Monday, November 29, 2010

Working mothers, work tours and kids

You are in a corporate, in academics or you are an entrepreneur, it is evident a part of your job is to travel and get exposed to the wider spectrum of your field. We are living in a globalized village after all, so we need to connect at national and international levels. Yes, the telephonic conversations, videoconferencing and internet chat are all official now but still ample opportunities arises were you need to getup from you bench and reach out right there, where you have to attend a conference, visit a group, grab some sponsors  or collaborate with others. Travel has become an unsaid ritual for working classes and masses, no denial on it,  and I am not an exception.
In general, I love traveling, I adore breathing different air, tasting unknown cuisine, seeing new places and meeting new people.  Best would be to travel in holidays but work tours are also fine with me. The cringe of presenting my developing work in front of a hall full of people gets compensated by the spread of food and drinks on a conference banquet dinner (specially if the dinner falls after my presentation!). So I always felt lucky and happy on any chance to leave my bench and spend some days away from it.

For the first time I felt a little unsure about this  was after 'J' was born. Doing my regular job in the lab, coming home and looking after 'J' even with ample help from 'J's dad was becoming a challenge for me those days. Any add-on option to travel for a conference or summer school became a distant and resistible haze for me. For a couple of years, I kept tossing the idea of traveling away from my schedule by telling myself that I am not that interested in that conference. Luckily being a PhD student, I could escape  any compulsiveness from higher authorities .

But as I said, it is a part and parcel of modern days work, and there came one opportunity, where I wanted to attend the conference, and 'J' being few years old by then,  my spree for traveling and meeting with other people were returning, so I filled up the registration form and so started my journey as a working mother for work tours: 

I remember first few times, I went to the conferences with 'J' and her dad. We punched our family holidays with the conference schedule. We avoided staying at conference hotels, lived in holiday apartments and I after attending the conference for the whole day, I used to come back to spend my evenings with the family. I found out what I was missing in last many years as participating in  conferences always provides you with extra cream for your work.

Then, at one point I decided to leave 'J' with her dad and went for a job interview and then again to a summer school . This was the best arrangement and I think most of the working parent follow this as the person who is attending can devote full time in the conferences as it is not a secret anymore that for one to one interactions the evening poster sessions and dinners are the best times. During these outings, on phoning back home I was always pleasantly surprised that 'J' and her dad had nice time together and were busy doing things their own way.

Then the next step of my work tour was to attend a conference while 'J's  dad could not be around  (he working in another continent by then) so I took 'J' with me and made an arrangement with a colleague's wife that she will look after her when I will be attending the talks and I will be taking 'J' with me to the conference  lunches, dinners  and other outings. This arrangement was fine but off course, it was not an easy solution.  My mind was always cluttered and I was wondering whether I was too much a burden on my colleague's wife. 'J' enjoyed the time with their kids though, but she was not that happy to attend the lunches and dinners which were for grown ups and very boring for her. She could never understand why so many of grown ups has to eat so silently with no music at all. Another part was that the conference hotel was situated in the middle of the city center and 'J' being a compulsive shopaholic utilized her mums stressed out situation to its fullest. I know there are strong mums out there will be rolling their eyes reading this lines but I have no fear in confessing.

Finally just few months ago I had a chance to visit a scientific group in  a university in another country, again it was on me and 'J' to manage it, this time I looked for a day care and I was lucky to find that indeed just near the university. They were ready to look after 'J' for a weak, the language was different, but they said they have previously handled such situation. First day I and 'J' were quite nervous, but then it went actually fine. My host being a female professor with two kids understood the whole situation and was very helpful. 'J' did very well in her day care for a weak and even managed to learn some dutch and make some friends. On her last day in the day care, she got  farewell cards and 'J' commented that she would like to come for a visit again! My work went well and we both returned to our nest happily. This was not again the easiest work trip for me, and at first I was struggling to find a full day day care for 'J' close  to the work place in an unknown city but of course I am glad that I opted for it. After all a struggle which does not kills you makes you stronger!

So all in all, as a working mother, till now, I have enjoyed most part of the work tours but of course each tour needed lots of preparation. Before each tour I have spend nights with the angst that 'J' might get sick just before the day of travel (I guess all working mothers go through this). Each tour was worked out only after lots of explanation and discussion with 'J'. She being a very shy, introvert kind of girl, don't like a change in her state, but at the end she accepted her mum's desires (needs) and dived into them. I am glad she did that.


  1. These are very similar to my experiences. My daughter is very accommodating to mom's professional needs and always makes the best of the situation. In fact I really enjoy getting back to her at the end of the work day, rather than attend the social affairs. She is not so accommodating for mom's entertainment needs, however - she is totally opposed to me going to watch the new Harry Potter movie without her.

  2. Hey chandrima
    just wondering if you are Bulaans olders sister?