The Glamorous World of Business Travel

My mother, who has never traveled for work, is fascinated by the places my job takes me. Mom:  “Where are you off to this time?” Me:  “DC.” Mom:  “Ooo!  That should be fun!” Me:  “Not really mom, it’s a day trip.  All I will see is the airport and the inside of a cab and the office.”

As any of us who travel for work know, it is not fun.  For me the worst aspects are, 1) listening to Mr. Draper complain about my having to travel and the inevitable text messages while I’m gone, “everything’s great here (read sarcasm).  This is f’n ridiculous.  I can’t do this anymore.” and 2) traveling alone.

For the first one, I pick my timing very carefully when dropping the travel bomb.  It cannot be when the kids are awake.  You do not remind someone of something painful happening again later while they are living it in that moment.  During a root canal, your dentist does not say, “Oh, and remember… you have another one in two weeks.”  It must be after he has had a good workout.  Ideally, we will have had a) sex or b) a glass of wine during date night – or even better yet, both.  It never goes over well no matter how strategic the timing.  It makes it so much easier on me because I love to do it and be away from them all (read sarcasm again).

For the second one, if you’ve ever sat alone at an airport bar with drink and iPhone in hand aimlessly scrolling through your Facebook news feed and commenting/liking all of your friends’ posts and pics just to feel connected to someone – you know how isolating and depressing it can be.

My most recent trip was to our corporate office outside of Philadelphia.  (Which just screams “glamorous“, doesn’t it?)  I woke up at 3:45 to make a 6:00 flight.  The humidity in PA was so thick stepping out of air conditioning felt like walking in to a wall.  After finally getting my rental car, picking up my new hire in Center City, and making it to the office after getting lost in West Philly (which I do not recommend), I had nonstop meetings.  Fast forward six hours and we are back to the airport only to be delayed 2.5 hours due to weather.  I made it to bed by 1:00a.m. a mere 2 hours and 45 mins short of being up for 24 hours straight.  Ugh. Luckily, Mr. Draper appreciated the short duration of the trip and had a sense of humor when Ms. Independent bathed herself in applesauce.  He did however text that if I was delayed overnight he would not be there in the morning.

For once though, I was also not traveling alone!  My new hire, let’s call her Barbie, and I were on the same return flight.  We found a spot at a wine bar, had some appetizers, a few glasses of wine, and a chance to get to know each other.  A mother herself, she shared that she took the job because it is a challenge for her and something she can be proud of.  Also that she is looking forward to learning from me and admires the way I handle myself in meetings.  “The way you were speaking today… I want to be like that.”

While the almost 24 hour stint left me exhausted and sweaty – having a travel companion, and one I have the opportunity to mentor – made it all worth it.  Misery may love company, but a traveling mother loves a wine drinking partner and another driven, working mother even more.

Wine is better with friends

*Image courtesy of http://www.rubyshoeswine.com

 

Defending Gwyneth. (Yes, really.)

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I admit that when I first read the comments Gwyneth Paltrow made to E! regarding how her life as a working mother was challenging, I was furious.  How could a woman who is a super-famous celebrity from a long lineage of Hollywood royalty have any clue as to what a 9 to 5 is like?  Then I disregarded the media-twisted headline “Gwyneth Paltrow:  moms who work 9 to 5 have it easier” and I actually read what she said.

“I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”

I thought about it all day.  As I was lugging my two kids around from store to store trying to get all the necessities for the  crazy week ahead before lunch and nap time for my almost 2 year old, I was snidely thinking, “WWGD?  That spoiled woman couldn’t hang in my world.”  Then it hit me.  For all the thoughts I (and a great deal of other working moms) was thinking about GP all day, “the gull, how dare she, how clueless, what an idiot” I was being just as judgmental and clueless.  Just as working moms think they want to stay home, and SAHMs think they want to work, we all have an idyllic idea of how the other half lives that is seldom drawn from reality or experience.  Of course, the grass is never greener.  Ever.

