At the time of writing I have been in the USA on my own, with my lovely family back in Melbourne, Australia for seven days. 10 days is the longest I have previously been away from the family. By the time I land in Melbourne from this trip it will be 17 days!
This time was a little different too. The first part of the trip wasn’t work. It was so I could run the Boston Marathon (you can read my recap of that here). The second part of the trip is for a work related conference in New York.
I have always been fine traveling for work, but somehow traveling for myself feels very different. I worried about it being self indulgent and started to feel guilty about going. When I talked this over with a good friend, she put a completely different take on it. “Look at the example you are setting for your kids. You set a goal, trained hard and made sacrifices. When you come back from Boston with your medal your kids will be proud of you.”
I decided to reframe my trip this way. I believe it is setting a great example for my kids, but it also made me feel less guilty! Something else which helped me with feeling less guilty was preparing well for my absence.
There will be women who think I should not have spent so much time preparing for my absence and say something along the lines of “would he do that if he went away?”. For me that question is not relevant. It was never about my awesome husband and what he would do. His amazing support and encouragement of me to go away could not be faulted. He never asked nor expected me to do any of this (I do think he was very grateful I did though!), I wanted to do it and it made me feel better about going.
Before booking the conference in New York I deliberated for a number of days. The gap between the marathon and the confernce was too big. It made me feel uncomfortable. It was too long, I had never been away from the family for that long, 10 days to me seemed about the perfect length of time to be away. I was deciding against it, when my husband told me to just do it. He knew I would love the conference and a few more days was not a big deal.
My husband knows me so well too. He tried a slightly different angle on me “We will be fine. Don’t you think I can cope?” Of course I knew he would cope. I bought the ticket to the conference.
The preparation I did before I left was aimed at making life as smooth as it could be without me being there. My husband was still going to be working, albeit reduced hours, but 5 kids, work and personal sporting commitments is a full load on your own.
The lead up
I left a week after school holidays finished, which worked out super well for me. My plan was to work the absolute bare minimum over the school holidays so I could spend as much time as I could with the kids. We had a very simple stay at home school holidays but it was perfect for us. The kids were tired so there was lots of sleeping in and hanging out in pjs for large parts of the day from the kids.
School holidays also provided the opportunity to for the majority of the days during the school holidays to do 20 minute activity blocks of time with the youngest three. On the other days there was either an activity or outing that we all did together (much to the unhappiness of the 16 year old!)
When I have been away on other occasions, I have focused more on having dinners prepared in the freezer for the family. This time I changed my approach. With five lunch boxes to fill, two of which are teenagers, it can be a big challenge to keep them stocked.
I decided I would make all of the savoury and sweet items needed for the lunch boxes while I was away. This is where once again timing came into play and when I would normally not have baked lunches on the weekends during school holidays, I still baked for lunches, but I just organised them in packs and put them in the freezer.
For savoury items I made:
For sweet items I made:
And rolls of frozen biscuit dough, that can be thawed slightly, sliced and baked for freshly baked biscuits.
A couple of weeks before I left, I put together a spreadsheet which had a few different tabs in it:
- Daily schedule – a day by day look at all key activities per person in the family eg parent teacher interviews, special additional cross country training sessions etc
- Week overview – the basics of weekly life, eg library day Tues for master 6, school uniforms need to be washed Tuesdays, diaries signed Thu night, spelling homework for master 8 Mon – thu
- Lunch box plan – suggested lunch box plan eg what savoury and sweet item to use across the week
There are many moving parts in a family with 5 kids and Mr I is very involved on a daily basis normally, but there is stuff he just isn’t around for so wouldn’t be aware of. My aim was to let him see this well before I went so he could ask any questions and also use this to determine his work commitments over the time I was away.
Some extra little things
All the above very much cater for the day to day necessities of family life. My absence however would mean more to the family than just food and organisation.
I made them a little surprise going away present. Individually wrapped rocky road which I set out on the table with a good bye note in the early hours of the morning before I left.
It is a long time for the little ones in particular to not have their mum around. The surprise of a hand written note can let them know I am thinking of them.
I made five notes for the younger three and their dad just hands them out as a surprise when he thinks they need them. The notes were simple and short and each one had a different focus. They were:
- An idea for an activity
- A memory I have of them when they were little
- Words of encouragement
- One of my favourite things about them
- A joke
For the older two boys, I wrote just one note each. I am sure they would say they didn’t want them, but I wrote some encouraging and heart words in each letter, which I hope they did find meaningful.
I also wrote one for my husband. It contained thanks and words of encouragement too. I told him to open it when he was having a terrible day!
Each time I go away for more than a week, I have a tradition with my daughter that we find one of my t-shirts that she can sleep in and spray it with my perfume. Sometimes she will just sleep with the t-shirt near her pillow, but the smell comforts her when she is missing me.
In everyday life our family very much works as a team to ensure the needs of everyone are met. Me going away highlighted to me, just how well we work as a team. My husband changed his work commitment to accommodate my absence, the kids knew that attendance at extra curricular activities may require them to travel more on public transport and I sorted out some basics before I left to reduce the workload for them while I was away – super teamwork! Big love to my husband and kids for working with me on this xxx.