One of the more common concerns facing working dads is overnight travel. In this economic environment, many dads are forced to take on more responsibility and often times that means overnight travel, and being away from family.
There are a multitude of concerns:
- Not being able to attend kids' activities
- Loss of "togetherness" with family
- Difficulty for spouse, particularly when there are three or more kids
- Depression due to missing kids
- Missing flights that sometime require an additional night away
Dads should not forget that getting home at 9:00 p.m. on a school night might as well not be a night at home (that is, assuming bedtime is 8-9 p.m.). Weekend travel has to be the worst. Back "in the day," it was generally understood that an airlines requirement of a Saturday night stay was part of trying to save money for the company. Fortunately, the Saturday-night-stay has become rare. There are, however, still occasions when being out of town on weekends are a must, and that is just about the worst of any dads' travel.
Clearly, recent technological advances have made it possible to electronically "stay-in-touch" with kids when a dad is away. Mobile phones allow for on-the-spot verbal communication (sometimes at the most inopportune times, though). Web cams permit live video communication. However, all this technology just doesn't compare with holding your child and hearing a "I love you Daddy."
Here are some ideas to minimize the impact and affect of overnight travel:
- Consider leaving on the first flight out of the day and trying to get home by 6:00 p.m. or so of the "go home" day. Getting out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to catch an early flight is a small price to pay for one more night with the kids.
- Consider driving. With the time it takes to drive to and from an airport, long check-in lines and the possibility of delayed or canceled flights, it may make sense to just drive. And by driving, mobile phone calls can increase productivity. Of course, being on a plane and NOT having to deal with a mobile phone isn't all that bad!
- At all costs, avoid airports on Friday afternoons and evenings
- Set a time in advance to call home. Don't make it after bedtime or during the dinner hour
- Make the call home time seem as much like you're there in-person as possible. Consider helping with homework. Don't ask closed-ended questions or you'll get one-word answers. (Example..."how was school today?" "Fine." ; "did you have a good day today?" "Yea."
- Invest in a web cam. It's amazing how much more visual makes both sides seem closer.
- Consider taking the family or one of the kids on a trip. Most major cities have reputable child care services during the day or meeting times. Be sure to check the hotel for such services, too.
- Most importantly, make sure the time you ARE at home is productive. Spend time with your family when you can.
Overnight travel can be hard, but it doesn't have to be horrible if you plan and follow some basic practices.