BEN’S ZONE: On Being A Travelling (with work) Dad

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Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness.  You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂

On Being A Travelling (with work) Dad

I’ve got a new job and I’m really stoked about it. it’s an exciting and vibrant young company and I think it’s just what I need personally and in terms of career, but it requires travels to the US for 2 weeks every quarter. I love the US, it’s an amazing place, the San Francisco bay area is exciting and cosmopolitan while keeping a distinctly American feel. I’m looking forward to exploring more fully, eating lots of really great food (mmmm Mexican and Vietnamese) and spending time with some really nice friendly people. That being said I am also really apprehensive as I have never spent that long away from my children before. With my current job I often have to be away for a week at a time but this is generally in Europe so I can make regular calls back home. As the west coast is an 8 hour time difference the best I can hope for is a brief afternoon Skype call.

So, what to do? The first thing I need to bear in mind is that while I’m part of the family, I’m not all of it. I might be missed but life will tick along quite nicely without me. There may well be a small pile of broken toys that require glue and/or new batteries when I get back, but things will continue. I tell myself that the kids will miss me terribly but really what I am saying is that I will miss them. Their lives will carry on at the same breakneck pace as usual. When I think of things in these terms it’s clear that the onus is on me to stay occupied. So I need a plan. I’m lucky in that I have friends in a lot of places, the West coast is no exception. I need to make sure that I stay in touch with those friends and stay connected to social as well as work related activities. It’ll keep me sane while I’m out there and it’ll mean that I’m not desperate for the attention of my family when I come back home.

I need to avoid over-compensation. The first time I ever travelled to the US, I came back with an extra bag which made a multitude of strange noises every time I walked. Inside was the very cream of WalMart’s toy department (incidentally I have no idea why this was next to sporting goods, but I am glad I realised before I bought Logan a real crossbow) which I lavished upon my son. This worked once but it didn’t solve the problem. A new toy in two weeks does not make up for not being there tonight. Furthermore, it creates an expectation and so quickly becomes worthless. It doesn’t make them any happier when I return as it doesn’t stop them missing me while I’m gone, all it does it makes a rod for my own back as each trip has to yield bigger and better toys, and my son has enough toys.

No, there’s really only one solution that I can think of, that’s being there. Not when I travel, unless Einstein and Heisenberg stop being so unreasonable I’ll be on the other side of the world. no, I mean being there when I’m not travelling. It’s easy to get caught up in what I want to do, be that cooking, seeing friends, obstacle races or any of the other minutiae that make up my life and in doing so forget the kids. This must not happen. I need to be there with them, to pay attention to them when I can. There’s no point pinning everything on some idealistic notion of ‘quality time’, that rarely happens. There’s always someone teething, feeling under the weather and so the mythical ‘quality’ time never happens. But I can give them time. It means doing my training runs in the dark before they get up; it means perhaps doing one fewer obstacle race this month and most of all it means putting their stuff first when I am around, but it will work. My kids are generally pretty happy and secure so they’ll cope just fine with me being away, as long as when I’m back I’m ready to be their dad not distracted by my own stuff and upset because my dream home coming turned out to just be coming home.

3 thoughts on “BEN’S ZONE: On Being A Travelling (with work) Dad”

  1. I think you and your family are going to be just fine, because you have really thought out all the implications of being away and being at home. That’s not to say you won’t get it wrong sometimes, and so will they, because we are dealing with human beings here, human beings that get tired, crotchety, occasionally selfish (applies from 0-100 years), and of course life intervenes to ensure that the slips from ideal behaviour all happen when we are least able to cope with them.
    You also have to remember that you will benefit from travelling, seeing new things, and this the family will benefit from your new experiences too. Your children won’t like you being away, but they will learn that you also come back. In an increasingly shrinking world they may well end up travelling widely in their future jobs, and they will knowing that it does not have to be a threat to family life, but can enrich it.
    Lots of luck Ben, enjoy your new opportunity, and you will be a better husband and dad because of it.

  2. Good luck Ben, sometimes you have to do things for yourself to make life better for those around you. By you being happy in your work makes you happier at home.
    Your children will miss you, but they are going to get used to it and it will become the norm. They will also be very excited when you come home, trust me.

  3. Thanks, I’m hoping that being available when I am around is going to make the difference. If I worked in the city I probably wouldn’t see them in the week as it is


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