The Internet of Moms is rich with tips, hacks, well-worn advice, and know-it-alls on discussion boards. But when our friend Emily tried to find helpful resources for ongoing work travel after maternity leave, she was disappointed. She offered to share what she’s learned with The Smart Domestic. Today, we’re meeting her and hearing more about her transition from a travel-loving road warrior to a working mom juggling a briefcase and a breast pump.
By Emily McClimon
I’ve always loved to travel, so when I took a job five years ago that required 75 percent travel, it was a good fit. As the years passed, I changed roles to a position that took me on the road most weeks and even some weekends. I hit Delta’s highest medallion status twice in 18 months. My husband and I used rare vacations to visit tiny towns in France and remote beaches in the Virgin Islands, and I carried my road warrior title with pride.
Then, in a hotel for a work conference, two pink lines appeared on a white stick. I texted my best friend to confirm what I was seeing. Eager, anxious, anticipatory joy began to take hold. My husband and I were thrilled that our family would be changing.
He and I knew my work would need to change too. When I told my colleagues and my boss that I was expecting, I convinced myself (and them) that the travel would work out. Sure, I would have to cut back, but it would work because it had to.
At five months pregnant I unexpectedly changed jobs, and the new role required less travel, but I would still need to get on a plane regularly to visit clients several states away.
Thinking back on it now, I probably wouldn’t have considered a job that didn’t have travel as part of the gig. As much of a pain as work travel can be, I like it. It’s not as glamorous as people may think. One Courtyard Marriott looks exactly like another, and you don’t often get to see the sights in a town because business rarely happens on a boardwalk or the beach. Yet it satiates my restlessness and propensity for boredom and has provided me opportunity to visit neat places I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.
Anyway, when I took the new job, I told my new boss that yes, I understood there was some travel involved, and no, it didn’t bother me, and yes, of course it would work out. The thing was, these reassurances weren’t platitudes. I truly believed that work travel with a baby would be a bit of a challenge but certainly something that other moms do. It wouldn’t be that much of a change. Or so I thought.
I remember looking up stylish breast pump bags on Amazon, thinking that it would be nice if it matched my leather Coach briefcase. I pored over dimensions to be sure it would fit in an overhead compartment. I researched, then registered for, a breastmilk storage system that would allow my husband to warm the pouch directly from the freezer and just snap it into a bottle-like case, because not having to transfer milk into a bottle was certain to make my husband’s time alone with the baby while I traveled so much easier.
Bizarre as it may seem, I thought with a few small adjustments here or there, being a road-warrior mama would be more than doable. It could actually be easy.
I have come to believe that motherhood is an exercise in being okay with being wrong. It is also a blessing that one of motherhood’s greatest lessons is that of humility.
When my sweet, serious, wide-eyed son Graham arrived right on time in late May, everything in my life shifted. As my too-short maternity leave wound down, I began to feel a pit in my stomach even bigger than the one that was currently consuming my thoughts of returning to work. Not only was I going to have to go back to work while still only sleeping in 90-minute increments at night, I was going to have to get on a plane and sleep somewhere farther away from my baby than the 6-feet distance currently between my side of the bed and his Rock ‘n Play.
I was worried about so much, and had no idea what this next phase of life would look like or how it would logistically work.
I began to do what every modern mom does when faced with a question or challenge: I Googled. Usually Google is second only to Pinterest when it comes to the amount of overwhelming information a new mom can find on any given topic. However, during this 3 a.m. Googling session, I was surprised to find the opposite was true.
There were limited resources for working moms who regularly travel for work. I found a couple of articles about how to travel with a pump and expressed breastmilk and a few on how to travel with baby. The problem was that these were all framed as resources for the occasional trip or two that may come to pass, and offered little advice on how to make regular business travel work for a new mama and her family. There were countless articles on how to make the transition back to work smoother, but most of those writers urged new moms to remember that they would be seeing their littles in only a few short hours, advice I found only added insult to the broken-heartedness I was already experiencing. The working-pumping schedule templates online didn’t help much either because they, understandably, only took into account an 8-ish hour workday, a couple of pumping breaks, and only a day’s supply of milk to worry about storing.
In short, the few working mom resources I found were little help in preparing me to take on this new role as a working mom who would regularly have to be away from my baby, and would also need to pump while I was away.
It was then that the idea of a blog series began to form. I found it incredulous that in 2016, such little support was available for a mama in a role like mine, but I knew from meeting other women on the road that surely there were more of us who could benefit from sharing experiences about life on the road as a new mom.
After all, another one of the fundamental truths of motherhood I’ve come to believe is this: Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and in these joy-filled, heartache-ridden, late-night, early-morning trenches, other moms can be our greatest support.
Emily McClimon is an account executive for an IT consulting firm, an aspiring cook, restless academic, dog-lover, lapsed journalist, avid reader, and traveling-working mom of an 8 month-old-son. Follow her on Twitter.
Maternity photos with dogs and books by Life Meaningful Photography; all others courtesy Emily McClimon