As I have discussed previously in my Plant Engineer post, earlier in my career I travelled frequently for work. I was traveling at least monthly on overnight trips for two years. After awhile, all the staff at the hotel I stayed at knew me by name. Sure, it’s nice to be welcomed and greeted by people you know, but it was also uncomfortable for me knowing that I stayed there so often that the hotel staff knew me. I’d rather spend that time with my husband at home than at the hotel making small talk with the staff. 

I also logged so many miles driving the same three+ hour drive to and from the plant that I often would become bored and sleepy during the drive. That scared me. I didn’t like feeling so sleepy I could fall asleep at the wheel any moment. That could be deadly for me or someone else. I started to listen to new music or audio books to keep me interested and always had a fresh caffeinated drink and snack ready to go for the drive.

Early in my career I was also taking a lot of out-of-town courses. I was fortunate enough that my company supported training to help develop technical knowledge. I took several courses which I had to travel by plane and spend a few days to a week (and for one course two weeks) away from home. And while I gained valuable knowledge I would not have the opportunity to gain if I didn’t travel to the courses, it was hard being away so often.

After three years of traveling for work (either to the plants or to off-site trainings), I decided it wasn’t a lifestyle I wanted to continue. I changed roles from plant engineer to reservoir engineer specifically because I knew reservoir engineers were office based and had minimal requirements to travel. It has worked out very well for me for the past six years. While I worked in Australia, I only travelled once to an out-of-town course that was helpful for my development as a reservoir engineer.

In my current job, until very recently, I had only travelled once out-of-town for work. It was when my son was still very young (around 6 months old), and I was traveling for a conference that both my husband and I were invited to attend. That is when things started to get tricky. We don’t have any family living in our city or in the city we were traveling to who we could leave our son with, so we decided to take him with us.

Because we had no one to care for our son while we were at work, we had to take shifts attending the conference. My husband would go for a few sessions while I would stay with our son, then he’d come back to the hotel to watch our son while I’d go to the conference for awhile. It was difficult and neither of us got as much as we hoped out of the conference because we couldn’t attend the whole time.

Recently, there has been a transition at work that is requiring more travel out-of-town for getting-to-know-you type meetings, and trainings. My husband and I have already had to do one long day trip (leaving home at 6am and returning at 8pm), it was exhausting and we were gone the entire time my son was awake for the day so we didn’t get to spend any time with him that day.

We have an upcoming four-day training session out-of-town that my husband and I are both required to attend. We are again faced with the dual-career issue of what to do with our son during this time. For this trip we found out that the facility has an on-site day care for employees, so we’re currently trying to get him into that for the four days we’re there. Then we’ll be able to bring him with us on the trip and he’ll stay in the day care during the day while we are in class. If that doesn’t work out, we likely have to consider options, like flying in grandparents from out-of-town to watch him.

I’ve been told there could be a few more additional trips for either me alone or me and my husband. I am already getting tired of the traveling and feeling very wary about the whole situation. I didn’t like traveling much when it only meant leaving my husband behind, but now that I’m leaving both my husband and son I really am not interested.

Now that I’m a mom my son is my number one priority and it is extremely hard for me to justify leaving him for any length of time, especially for an overnight trip. I just don’t know how I can continue to meet the training requirements when it means leaving my son frequently.

I am hoping that we can get our son in the on-site day care for the upcoming four-day trip, and then for future trips I may be able to bring him along as well. That will make me feel more comfortable – knowing he is close by during the day and I can see him in the evenings after work and in the mornings before work.

How do you like traveling for work – is it something you enjoy or dread? Do you find it harder to travel as a mom?

Be sure to check back to here on Thursday for another great interview in the Engineering Emily Interview Series.

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