Well, that was a first. I just finished a conversation with my husband and there was 30,000 feet of vertical space between us at the time. Using the plane’s Wi-Fi connection – which they charge you for, of course – he texted me from a flight headed for… somewhere. He probably told me, but I’ve already forgotten. Chicago? D.C.? It might be one of those. At some point all the itineraries start to blur together.
Lately his job has him winging his way around the country pretty often, which has forced us to adjust to a new normal at our house. We’re getting used to seeing luggage by the door, and the kids know that although the end of the day might not bring Dad home, the end of the work week will.
When the kids were babies and toddlers, I thought Tom was lucky to go on trips. Business dinners with no chicken nuggets. Hotel rooms with housekeeping. Plenty of adult conversations. And a chance to temporarily escape the daily dirty diapers and the sibling arguments about who’s a “stupid head.” What’s not to like, right?
But now that the kids are older and I’m no longer supervising everyone’s bodily functions, it’s easier to run the family headquarters alone when Tom has to be away. But that doesn’t mean I like it. (Okay, truth be told, I kind of like it the first night he’s away because I get to watch whatever cheesy, dumb romantic comedy I want without hearing a single complaint or tolerating his eye-rolling. But after that first night of complete remote control domination, I start to miss him. His absence makes the week drag by, and my nerves seem to fray more easily.) Parenting just works better as a tag team sport.
Though I used to envy those business trips, I now often feel sorry for him as he packs up for yet another trip. Though I don’t travel extensively, the trips I’ve had through airports in the past few years have felt more like a cattle drive, only not as glamorous. (After all, cows are never badgered about the size of their carry-on luggage, and they don’t have to put their tiny shampoo bottles in Ziploc bags. Lucky bovines.)
For the most part, business trips require rushing, waiting and logistical juggling, not to mention the patience to endure a drastic reduction in your personal space while you and hundreds of strangers are crammed into increasingly tight spaces. (At least a cattle drive happens on the wide open range.) I’ll pass on the cute packets of airplane peanuts if it means I don’t have to shuffle and shimmy down a crowded airplane aisle and then lunge toward the last scrap of overhead bin space. I’d much rather sprawl out on the sofa at home and watch reruns of dumb romantic comedies. But maybe that’s just me.
Of course, there are plenty of great reasons to travel – reasons that make the not-so-pleasant parts of getting there more than worth it. Seeing the ocean for the first (or tenth) time; hugging family members who live several states away; tasting pineapple on the beaches of Hawaii – all great reasons. But schlepping through airports and nondescript hotel rooms to see the inside of yet another conference room is not nearly as exciting as it might seem on the surface.
So to my sometimes travel-weary beloved, and to all of those who earn a living while earning frequent flyer miles (even when they’d rather be home), you have my admiration and my sympathy, too. May your free upgrades to first class be frequent. May your headphones be noise-cancelling. And may you safely come home again soon.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.