I am sitting blogging in my Brooklyn hotel. I flew in last night on a Virgin upper class flight. I watched Why we Are Here, a film I was desperate to see when it came out, but never had the chance before it got taken off the big screens. I cried over the Beckham documentary where he goes to the Amazon with his mates, which I missed during the World Cup (oh beckham, you are just lovely, look at you in the jungle, with all your tattoos reading letters from your kids! God bless you!). I ate a steak and then fell asleep. I got to my hotel after a night drive through the sparkly lights of the big apple and feel asleep almost instantly. I woke up pretty early this morning and went straight out for a run down at Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was an early and very sleepy morning in Brooklyn with no one around but runners, and the air was chilly and frosty. The views were insania. I am now eating a bagel. Bagels always taste a million times better in New York, and especially after you’ve been for a run. True fact.
Sounds pretty good huh?
Yeah…it is actually.
I know this is the bit where I’m supposed to go ‘but it’s so hard travelling with work and being a mum, and it’s such a pain and I hate doing it, blah, blah, blah’. But I’m not going to pretend, it really is as good as it sounds. Sod it…its fucking awesome.
Over the years my job has involved more and more travelling. I try and avoid it where I can as it is disruptive to our whole routine and family groove, and now that I have a bigger and most awesome team, I’m a bit more choosy about the trips I take. I feel guilty for feeling guilty about saying this (because why aren’t you just allowed to enjoy stuff for yourself when you have small children?) But….I do really really enjoy it. And I know exactly why I enjoy it: it’s because it’s the only time I ever get to spend my own. Every day I am someone’s mum, manager, wife, business partner, project leader. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I fantasie about having a day off from being me and just not being any of those things. And when I travel I get to feel a bit of that. Even though I’m travelling for work, when I’m on the plane or in places with no email access, or I see something new and really connect with a place, I feel it. I feel it in small bursts before swinging back to wondering if Phoenix has remembered his PE kit or something, but I feel it. It’s a feeling of being out of reach from everything, and it’s nice. Soothing. Invigorating. Does that make me a bad person for wanting that, or a terrible mother? Or is just normal?
I do hate leaving the kids and Ben. In the days before I go away Ben usually starts a build up of questions and sad faces and truly I just feel awful. I get very stressed and feel a lot of pressure, I feel like I’m doing something I shouldn’t like I’m abandoning them all. Because I do know how hard it is being on your own. When Ben has been away snowboarding before I hated it, we’re very much a team and we share everything when it comes to the kids, so when one of us is away it does all fall apart a bit. We live in a tiny house that you have to keep on top of and both our kids, whilst they are adorable, are very demanding, we play with them so much they are not the greatest at self-entertainment to say the least.
After I’ve peeled all of them off me sobbing at the front door, I usually cry a bit in the taxi on the way to the airport and then instantly start trawling relentlessly through photos of them on my iPhone, wondering what kind of person I am, what will happen if the plane crashes, or if there’s another volcanic ash cloud and I can’t come back.
Then once I’ve checked in, I go by lots of make-up in Mac, get a magazine and it’s fine.
Because actually, it is fine.
When I travel I feel inspired, I feel energised and a bit overwhelmed by opportunity and just how much stuff there is to do in life. To travel is to live. I get ideas, I make plans, I clear my mind and I appreciate all the amazing things about our life, my marriage and our children. I return revived. I mean knackered, but revived.
But there is a limit, I’ve certainly removed myself from either opportunities to travel or put them off. We opened the office in NYC earlier this year and I’m still figuring out how to make it all work with me going out there more regularly. And it’s not always as I describe above, I don’t always fly business, sometimes you don’t get time to see anything other than the taxi, an office and the airport. But I think I’ve started to suss out how to do it, how to not make it so rushed, and how to make sure you get a bit of experiencing into most trips. And if not then I dont go. The joy of being the boss hey?
One thing I’ve done this year which I’ve never done before is take the kids on business trips with me. As you know I am one who likes to break the rules a bit, and I thought to myself, ‘well if this job needs me to travel but my other job (which is much harder and still unpaid last time I checked), motherhood, requires me to be at home, then we’re just going have to meet in the middle somewhere’.
So when I had to travel to Sydney earlier this year I was like, ‘hell yeah, Phoenix and Mummy adventure, lets do this’. The trip was one I will treasure and remember forever. It was just before he started school and it felt like our last hoorah together before he was chucked into the school system, my last chance to fill him with ideas, thoughts and feelings untainted by peers, teachers and the wider social world. On that trip I was very lucky to have the BEST babysitter ever as we have some family friends out there (thank you Martin! You are actually a super star), and they went off doing important man things like going on war ships and building dens while I did my work. I felt so happy that I was getting to do my work and that Phoenix was getting to see a bit of Australia, a country I adore. I had a good few days with Phoenix when I wasn’t working and we did the whole Bondi – Coogee beach walk which was an amazing day. On the plane on the way back I couldn’t help but think – ‘I’ve cracked it. Look, here I am, having it all’.
Another trip I did recently was to Chicago and New York. Trading in business class, I decided I would instead take Ben’s mum and Indy with me this time and it worked just perfectly. Although I had to work quite a lot just being able to wake up with her and put her to bed and see her every day made a huge difference. I will definitely do that again with my mum or dad in the future, it was really cool. Both of those trips were over a week long which I consider my cut off for being away from the kids, hence taking one of them with me. If I’m travelling solo my maximum limit away is 4 days, then I just get sad and hate everyone and everything around me. It tends to be unproductive…
But I honestly think the worst thing about being a mum and travelling for work is when you can’t enjoy it as much as you want to. Today is my first day here in NYC and it feels great, but I know come Tuesday I’ll start to feel the guilt pangs, the face times will become a sharp stab in my heart and again I’ll start to ask myself what the heck I’m doing? I get annoyed with myself for that, but its unavoidable. Sometimes I am the world’s biggest hypocrite, anyone I know who has a baby I always say to them: ‘you’ve got to have me-time, you need to switch off, do things just for you and not feel guilty about it’. It’s advice I champion and really believe in because mums (and dads), who have access to thoughts and a life outside of being someones mum, employee or wife are happier, more engaged and more balanced. But I am crap at taking my own advice. Since I went full time for the first time earlier this year, I have cajoled myself into believing that I don’t deserve any time off, that every moment I am not working I need to be mothering. In my heart I believe that is true and I’m not sure how to tell myself otherwise. I know I would benefit from my advice so much. And that is why I appreciate the travelling times I have where I get these little bursts of me-time.
I started this mission to motherhood to try and work out if you can indeed have it all. I really do give it a bloody good go. I have these moments where I feel like I’ve cracked it and with every year that goes by as we figure out what works, learn from mistakes and listen to our feelings and needs I do feel like I ever edge closer.
But there is a constant tipper of emotions and always a trade off whatever you’re doing. I still don’t have the answer, but I’m searching hard for it.
So I’m here, in NYC and I’m thinking…I’m thinking about how to be more consistent next year with the work life balance, thinking about what to do differently, what to do more and less of. But mainly I’m just thinking that I’m really fucking lucky to live this life at all.
And that bagels are awesome.