How many times have I uttered words similar to this, “If only I had more _____ (insert – time, money, flexibility, help, easy-going children), how much easier my life would be.”  All working moms fantasize about a life that could be.  A life that some working mother somewhere must live where the “balance” actually exists.  Somewhere you aren’t plagued by Mommy Guilt and you have everything under control while being perfectly happy with the life you lead.  We keep these thoughts to ourselves and unveil them in our darkest moments when we feel like we can’t do it anymore.  We share them with empathetic mommy friends over wine.  Unfortunately for Gwinnie (okay, do people really refer to her as this?) she speaks from a place of privilege.  To those less fortunate there is no way we could image her life to be more difficult than ours, or that anyone with her upbringing and status would actually be better off in our shoes.  Having lived the day to day, we know, it’s no cake walk.  Who’s to say her life, or that of any working mother in a higher socioeconomic status, is any better?  Just as she made uneducated statements about our lives, do we really know what it’s like to be her?

While I defend her for the comments made, Gwyneth has to realize she has a public platform.  Her daydreaming about the predictable, manageable life of an “office mom” should stay in her pretty little head.  But the bottom line here is that no working mom – famous or “regular working Jane”, has it easy.  We all make sacrifices for our children, and we are stronger and more driven for it.  Let’s not play the “my life is harder than your life” game, and just respect each other.  There is no harm in allowing our fellow working moms to indulge in a little delusion about the life that “could be”, as long as it’s over a glass of wine and not in a major publication.

Motherhood part deux. Learning to relax — a little.

A therapist once called me “hyper-vigilant”.  According to Wikipedia, this is not a very becoming trait.  Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion.  Plainly put, I am on high alert at all times.  It wears on me and those around me.

We took the kids furniture shopping recently.  If you’ve done this you understand it is a sure-fire recipe for anxiety.  I kept my cool throughout the process, chasing Ms. Independent around the store, bating her with puffs.  I laughed while picking up the trail of puffs we left along the way.  By some miracle we quickly found a sofa that was perfect for our recently remodeled living room.  They rang it up, scheduled delivery, and we were on our way.  Yes!  Success.  No meltdowns for anyone!

Not a minute later my son is pushing his sister’s stroller out the huge, heavy glass doors and she sticks her hand out to the side between the door and the stroller.  My hypervigilance kicked in, and I pictured her continued forward motion wedging her fingers and mangling them.  “STOP!  HER FINGERS!!!”, I shrieked.   It was not a pleasant sound and even as I let it fly, I wondered what crazy person uttered it.  However, what happened next is something every husband should take heed of.  Mr. Draper questioned my response.  “My God, she’s FINE.  You need to chill out.”   (P.s. This does not help in a state of heightened anxiety.)
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Here’s the thing.  I’ve become more relaxed in my parenting with Ms. Independent than I ever was with The Negotiator.  He was a high-maintenance baby, and I was always anticipating the worst possible scenario.  I was constantly thinking 2 steps ahead and predicting what seemingly unmanageable challenge I was going to deal with.  I did everything to prevent those situations.  (Are you asking yourself, was the baby really high maintenance or did you make him that way?  Answer:  Yes.)  

As an infant, my daughter was easy going.  When I was expecting the worst, she would surprise me time after time.  She would fall asleep in the car, and wake up upon arriving home.  The Negotiator was notorious for this, and I would drive and drive just to keep him asleep.  Whereas the nap was over with him, I found I could move her from the car upstairs to bed and she would go right back to sleep!   This was such a pleasant surprise, and I was shocked each time I made a successful transfer.

As mothers we have to be vigilant.  It’s our job to protect these little people from themselves and the world around them.  The challenge for someone like me, is finding the delicate balance between cautious and neurotic.  We have to allow them to learn and grow by experimenting and testing.  I am thankful for my daughter and the pleasant little surprises she has bestowed upon me.  If with every child I become progressively more relaxed, I wonder how I would do the third time around?  I guess we’ll never know. 🙂

Don’t fence me in. Channeling my inner Sagittarius for career success.

Aside

While I am not an avid follower of horoscopy, I believe I fit the exact characteristics of my sign, the Archer.  “Sagittarius is an impatient force, escaping anything stagnant and any mental or physical confinement.  It’s basic need, on which it never compromises, is independence.”  Although a high-strung overachiever even at a young age, my Sagittarian-like carefree spirit and need for change was evident.  When I was about 13 years old, I faulted my mother for not being spontaneous.  I felt like she waited for things to happen instead of going out and creating experiences.  (She is a Capricorn, practical and prudent.  Patient and careful.)

