I've heard people talk about work travel as a mini vacation. Time away from the family to get extra sleep, catch up on foreign activities like reading, and enjoy some alone time. I slept in on one of my very first business trips, and I was so embarrassed that now I wake up every hour on the hour until it's time to get up 3 hours early. I also haven't read a book that wasn't about birth, parenting or breastfeeding in 2 years.
After meetings, dinners and drinks, it's rare I'm back to my room before 10:30pm, which is basically 3am. I've heard some people say they actually get stuff done between drinks and a short coma. I wanted to join the night owl club and get shit done too.
On my last long trip in early December, I made a list of things I should get done before Christmas:
1. Christmas Cards (paper dreams)
On my first night away, I attempted to make our Christmas cards. My friend Erin Kirby took the most amazing photos for us this fall. We were all sick, tired and crabby after a night up with #Gingerbaby. In 30 minutes, she made us look like that family in the picture frames from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Christmas cards have the ability to warp reality into perfect moments you won't actually remember happening. They create a new world you can send to your friends and say, "look how normal we are?"
Did you know that Shutterfly has 9 billion holiday card options? After two hours of trying out templates, I somehow ended up in the Hanukkah section. I closed my computer, defeated. When I tried again two weeks later, I picked the first design on the front page, spelled our last name wrong and paid $25 for shipping, so they could get to our friends' houses before Valentine's Day.
2. Christmas Shopping (personal shopping)
On my second night away, I had really good intentions to get some gifts for other people, but I ended up buying another Feminist t-shirt for myself. If I were to make an "Alex's Favorite Things" list, it would just say Feminist T-shirts.
3. Read a Book (fall asleep)
I wish I could read words in bed without falling asleep, but it's impossible. I brought what I'm sure was a very intellectual book, given to me by one of the smartest mamas I know. I tried to read it after spending money on t-shirts, but I didn't get more than a paragraph in before passing out. Jules- I love you, but I think I'm allergic to reading. I don't know how you find time to speed read books with your little one, but godspeed.
4. Thank You Notes (nope)
I used to be a thank you note ninja. I wrote them for everything, and even taught young women how to write the best thank you notes of their lives. I brought stationary from Cooper's birthday in October, but as I put pen to paper on the third night, I was immediately distracted by The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. This is a show that is way past my bedtime and that I only watch in YouTube clips my friends post on Facebook. Friends and Family: Thank you for the farm animals, books and tiny noise makers, but I watched a show live. I eventually wrote these two weeks later right around the time I shipped our misspelled Christmas cards, only 2 months after our son's birthday.
Work trips are not a time to get anything done. The prep for leaving is like arranging a few days for a drug lord, coordinating pick-ups and drop-offs, meal prepping and laundering (clothes not money). Being away is a confusing, half-asleep, distant parenting nightmare. Friends without kids or parents with a stay-at-home-partner, please stop calling them vacations.