As much as I enjoyed my previous life as an associate director of a small non-profit organization, there was one job function that I dreaded. Despite the fact that I had a lot of support from my husband, business trips totally stressed me out. Sleeping away from home in a strange city far away from my family made me unhappy. Even when work took me to beautiful and exciting locations, I couldn’t enjoy the experience for feeling guilty and worrying about what horrible things might be happening in my absence.
My husband, on the other hand, never seems to suffer the same sort of business trip stress that I did. While I am sure he misses us when he travels, he doesn’t worry about us. And I am quite certain he never feels guilty when his job requires him to leave us for short periods of time.
According to Swedish doctoral candidate Gunilla Bergström Casinowsky, the differences in our feelings about business trips are typical. Based on interviews and surveys of those who travel frequently for business, she says that for many women, the business trip is often accompanied by a guilt trip.
For both men and women, business trips are generally good for our careers and may ultimately make us happier in our jobs. But we approach them quite differently. For example. while a man may be perfectly happy spending an extra night in a hotel, a woman is more likely to travel all night in order to get home early.
Perhaps that’s due in part to the fact that in addition to guilt, women reported feeling lonely, uneasy and vulnerable when staying alone in a hotel. But more than anything, says Casinowsky, this is an indication that “deeply rooted gender roles are very much at work.”
“Women are still expected to prioritize their homes and children, and conventional overnight work travel is not compatible with this norm.”
While my feelings about business travel may be extreme and an indication that I could benefit from some therapy, the fact is that I am just not myself when I am away from my child. I prioritize my home life because I want to.
What about you? Do business trips do a number on you? Or do you look forward to them as an all-expense paid break from your family responsibilities?
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