Fast forward twenty-some years, and here I am in the “rat race”, “the daily grind”, “the fast lane”.  Whatever annoying aphorism you give it, life has become monotonous.  I have become a slave to my Outlook calendar.  Each day begins the same: wake, coffee, shower, take the dog out and feed her, wake the children, feed breakfast, pack lunches, rush to school/work, wash, rinse, repeat.

As you can imagine, as an “impatient force” this does not sit well with me.  I often find myself itching to break free of all responsibility and do something completely irrational and selfish.  Reckless abandon is impossible, however, with a full-time job, two young children, a husband and a home.

Luckily for my marriage, my need for independence is channeled into my professional life.  Each position I hold has a shelf-life of about two years.  Any longer than that, and I get uncomfortable.  I am always looking for what’s next and how I’m going to get there.  This keeps me moving and mentally stimulated so I don’t fight the constraints of daily life.  Advancing positions every two years also requires I ramp up quickly and make my mark in a short period of time.  This shows ambition and drive, instead of reckless abandon.  (The prior looks much better on a resume.)

Image credit ejallston

Image credit ejallston

In addition to career advancement, I have achieved a position that provides flexibility.  No longer being tied to an office, I own my schedule and split time between my customer’s local locations and home office.   Some days I commute by car, others by train.  There are business meetings, coffee breaks, and after hour events.  I travel, and while my laments to Mr. Draper might suggest otherwise, I love the escape.

Some people are “lifers” at their place of work.  They relish going to the same office day in and day out.  They don’t mind punching the clock.  While I don’t understand how they do it, I commend their work ethic.  We need people like this to make the world go ’round.  If you’re like me and thrive on new challenges, experiences, and a dynamic work schedule I hope you find a role to suit your spirit.  Many employers now offer telecommuting, a great option for switching things up.  Statistics from Global Workplace Analytics suggest looking for a salaried position at larger companies, and roles like management, sales and office work.  Just expect that you’re not going to land a role like this right out of the gate.  Pay your dues in the office (I did for 7+ years) and work up to a role where you have the independence you crave.  Just a suggestion – while interviewing, don’t tell them you are an “impatient force”.  Let that come out through your drive and ambition to reach the top and fly free.

When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

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I was 27 when I became a mom for the first time.  I had been working since a month after graduating from college, and throughout college and high school before that.  When pregnant with my son, I was running a high-profile briefing center in Chicago for a very large technology company.  The hours and my commute were insane, and I couldn’t fathom how I could return to that role with an infant.  In a somewhat snap decision, Mr. Draper and I decided I would be a SAHM with The Negotiator (our now, 6-y.o.), for almost a year.  It was a luxury I felt blessed to have.  However, that experience came to an end when the declining real estate market and collapse of my husband’s once profitable commercial lending business necessitated my return to work.  I was distraught.  I was an emotional disaster.  I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my son in the care of anyone other than me.  How could he possibly receive the same level of attention I was giving him?  How would I bear to be away from him?  

I had no choice.  I had to go back to work.  The guilt was unbearable.  I quickly fell back in to the working world, in a role seemingly made for me. 

A new form of guilt quickly took over.  I liked being away from my child and having my own identity outside of “mommy”.  This, coupled with the fact my son was thriving in daycare, was a complete slap in the face.  I thought I had done right by my son by staying home and caring for him, when in actuality, the best thing for our family was for me to work.

How many moms can admit they look forward to going to work?  I can, and I will tell anyone who asks.  What I’ve learned is that every family is different.  I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and let me tell you ladies, the grass is not always greener on the other side.  Being a SAHM or being a working mom, there are challenges and neither one is perfect.  I have also learned that some women seem better “programmed” to be SAHMs, coordinating playdates, driving minivans with Cheerios on the floor and stickers stuck to the window, all the while taking in stride that their wardrobe consists of black yoga pants and they haven’t washed and styled their hair in days.  I like getting dressed and putting on my power heels.  I like getting shit done and being someone people respect.  I like kicking butt and making a name for myself.  I am driven by these things, and when I am fulfilled in this way, everyone in my family is better off.

If you are happy as a working mom, I encourage you to own it.  Let other women know it’s okay to enjoy life outside the home.  It doesn’t make you any less of a good mom, and maybe it makes you a better one.

