by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Like much of the division of labor in our household, my relinquishment of business trips was gradual, messy, and undiscussed. In retrospect the trend seems logical. But the real story: going from zero to three kids in five years while juggling kids and career obliterated any rational choice, for both my husband and myself. We were just trying to survive each day.
Before kids, I travelled far more than my husband. As a director of international marketing at Johnson & Johnson, I flew to Canada, Australia, the Mid-East and Latin America, sometimes for weeks at a time. I loved the thrill of visiting different markets.
Once I became a mom, I didn’t want an ocean between me and my baby (eventually, babies). The kids grew and so did my ability to juggle work and kids in ways that business school never prepared me for (like giving a quarterly board report on two hours sleep after nursing a toddler’s fever all night). I curtailed my travel and eventually sought jobs that didn’t require more than a few trips a year. After baby number three I started working from home.
My husband’s career progressed, and his travel increased. These days the division of business trips runs more than 50 per year for him, less than 10 for me.
My husband knows better than to complain about jet lag, long flights, and late night client dinners in gourmet restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas, where his job takes him frequently. I try hard not to run on about the endless small frustrations of childrearing – largely because it does not make for dramatic dinnertime storytelling.
Due to Crazy Love ’s recent publication, I’ve had to travel much more frequently. Like Wilma Flintstone taking over Fred’s job driving the bulldozer at the Bedrock Gravel pit, I’ve enjoyed the switcheroo.
I went to New York City on Tuesday afternoon. Napped on the plane. Got taken out to a leisurely dinner at a sidewalk café by a flattering board of directors. Afterwards I walked Fifth Avenue in the balmy 90° Manhattan night. Slept in a fluffy hotel bed without any midnight visitors. At the meeting the next day, everyone told me how relaxed I looked.
None of which happens at home.
Once back, I checked in with my Darling Husband at his office
“God, what an awful night,” he said into his cell phone.
I bit my tongue. “Awful” didn’t describe one single minute of my evening.
“So, I picked Max up at tennis at 7pm. You know, the traffic is unreal at that time. He left his backpack so I had to drive all the way back to get it. I had to cook him a second dinner when we got home – he really gets hungry from all that exercise. The girls were still up! Doesn’t the babysitter know to put them to bed by 8? Then Max was awake for hours with that rash. I had to call the pediatrician three times. I was on hold for 10 minutes each time! Then I went to the pharmacy twice to get medicine for Max’s allergies. I still cannot believe it – they kept me waiting 20 minutes for the prescription! Those pharmacists really do not understand customer service. The pediatrician told me we have to bring Max to his office this afternoon. Thank god you got home early so you can take him. I don’t think I can miss any more work. ”
His voice had that I’m-about-to-break edge I knew all too well from my own hysterical calls to him at all hours of the day and night over the past 12 years of motherhood.
“Wow, honey. Sounds pretty rough.”
Kind of like my life every day.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’m going back to New York again next week.