A little while ago, my faith-and-work-movement colleague Jeff Haanen of the Denver Institute published a great post on his personal blog called “Business Travel Have You Exhausted? Bring a Kid.”
It contains good advice on how bringing along a kid on a business trip can actually help you see the world through new eyes, avoid unfortunate temptations, and generally break down the artificial divide our culture makes between work and family. The only problem about it from my perspective (and one that initially kept me from sharing it with hundreds of my Facebook friends) was that it was directed solely at men on business trips.
Personally, though I haven’t done a lot of business travel with my kids, we’ve done all our recreational travel with them; my 4-year-old has been to the U.K. three times, the first in utero, and my 10-year-old five times. (I’ve also been the kid that was traveled with, as my mother refused to fly and so my dad took us along on a lot of his business trips if he was getting his car and hotel paid for anyway: I’ve seen all 48 contiguous U.S. states that way. Unforgettable experiences!)
I mentioned the men-centric nature of the post to Jeff. “I just wrote from my perspective,” he said.
And like a good third-wave (or fourth-wave? I’ve lost count) feminist, I thought, “Well em gee. If women can write from their embodied perspective, so can men. But what we need is a parallel post.”
I mentioned that to Jeff.
“Write it,” he said.
So, that’s what I’m doing.
Here are Jeff’s reasons for traveling with kids:
- Traveling with kids leads to an emotionally and physically healthy trip
- Traveling with kids keeps families healthy
- Traveling with kids cultivates spiritual health in employees, thus making them more productive.
I agree with all of these, and here are my additional thoughts on traveling with kids while female (hereafter abbreviated TWKWF, like DWB for “Driving While Black.”)
4) The thing men don’t think about: sometimes, traveling with kids is a matter of necessity.
Anyone who has both breastfed and interviewed for jobs knows that this puts a whole different spin on the question as to whether you travel with the kid. You have to TWKWF if the kid has to travel with you to eat (and if you don’t travel with the kid, then you travel with a breast pump. I actually prefer the kid: cuter, though poopier.)
Demographically, the group of mothers who breast-feed at length seems to generally overlap with the group of mothers who hold the white-collar jobs that fund business trips. I personally have both traveled to receive a book award and to interview for a job with a breast-feeding infant. One time my husband came too (and handled the poopy part), but one time he didn’t, and I managed an entire academic conference at a school on the side of a hill with a stroller and a 7-month-old.
Jeff talks pretty honestly about men traveling and porn in his post. Women travelers may be more likely to hook up with an old flame than to dial up HBO, but the truth is, if you TWKWF, you’ll remain more grounded in the identity you’ve chose as mother (and as spouse.)
6) Why does this have to have anything to do with productivity?
I think spiritual health is a good thing to cultivate on its own, not just because it makes you more productive. (Because I’ve been reading this article, for one thing.) While I do recognize that you might have to make the productivity case to your boss, it’s unfortunate. This isn’t necessary a female point, except I’ve heard more women than men talk recently about how our culture’s emphasis on productivity above all is a soul-sucker. (Such musings produced one of the best article titles I’ve read recently: “Asking for a Friend: Is it Me or is it Capitalism?” I don’t know that it’s anywhere near the best article I’ve read recently, but it’s a great title.)
7) It’s important for men to break through the artificial family-work divide because people view men as workers who happen to have families. It’s important for women because people view us as family-makers who happen to work.
8) Finally, sometimes you do need to leave the kids at home.
As long as women carry more of the emotional weight in relationships than men (although a counterargument to that, which I am wrestling with, is that men are worrying about other things), sometimes you will need a break. It’s OK. Skip the guilt, enjoy the freedom, eat in a nice restaurant, take tons of pictures, and sleep in. Your self-care meter will thank you later. (And yes, you may be wrestling with the question of whether an emphasis on self-care just enables injustice to persist. Take some anyway. And then go home and be encouraged by your kids to fight injustice.)