Thanks for nothing!

Have you ever thanked your significant other for doing something they a) should just do anyway, or b) is something you do all the time and never get thanked for?  I have, and it’s usually one of these scenarios.   Mr. Draper goes to the grocery store for me, or he puts away his clean clothes.

Why am I thanking him for that?  Does anyone thank me every time I go to the store or put away my clean laundry?  Absolutely not.  How is it that something which is a given somehow becomes a cause for gratitude?

I think it’s a majority – minority thing.  Because these ordinary tasks are not usually done by that person, they feel the need to make a big deal out of it when they do it and look for acknowledgement of this rare act.  Think of it like potty training.  No one gives you an M&M when you poop in the toilet once you’ve mastered the task.  Once you do it every day it’s expected that you can poop in the pot and not in your pants.  Image

So how do you train a husband to do something with enough repetition that it becomes habit and no longer worthy of praise?  I thought maybe following the potty training technique would work well, perhaps a B.J. for each unrequested trip to the store.  However, I don’t think this is setting a good precedence.   I would have to think this would just reinforce the need for him to announce his good deed and look for praise of the falatiol (is that a word?) kind.

I’m open to ideas, and fear that the answer here is that I just need to accept these things will never become normal habits for Mr. Draper.  Sadly for him, I guess B.J.’s won’t for me either.

Welcome to my world.

This is my first blog entry under my new pseudonym.  This is coming at you from a veteran mommy of 6 years who works full-time and puts unattainable expectations on herself.  It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s raw.  It’s honest. 

One of my friends became a mom a little over a year ago.  She called me when her child was a few months old and experiencing medical issues.  We talked, we related, we cried, we emphasized with each other that motherhood is f’n hard!  I’ll never forget her saying, “It’s so nice to know that this is normal.  I see all these people on Facebook who have babies and they are so happy and post how wonderful it is all the time.”  I told her, and I’ll tell you, it’s bullshit.  Yes, motherhood is a gift and yes, we adore our little ones, are blessed to have them, and couldn’t imagine our lives without them.  There are times though in every mother’s life and especially when caring for a newborn, when you think to yourself (and say out loud if you are sleep-deprived and on the verge of insanity), “What the hell have I done?” and “My life as I know it is over.”  I had those moments, and I swear sometimes I still do.   I know I’m not alone.   I can’t wait to share them with you so you know you’re not either.

Before I delve any deeper into my confessions, I have to set the stage for you and introduce the key performers in this shit show. 

“Mr. Draper” – my husband of almost 10 years, and significant other of 16.  We met as freshmen in college and have somehow managed to grow together and not apart.  We’ve had our challenges, and we have both changed beyond recognition – both emotionally and physically.  At one point Mr. Draper challenged himself to put as much muscle on his 5’9″ frame as possible.  He couldn’t bend to tie his shoes, yet he proposed to me in this state (from a seated position).  I said “yes”, and boy did I luck out because now he is a suave, polished hottie in a suit whose clients (mostly women) say looks like a movie star.  He works super hard, is a great dad, and has really high expectations for everyone and everything he does.

The Negotiator – my 6 year old son.  This kid is a born salesman.  He was asking “How does that sound?” at age 4.  He is crazy smart, and probably the funniest person I know.  He is also extremely challenging.  His energy is off the charts, and I have often considered building a padded room in the house… either to lock him in it so he can bounce around and get out his energy, or to put myself in there when my brain hurts from his constant probing.  He is a sweetheart, and a great big brother, but a total PITA (pain in the ass).

Ms. Independent – my 15 month old daughter.  This girl has such ‘tude it is unbelievable.  She has a twinkle in her eye, and the most contagious smile.  You might think she’s sweet, and most of the time she is, but she will let you know what she wants, how she wants it, and when she’s done with it!   There is no question if she is on the fence about something, she makes her wishes well known.  She’s a tough little cookie, and has so much determination.  I can’t wait to see what this one turns in to, and I feel sorry for her future boyfriends.

The dog.  Our first baby, a 12 year old Westie.   She was the center of our universe and now she’s just “the dog”.  She is lucky she gets fed on a daily basis.

And that rounds out the cast in this melodrama!  I hope you will enjoy reading about our adventures, our mishaps, and my true confessions that happen along the way.