sad child

Why Do You Travel For Work So Much? Daddy, Don’t Go!

Trying to explain why Daddy has to take another work flight is a difficult conversation. My eldest gets why I have to work, but regularly asks why I have to travel to work? Why can’t I just go to work and come home for dinner? Thus enters a conversation I have been having with @Boo for over 4 years – Daddy does more than just ‘Make the Mula’ at his job…

I am blessed to work for an educational organization that makes a big difference in students lives. The challenge is that I lead and execute residential character programs across the globe, meaning, I can be gone for a weeks at a time. So… How do I explain to my girls that working extended programs with other people means more to our family than just “Bringing in the Bling $$ Cha Ching” but I am doing good work too?

Oakwood University in Alabama has been doing this research on the children of professionals. Results show that from birth to age seven is the crucial bonding period between parents and children–and is the best time to start priming them to understand your work. So here are Five Tips from The Frequent Flyer Father:

1. Be Patient: Kids already ask an array of unloaded questions. Although the travel guilt can conger up emotion from a parental side, go easy on both teams involved here…take you time to make travel an ongoing conversation. You can not expect your kids to understand a concept of ‘fulfilling work’ in one conversation around your work-travel, but give them a chance to. Children’s cognitive capacities are still being formed during those early years so whatever you do, don’t dodge the question, talking about your job teaches your child the importance of contributing financially to the family.

2. Show them your work: If you have videos or brochures involving your work, make it a special event to sit down with the whole family and explain to them ‘what’ it is that you do. Keep the language simple because it gives you and your children reference points in your ongoing work-travel conversations. Having your spouse excited and present at this event provides the sense of partnership to the heads of the family. When you align together in public, you show your kids that your family is moving in the same direction in an agreed formation. Gosh I wish it was that easy… as it is to write about doing :)

3. Give them your give-aways: I usually get given a lot of products at conferences from exhibits I attend. On occasion, I will go out of my way to bring something special home for my girls. This allows them to feel like what I do on the road also includes them indirectly, which directly influences their attitude towards my work. As long as you put the emphasis on why you brought them something home (‘Honey, my travel allowed me to find this for you’… positive association), they will respect the work-perks versus feeling entitled to the gift itself. Last thing I need on return is for them to ask me “what did you get me” before I get a hug.

4. Meet the People: I Skype, cellphone, text and always feel it is valuable for my family to build relationships with the people I spend 8+ hours with a day. These are also the people I travel with, joke with and learn from outside of the house (not to mention, they help me keep the house $$). My girls always ask ‘who are you going with’ and it is because they have mini relationships that it makes it easier to explain.

5. Be Positive: Avoid saying “I hate working but I have no choice.” Hopefully you enjoy what you do enough that allows you to convey that, which will help your child feel good about working when they’re an adult. Explain to your child that you love them first, but that you also enjoy your work, and that… you can do both well. You might not get to come to every baseball game or music performance, but tell them you try to do most things and you hope they understand how you balance your life.

More bosses are trying to accommodate the working/parenting balance. With 70-percent of mothers with children under age 18 working, employers don’t want to lose a valuable part of the work force, and families are better for it. Before you know it, your children will be asking to come on every trip to the office or the airport with you… Gives you permission to start working them in the house for an allowance and guess who suddenly becomes the household CEO!-)

When a Dad is in, Everyone Wins.