances around the room and sings me songs she’s learned at school. Just when I’m thinking maybe she doesn’t miss me that much, she’ll do something unforgettable like press her palm against the screen and ask me to do the same so we can hold hands.

Even on the day before I left, she seemed to know just what I needed. I had dropped her off at school and was standing at the gate talking to her teacher. In a made-for-TV-kind-of-moment, my daughter raced out of the classroom and flung her little arms around my neck. “Mommy, I forgot to kiss you goodbye,” she said, before kissing me and running back inside.

If only I were as emotionally together as my child.

Image by Camila L. Oliveira (Flog da Mila)

Stephanie is a writer in London. She’s lived in Tbilisi, Georgia, where (until the Russians bombed in August 2008) she produced a radio show on politics, business, social issues and culture, and in Lu ...read more

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