Business Trip Blues

Written by: Matthew Van Tuinen

Leaving home again... Another two-week stint away, making it four of the last seven weeks that I have been out of town for work. It’s tough to be away for that long…for me, my wife, my kids, our household. How many families in Chicago battle the same thing?

For the past five years, travel has been a big part of my job. But this summer has been worse than usual. I probably spend a total of two to three months a year on the road.

What has been interesting and depressing at times is that, as my daughter gets older (she is pushing 5), it is harder to connect with her over the phone. My son is only 2-1/2, so the phone is still exciting for him, thankfully. I used to sense my daughter’s happiness and desire to talk to me (or possibly she just liked the concept of talking on a cell phone), but on this last trip it seemed like she was uninterested and our conversations amounted to little.

Ouch. Talk about ramping up the homesickness.

It clarified for me I need to try something new to stay connected – additional effort is definitely required. Visualization is big for kids. If she can see where I am, what the event looks like, it hopefully gives her a greater sense of what I am doing and creates interest and intrigue.

Two options we are going to check out are like Skype with story time and games. Readeo gives members access to hundreds of books, allowing you and your child to chat while reading a book together ($10 monthly fee). Let’s Play Please is free and a great way to have interactive play time long distance.

I’m also going to challenge our kids each day with a question to figure out the answer to for the next day’s chat. A new game with a fun “reward” at the end of the trip. Repeatedly asking her how her day was, what she did, if she is having fun with Mom and her brother is clearly becoming mind-numbing. And why wouldn’t it? I mean, is that the best I can come up with?

My travel will not likely decrease in coming years. I need to increase my commitment to staying connected while I’m away…and, on the flip side, carve out time for my kids on the reentry. No phone, no email, no other distractions, and special time one-on-one.

 

If I spend two hours with my daughter at the park, or take her out for dinner, just the two of us, she is on top of the world. And isn’t that what she deserves? And what I should want? It can be tough on the back end of a trip, because there are other work items that easily consume my focus, but my wife desires my attention (a good thing!), and there are household items to attend to as well.

My challenge for myself, and for other dads, is to plan. I am going to think out the week I get home, identify how I can be present for my family and follow through. I know it will take effort, but those smiling faces will fill my soul with a happiness that carries beyond the moment. Quality over quantity.

Posted on August 18, 2011 at 1:27 PM