I’m a dad. I’ve written a bit about my children in previous blog posts. I love them dearly and I count it a joy to work hard to provide for my family. But when I started Dijital Farm, I encountered a challenge that I’d never faced before: regular business travel. As part of my work at Dijital Farm, I travel quite
a bit to places around the country to teach a social media bootcamp and Google online marketing bootcamp. It is a wonderful opportunity as I’ve gotten to see parts of this wonderful nation that I’ve never traveled to before and meet lots of great people. But it comes with a sacrifice: time away from my family. At first, I struggled with this. I would fly out on Monday afternoon for the week and leave my wife and children at home. And while I’m off working, my wife was at home taking care of the children. I missed my wife and kids, they missed me and it disrupted the flow of our family’s life. But it was necessary so that I could provide for our family. It only took me a few business trips before I found that I needed a strategy to help my family handle my time away on business trips. So, I identified five business travel strategies for dads. I’m not perfect, but I’ve found these to be incredibly helpful. I hope you will to.
5 Business Travel Strategies for Dads
1. Make certain your children know why you are traveling. As a dad, you know why you are traveling. You’re heading off to a business meeting as part of your work to provide for your family. This can be a hard concept for children to understand. My children are young. At their age, they know that I provide for our family, but they don’t have a firm understanding of what that requires or exactly what’s involved in doing it. From their perspective, I’m getting on an airplane (which is very exciting to children of any age!) and heading off somewhere. I’ve found that taking time several days in advance of the trip to sit down with them and explain to them why I am traveling and where I’m traveling to can be of great help. I let them know the exact city I’m flying to. In fact, we’ll even find it on a map. For my older children, I’ll talk with them about a few interesting facts about that city to help them better connect with the place I’ll be spending some time in. I also make it a point to talk about the work I’ll be doing there. If I know who I’ll be meeting with, I’ll let them know their names, where we’ll be meeting and what we’ll be talking about. Even though my children don’t know these people, it gives them a sense of peace as they can mention the people (or the activity or the city) by name. My children have even taken to praying for the people I’ll meet with and the work I’ll do during my trip. And it brings them great comfort.
Bonus tip: if you’re children are really young, they may struggle with the concept of how many days you’ll be away. A day to a child can seem like a week (or longer!). When my oldest son was three years old, my wife made paper chains where each link represented a single day of my trip. At the end of each day of my trip, she and my son would cut one of the links and remove it from the chain. This gave him a way to understand how much longer it would be until I returned home. And it also saved my wife from regularly answering the question “how much longer until daddy comes home!”
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2. Let them know what you’re expecting from them while you’re away. Before you head out on your trip, talk with your children and let them know what you expect of them while you’re away. I’m not talking about a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, let them know how you would like things to turn out. Give them a vision of what you’d like to find when you return home. I found that my business travel is toughest on my wife. She handles all the needs, the discipline, the emotions, the questions and more. And it can be overwhelming at times. It only took me a few trips to realize that I needed to let them know what I was expecting from them while I was away. I had to give them a vision because, as we are reminded in Proverbs 29:18, “where there is no vision, the people perish.” So, I made it a habit to talk with each child, one-on-one, and let them know what I was expecting of them while I was away. For my oldest daughter, I’d let her know that I needed her to be a helper to her mom. For my oldest son, I let him know that I needed him to be a protector of his mom, brother and sisters. For my youngest son, I let him know that I needed him to display an obedient heart and attitude to his mom all week. The specific expectations are up to you. But you have to set them so you’re children are clear on what you’re counting on them to do while you’re away.
3. Offer to take one of their stuffed animals along on your trip. Last year, I asked our children to work together to select one stuffed animal from their collection to travel with me on a business trip. This provided a way for them to metaphorically go on the trip with me. My children selected a bear named “Alaska Bear” that we affectionately refer to as “AB.” AB travels with me wherever I go and I take photos to send back by email. The children love seeing the adventures AB goes on and it helps them really connect with the trip. And, while I’m on the road it reminds me of exactly why I’m traveling: to provide for my children. (For more, read my blog post about the story of my business travel companion: Alaska Bear.)
4. Pray for your family each day. This is something I do for my family even when I’m at home. But when I’m away, I especially want to talk with God about them. I pray for their hearts. I pray that God will let them know that they are loved. I pray that they will make wise choices. And when I let them know that I’m praying for them, I’m showing them how a dad truly loves and provides for his children.
5. Talk with your wife and offer her your unconditional support. I saved the most important item for last. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve found that my business travel is toughest on my wife. She’s shouldering a lot of the load while I’m away. That means she handles every tear, every laugh, every correction and every activity on her own. It can wear her down. And now matter how hard a day I believe I’ve had, I know that her day has been tougher. I try to make it a point to talk with her every evening and simply listen. Listen to what she has to say. Listen to what’s gone on that day. Listen to her talk about anything and everything. And I don’t try to solve anything (believe me, that’s really tough for me because like most guys, I’m a “fixer”). I simply let her talk and I offer as much support and encouragement as I can. I know it isn’t the same as being there in person, but its far better than not talking at all. I love my wife and I want her to know it, especially when she’s handling everything on the home front while I’m away.
It Isn’t Easy
Following these five business travel strategies for dads is by no means a guarantee that everything will turn out well. It’s not a recipe. They are just a framework. If you’re a dad and you travel for business, you’ll need to find the things that work best for you. But above all else, love your family and stay connected with their hearts. The time away may be tough, but the sweetest reward is when you return home and are reunited with your wife and children. No matter how long you are away, they will be excited to see you!