1. Don’t tell the kids too early
Every kid is different, but most younger kids have a hard time with the concept of time. Most parenting experts recommend telling toddlers two to three days ahead of time that you’ll be gone. If you think that even your older children will be upset at your leaving, stick to this timeline. It’s not fair to surprise the kids with your trip, but it also isn’t fair to let them spend too much time worrying. Make sure you tell your kids when to expect you home. Your coparent or caretaker can help the kids set up a calendar and mark off the days until you return.
2. Don’t phone home
Whether or not to call is a tricky question. Although it’s natural to want to touch base with your kids, it can also be very disruptive. Often, a call home can reignite kids’ anxieties and worries about your being gone. If you do call home, ask your co-parent or caretaker afterward if the call seemed to make the child feel better or worse. Try to avoid calling at bedtime or during other transitions. Don’t be surprised if your child is uninterested in talking to you on the phone.
3. Take some time for yourself
It’s ok to enjoy yourself on a work trip! If the hotel you’re staying in has a gym, take advantage of this rare time to yourself to exercise. Have dinner with colleagues and enjoy the adult conversation. Enjoy the chance to sleep uninterrupted in a bed that someone else makes! There’s no point in feeling guilty for being away from your children. You want to return home refreshed and rested and ready to spend time with your kids. Do not, however, brag to your co-parent about how much you enjoyed your time away.
4. Bring home a gift
Bringing home a gift for your child lets them know that you were thinking about them while you were gone. It doesn’t have to be a big present; in fact, most kids are thrilled with some of the free swag you can pick up in the exhibitor hall of your conference. If you think you will be traveling frequently for work, it might be worth setting up a collection that you can add to after each trip. Being able to look at the collection while you’re gone will remind your child that you always return.
5. Plan for the return
Kids can react in a variety of ways once you return. Some children may seem to be punishing you by refusing hugs or refusing to talk to you. Others may overwhelm you with neediness. Some children may act as though you never left. Ask your child questions about what they did while you were gone, but don’t assume they want to hear about your grown-up meeting. Keep in mind that your co-parent is likely exhausted from their time as a single parent and might need some time to themselves as well.
Traveling without kids has its challenges, but with some forethought and consideration it can be a good growth experience for you and your children.