My adventures as a traveling mom began when my children were babies and it was heart wrenching to leave them even for one night as I traveled for work. As they grew, I began bringing them a small gift so they could look forward to my trip or at least see something good in it. When I realized how expensive airport gift shops are (and how limited the selection can be), I started planning in advance and would buy gifts at the dollar store or at a discount store before I left. I would leave them in my car or would hide them in the closet so when I got home, I had something with me that I knew my kids would like.
Now my children are almost 11 and 8. In many ways, traveling for work has gotten easier, especially since they aren’t babies anymore, but emotionally it still takes it toll. Until now I have been able to plan my trips around birthdays, sports tournaments and dance recitals, even if it means saying no to many great opportunities.
For those who don’t travel for business, it seems much more glamorous than it really is. To minimize time away from home, traveling moms usually pack their days with meetings, run from one conference session to the next and are willing to take flights first thing in the morning or even a red-eye if it means seeing your children in the morning. Factor in all the preparation before you leave plus all the catching up after you return, and it isn’t that much fun. Productive, yes, so those trips are worth it, but they take their toll.
The last trip I took did not afford me almost any downtime, so all my plans to shop in Chicago to bring back a gift for my kids were scrapped. Thank goodness the sponsors at BlogHer and at many events I attended did give me cool giveaways that I turned into gifts for my kids. I managed to shop at the American Girl store and was over the moon to buy for my daughter the exercise outfit she wanted for months. I felt bad because there wasn’t anything that really stood out for my son, who is a sports fan and will begin middle school in a few weeks.
When I got back late Sunday night, my kids hugged me and showered me with love. It felt so good just to be home. Not one time did they ask what did I bring them. Plagued with guilt, I eagerly opened up my suitcase and started handing out candy, plush animals, clothes from the American Girl store and other small gifts. They were happy with it all and we started goofing off and engaged in a group hug fest. I then looked at Michael, my son, and apologized for not getting him any sports memorabilia or anything cool.
He just stared at me and smiled. “Mami, this is the best gift you can bring me: coming back home and just playing with us!” I then realized he was so right. Just being together once again is the best gift for all of us when I return home, and the one thing I always look forward to when I am rushing through airports.
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