Some trips are a hit, others are totally a miss! As a single mum, my kids’ reaction to travelling is always unexpected. It can be a hit or a miss, or somewhere in between!
Sometimes when I announce am travelling, I can get ‘wheeee mum! That is so cool.’ And sometimes I get ‘Again! Do you have to go mum?’ I even get ‘Can’t someone else go?’ This often comes from my 12 year old, complete with names of some of my colleagues some of who she knows that should go instead of me. And of course, sometimes I do feel the same. Like I really just want to stay home, go to work in the morning and come back to them every evening. And especially when I have to leave them with the DM for days and days when I am away. This can also be a hit and miss situation!
So a few days ago, I said I was going away for a day and a night to Uganda. My 5 year old jumped out of her chair and did the happy dance. The happy dance is usually quite something to watch..she raises both her hands up, and swirls around chanting “happy dance! happy dance!” Then she wiggles her bottoms, swirls around again! Quite a spectacle to watch!
Now a trip to Uganda does not normally elicit that reaction! That’s reserved for places like Canada because there will be maple syrup candy in the goodie bag, or Paris so that I can bring chocolates in the shape of Eiffel tower.
Uganda! That reaction was unusual. For a moment, I thought I had got to a breakthrough and they had finally accepted the nature of my job. But soon, I knew, no matter how much I got used to my travels, my kids would never get used to my being away and leaving them in the care of the housekeeper.
It turns out, in that whole conversation, what caught her attention was not the act of going to Uganda, but the fact that I was going for a day, and not my usual couple of days. It got me thinking about when my older daughter was younger, about 5 years old, and she would count the number of ‘sleeps’ as she called them, that mum would be away. And if I left and said I would be away for five ‘sleeps’, then I better be away for five ‘sleeps’ and not more. She would be counting! And I would have to explain any extra “sleeps”! Sometimes I would put one extra sleep, just to ‘come back early’ and surprise her!
Although it never gets easier for them, there are a few things that I have learnt along the way to minimize their anxiety when I am on travel: talking to them way ahead of time on my travel plans. I tell them about a week before I travel and in that one week we discuss where I will be going. Usually we use the globe and I show them where the country is, where I am going to pass through to get there. We google the hotel and look at the rooms, we discuss who else will be at the meeting, if am going to a meeting.
Now that I am back in Kenya, I make deals with my older nieces, who is going to pass by which day and surprise the girls, who will come over and spend a night here and there. Although it does not always get rid of the anxiety, it makes them feel part of the process!