I went to Tampa this past week. I’ve been traveling a lot to promote my book. The first time I left the kids to promote the book, last month, my five-year-old said, “No! You can’t go! Why do you have to go?”

I said, “Because it’s my job. My boss wants me to.”

I said this to my son even though I don’t actually have a boss. But how can I tell him that I am generating this trip on my own? It’s too awful to admit. Still, I am blindsided:

He says, “Doesn’t your boss know you love us?”

I tell myself to ignore it. I tell myself there are nine million stories of kids saying the most heart wrenching thing they can say to their mom as she leaves for the office.

I get to the airport and I tell myself everything is fine while I bite all my nails. Then I wait at the gate while I sip diet Coke hoping I didn’t eat so many Ho-Hos with the kids that I don’t fit into my mommy’s-working-now clothes. I am at the wrong gate. I read the seat number instead of the gate. I make the flight with seconds to spare.

I try to calm myself down on the plane. I tell myself that there is no way to support the family as a writer if I’m not going to promote my book. I tell myself my kids are lucky that I’m with them every day from 1pm to 8pm. I tell myself I’m lucky to be making a living as a writer.

I get to Chicago to switch planes. I tell myself that I am in better shape and that I don’t have to worry about falling apart on local television because I am not falling apart now. I have a sandwich as a sign of body confidence. Or at least waist confidence; it’s all about the button.

I hand the boarding pass taker my boarding pass and she says, “This is a flight to New York. You’re going to Tampa. You better run.”

I run. And I cry. I cry because I am losing my mind. I cannot even remember what city I’m going to.

In my plane seat I tell myself this can be the end of the book tour. And this is the advice I’m going to give you about successfully handling your kids and your career. Don’t ever confess anything like this. It’s bad for your career.

There is more, though. I get to the hotel, and you know what? It’s clean, it’s quiet, the bed is huge and it’s all mine.

I sleep very well. I get up early, because my body clock is set to wake up at 5am with my two-year-old. (Please, do not post comments about how your kid sleeps until 7am and I should do what you do. Do not be so arrogant as to think I have not tried.)

With lots of time to spare I play music on my laptop. And then, I dance. I dance in the bathroom, I dance in front of five mirrors, and when the Beastie Boys come on, I dance up on the bed.

I am happy. I order the fifteen-dollar omelet from room service without flinching. And I add a pot of coffee.

This is the real problem with travel: How fun it is. How freeing it is to be away from the kids. I can think, I can eat like a queen, and I can bounce around the room like a fifteen-year-old. Not that I couldn’t do this at home. I could, sans omelet. But I wouldn’t. That’s why business travel is so inspiring to a mom. And now I’m thinking maybe I can do one more city for the book tour.

14 replies
  1. Roger Anderson
    Roger Anderson says:

    Travel is great for getting away. Often, when I am home I work 16+ hours a day. I enjoy going places and seeing things. After a while though, you start to wish you had someone there to share it with. he kids are in school so you can’t bring them. Your spouse has to stay with the kids so you go alone. After doing this for a few months you start to feel alone more and more.

    The worst day is the morning you wake up and you do not know what city you are in. You look around until you spot some magazine or hotel guide that says you are in…. It almost makes you want to cry.

    We travel too much these days. We want to be where everyone is but we pass on being where the most important people are – at home.

    I know you needed to travel to promote your book, but it is a shame just the same that there isn’t another way. Those early years are so precious. Once they start school, become teenagers, and then college-students, you will yearn for that little voice. You will recall with fondness the 100 question days and the silly cartoons that they watch over and over again.

    I love talking politics and sports with my grown sons but I hope they don’t take too long to have kids of their own. I miss the spilt milk and the cheerios in church.

  2. Greg
    Greg says:

    I am glad you miss your kids and they miss you. I hate being away from my kids for work, travel, or shcool.

  3. tamar
    tamar says:

    good for you coming clean… signature penelope! of course you are loving it. you are not a creepy masochist doing all this impossible-to-juggle stuff w/out really loving what you are doing.

    if/when the negatives outweigh the positives, you will have long ago shifted gears.

    carry on (and contiue to enjoy interesting folks in airports/on planes/in hotels/at destinations/back home!).

  4. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    It may be hard now, but as your kids get older they will understand that it’s BECAUSE you love them that you go away. Nothing makes me happier than when my mom is happy. She’s gone away at least once a year since I can remember for a long-weekend with her girlfriends. A weekend with Dad was a tornado at the best. But I really can’t put a price on the level of content and joy on my mom’s face when she came back. So, dance away!

  5. Frank Roche
    Frank Roche says:

    I like that country song called, “I Hope You Dance.” And you did. It made me smile thinking about the joy of that. I’m glad you’re going to more cities! And dancing more.

  6. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    The couple times I’ve had to go away for business since having my son, have actually worked out for the better. My husband and 2 year old son both became more comfortable sorting things out on their own, together. And although both were a little fussy with me for a day or two after I returned, the end result was a more balanced family situation.

    While it was tough to be away from them, particularly the two year old, having some time to myself and several days without being a mother and wife was quite welcome.

  7. Mary Baum
    Mary Baum says:

    My husband and I have rarely traveled on business enough to make it a real problem. So when the kids were little, we had a clear understanding that those trips were occasions for celebration: An adult dinner in a real restaurant! A full night’s sleep! And not one person in the meeting throwing a fit about drinking out of the green glass!

    Especially with little kids, we need those little vacations from their topsy-turvy world no matter how much we love them.

  8. Bloggrrl
    Bloggrrl says:

    No, no advice from me, because I have none. I had to dance salsa with my 10 month old in the middle of the night so he would go back to sleep. Man, did I love business trips! That guilty feeling can be rough, though.

  9. Tara
    Tara says:

    I have the same guilt everyday just going and staying at the office and then whenever I have to travel. I tell myself the same things you do but I have another: I’m setting a positive example for my son where he sees a happy, confident women who enjoys her work. My dream is that he will inspired to pursue his dreams and that his future wife will thank me ;)

  10. Magic
    Magic says:

    That’s a really cool thing to do. My self and my wife do that all the time :) We still don’t have any kids but whenever we go on vacation we have a slow dance in our hotel room :) Love the feeling. Thanks for sharing with us.

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