by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Okay, maybe I wasn’t at my most brilliant when planning how to combine work and motherhood when I was first pregnant, but here’s one biggie I totally missed: how vexing business travel can be when you have a baby, a job, and a husband who also travels for his job. In my pregnancy glow, worried about breastfeeding and diaper rash, it never occurred to me to ponder good overnight care or to arrange a move next door to my in-laws – available last minute, just like bosses and clients assume you are for business trips. I certainly never imagined my husband and I would fight for 12 years over this issue. I guess I simply figured our business trips would never fall on the same day or we’d “work something out.”
Now when I find out about an upcoming business trip, I race for my computer to send DH an email to “Black Out” the dates I’m gone. We’ve operate under a first-come-first-served policy resembling the mad scramble to get your name on the daycare center list the second you know you are pregnant. I want MY name at the top so I have dibs on my dates. My Darling Husband does the same…his dreaded TRAVEL email header makes me shudder for fear he might reserve key dates first.
I have 10 trips over the course of the next four months, considerately spread out, all booked as Black Out dates. All have been planned for the better part of a year.
I thought I was safe.
But here’s the problem with husbands -- never adequately addressed in Womenomics , Getting to 50/50  or The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School (all of which I am avid fans of).
Sometimes even the most wonderful partners, who unfortunately are not your direct reports, sometimes just say TOUGH NUGGIES I MIGHT NEED TO BE OUT OF TOWN THEN TOO.
In my case, first I yelled at my husband.
My side of the conversation went like this: “I have made hundreds of sacrifices for our family over the past 12 years! I have found an incredibly flexible job that pays well and allows me to be home 90% of the time! You owe me!”
If we’d been having a good day as a couple, his side of the conversation would have gone like this:________________.
But yesterday he answered back.
“I have made a lot of sacrifices too, honey,” he said quietly. “I change business trips and meetings all the time. Last month I went to California and back in one day and I do that all the time. But I have an obligation to my job to travel sometimes, even when you are out of town. We have to find a solution that works for both of us.”
Even I had to admit that sounded awfully reasonable.
Now what? First we came up with a list of what we needed. Here’s the job description:
- Available with less than 24 hours notice
- Overnight stay required
- Pet care too (one dog; four cats)
- Must be safe driver even with children fighting in backseat
- Ability to help a 7th grader, 5th grader and 2nd grader with homework, dinner and bedtime
- Needs to be an early riser to get all three children fed, bathed and ready for school and physically at school before 8 am
- Must then be on-call during the day in case one of three gets sick or injured
Who would be crazy enough to take that job?
We came up with a list of former babysitters and a handful of relatives who might just be interested, probably out of pity. Unfortunately all now have real jobs precluding overnight sitter assignments. Some have children of their own. A few live in other states and even other countries.
Big help that was.
Now we are back to square one. Without yelling, I repeated my initial demand. I’ve worked hard to craft a lucrative, flexible, family-friendly career. He has not. What makes our balancing act balance is that I need to travel for work about 10 nights out of 365. I need a husband who is home on the handful of dates when I’m not. Period. I “TOUGH NUGGIED” him right back, but very calmly this time. Part of this parenthood deal is that sometimes we are each other’s only backup.
Ironically, my first strategy is still the best one: keeping my fingers crossed that our overnight business trips never overlap.