Original Article #1
Working Mom & Travel: Fears, Guilt and Eventually Success
By: Monique R. Pappadis, MEd, PhD
This was the first ACRM conference that I attended without my loving, dancing-machine son, Josiah! I’m excited to say that I survived, and it was a success. However, the years to the moments leading up to getting on my first flight without him was full of fear, anxiety, and guilt. For the past five years, I’ve traveled to every meeting and conference with him. I faced the many challenges of determining who could take a week off to watch him. Most of the times, there were arguments among my family members and sometimes friends because they wanted to be the lucky one to go to Canada, Korea, Ireland, Washington, D.C., Chicago, you name it. Who would not want an all-expense, paid trip while watching a relatively low-maintenance sweet boy whom they love dearly? They all did.
During the earlier years, I faced the challenges of finding time to pump, being away all day, hoping the travel nanny could entertain him, and praying that he did not become ill. I decided while pregnant that I wanted my child to be with me – always. Why? Looking back, it was all due to fear. Fear that something would happen to me. Fear that something would happen to him. I did not want to give up the control I felt by having him travel with me. Even the financial burden – costs for travel, meals, and entertainment – was worth every penny.
In Josiah’s five years of life, I had NEVER been away from him longer than a day’s work. I knew I would have to face my fear when he was enrolled in Kindergarten. He could no longer travel with me unless during the summer months or holiday breaks. When I purchased my flight tickets to attend ACRM in Dallas, it became real. I scrambled to find someone who would be willing to stay in my home, take Josiah to school in the morning, pick him up from after-school care, take him to Taekwondo and swim lessons, provide dinner, help with homework, and get him ready for bed. A friend who is a stay-at-home mom blessed me by willing to assume this role! I am forever grateful.
As a trial run, I let him stay one night with my brother a few weeks before ACRM. Although I cried and Josiah cried, it was a success. I thought to myself, let’s see if we can have the same success during ACRM. I went over the pick-up/drop-off locations, food choices, routines, etc. with my friend. Again, I was trying to take control. On the flight to Dallas, I cried in silence and felt guilty for leaving him. Unfortunately, the Uber driver had to hear all my mommy woes. I was bummed that I could not video chat with Josiah upon arrival because he had already fallen asleep. The following morning, I had to help with coordinating the Early Career Development Course (ECDC). I hoped my busy schedule would help keep me focused without worrying.
I did well during the ECDC until I started asking questions to the panelists about work-life balance. I had to hold back tears from the audience. Later that evening, I finally got a chance to call. I couldn’t believe that he was fine. He was having so much fun that he didn’t want to talk long. Then, I realized that I didn’t need to worry so much. I needed to have faith and believe that all was well. On my flight back, all I could do was picture his face. When I got home, he was asleep. However, when he woke up in the middle of the night and saw me, his first words were: Mommy, I love you! And, my heart melted.