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Mothering from the road: what’s wrong with a little pre-business-trip prep?

In a little over twenty-four hours I will board a plane and fly thousands of miles away from my home in Michigan to the Mom 2.0 conference in Miami Beach.

And as I usually do before a trip, I’ve spent much of the last few days doing what I jokingly refer to as “pre-mothering:” stocking the house with snacks and reasonably healthy convenience food. Washing, folding, and putting away laundry. Changing sheets. Printing out important phone numbers. Double-checking the kids’ activities and school schedules. Tonight, if I have time, I might make a big pot of soup.

It’s sort of like reverse nesting: I’m making everything comfy and cozy as possible, ‘cuz this mama bird is about to fly far, far away.

Why do I do it? Well, contrary to what some critics of mothering-from-the-road might say, it’s not because I think my husband or any of the family members who sometimes care for our kids in my absence are incompetent. My husband is actually coming along with me this time, but when I travel without him – generally I spend a few days away every other month or so – I go through the same routine.

Lest you think I’m a micro-manager, a control freak, or guilt-laden about my upcoming trip, let me set the record straight: my personal motto is “good enough!” and I love to travel.

 

As many moms who travel regularly will tell you, the actual walking out the door part can sting a little. But once I get on the road? I admit, I barely think about home until the plane trip back. I don’t call the kids or Skype from my hotel room (I’ve found that hearing from Mom too much only upsets the little ones). My only connection with my family is via the sporadic texts my husband and I exchange.

Usually I let Jon know when I’m in for the night. Sometimes he’ll send me a picture or video of the kids doing something cute or funny. But generally not. And I rarely ask how things are going. I just assume they’re going well, or else I’d have heard about it by now.

In other words, I completely trust him to handle family life while I’m gone. And I know my kids are capable of cleaning up after themselves, loading the dishwasher, locating clean socks.

But I like to leave a little bit of the Mom touch behind. I like thinking my presence will be felt even when I’m far away.

And I’m not the only one who does a little extra nurturing before I hit the road. My husband often takes my car in for an oil change or stocks the family’s battery supply before he has to leave for a few days. Is it because I’m incapable of getting the oil changed myself? Of course not. But it’s a nice way to show he cares. And anyone who doesn’t think the batteries are a big deal obviously hasn’t been stuck home with five kids on a rainy evening when the remote control gives out.

The point is, caring for kids while the other spouse travels is challenging, especially when everyone’s used to two parents being around most of the time. In our house, it’s true that much of the division of household labor falls along traditional gender lines. But there is a division, and we each do our part.

Sure, we are each totally capable of filling in for the other when needed. But why not make things easier for one another when we can?

After all, it’s no skin off my nose to put in a little extra time to “mother” the house before I hit the road. On the contrary: taking care of things before I leave makes me feel calmer and more peaceful about my upcoming trip. It makes me feel good to know I’m doing something for my family to make their time without me a bit more pleasant. It gratifies the nurturer in me to know that they’ll be eating something I cooked when I’m not here to cook it for them.

I like the idea that my husband’s – or in this case, my sister’s – evening will be a little easier while I’m away because I thought to stock the cupboards with certain foods. And I admit that part of me gets the warm fuzzies picturing my kids sitting down this Saturday evening to a hot bowl of soup that I lovingly prepared beforehand.

Especially because, at that same moment?

I’ll probably be ordering a margarita and not thinking about them at all.

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