Knowing the ins and outs of traveling with littles is important, and I can point you toward a hundred quality blog posts, easily.
But what do you do when you have to leave the kids behind?
I travel occasionally for work: trainings and maternal and child health conferences for my day job, book signings and writing conferences for my side-hustle. It’s a rare trip that I can haul my crew along for the ride.
Recently I had a double-whammy, a training for my day job which butted against a book signing in the same town. Initially, I thought it was brilliant.
Almost a week away from the constant demands of parenthood? Yes!
I could finally catch up on edits for my next book, maybe get a few drinks with my bookish friends. Grown-up time!
What I didn’t count on was the bone-deep ache of missing my kids.
The silence I’d so eagerly sought was almost eerie and I found it difficult to concentrate on the work I’d been intent to catch up on.
I missed my preschooler climbing into my lap, my son’s awesome good night lines (I love you to the stars and back, mom. *cue melting*) and my eldest’s requests for just one more hug. (She’s 11, I have to soak that up while I can.)
So I compiled a short list of things that I’ve found helpful to ease the sorrow and make the distance seem a little shorter when you have to travel solo.
How to travel without your kids:
Own your feelings.
At first, I was excited.
I’m a nerd so the whole time I was dreaming of all the to-dos I could mark off my list and the extra work I could catch up on. Ha!
Then the anxiety came in.
Who would make sure my middle schooler made it to karate? Pick up the house after everyone was asleep? Who would keep the dishes under control? Okay, I fail at that last one, but you get the idea.
I’m an anxious person by nature. If there’s a disaster possible, I’ll mull it over and wear it out. I am especially anxious about traveling. Traffic, accidents, not finding the hotel in time to make it to the training, walking in late with everyone’s eyes on me (the worst), not knowing anyone there and having to make small talk with strangers (shudder).
Then (once I was safely there) came the guilt.
My meals were amazing and I got to eat them in peace. (Cue angels singing.) While at that very moment I knew my husband was enjoying—and I use the term loosely—a meal where he’s lucky to sit for a minute, inhaling food while listening to the latest middle-school drama, while the preschooler is singing at the top of her lungs, and our son is whining that she’s too loud. I felt guilty for getting away, for enjoying myself.
Then the sadness.
As a person who enjoys silence (and three children are definitely not silent), I did relish the quiet that came with solo nights. And not having a tiny, squirmy little one join me in the middle of the night.
Until I didn’t. It became too quiet. And I missed my morning cuddles with my littlest one.
It’s okay to be thrilled you are escaping for a bit. It’s okay to be sad or anxious. Accept that how you feel is valid and okay—however that is.
Technology is your friend.
My number one lifesaver was my smartphone. It took a while for the wifi to work correctly and I was running horribly low on data, but we managed to FaceTime during bedtime. My husband (superdad for the win!) passed the phone around to everyone and my eldest discovered the fun filters (anything with sloths has my vote).
Their laughter lifted my spirits after a full day of traveling and learning.
Their cheery voices helped wipe out my aggravation at the unexpected exercise when the elevators malfunctioned. Nothing helps you get your steps in faster than a broken elevator when you are on the seventh floor. Fun times! (Not really.)
After virtual hugs from my eldest and my son’s latest heart-melting good night, I enjoyed listening to my hubby and preschooler read a book and her sing her latest song. It was almost as good as being there. Almost.
Sometimes when I travel solo, I like to scribble notes for the kids on post-its. I stick them in places they are likely to find them while I’m gone. In backpacks, lunch boxes, stuck to bookmarks, and on doors and walls.
It keeps me connected while I’m absent and possibly brings a smile in a moment of need.
I enjoy hearing who found what at the end of each day and how it helped them. My oldest has started to do the same, leaving post-its with I love yous and punny jokes that make me laugh in my bags. (I’m a sucker for a good pun.)
Even though you may be miles apart you can still find ways to stay connected.
Validating your feelings, and finding little ways to bridge the gap makes the distance seem that much shorter. Before you know it, you’ll be home enjoying the snuggles and hugs you longed for.