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For This Divorced Mom, Traveling For Work Is No Big Thing

April 18, 2012

Some of you have seen the NY Times article about moms who travel for work. I’ve been traveling for work since I went back to work fulltime in March of 2007. (In fact, the first interview I had when I started looking ended with them offering me the job and asking if I could get on a plane for my first day in five days.)

Reading that article made me realize how much easier things are for divorced co-parents who share custody.

We’re already set up for one parent to be doing it alone for three days (the situation LOD and I have). Sometimes when I’ve traveled for work (and now that LOD is traveling some for work) the kids forget that we’re going somewhere and are surprised when I reference having been on a plane. To them, it was just their normal three days with their dad.

It also means that we don’t have to scramble to keep in touch by phone or Skype. When the kids are with their dad, I usually don’t make contact. I feel like it’s his time with them, and I shouldn’t be intruding. If they want to contact me, I’m very happy to talk to them, but I don’t want to pull them out of their world with him. If I’m on a trip that fits into his normal time, I don’t contact them while I’m away. Just because I feel far from home doesn’t mean that they are.

I realize that for some women, the idea that their children’s father could be a responsible parent who keeps track of everything and that they don’t have to plan their kids’ lives in detail or manage from afar is bizarre. And, quite honestly, if I had started traveling when LOD and I were still together I would have felt like I needed to be running things even while I was gone. I think that our culture pushes women to be the Great and Powerful Oz (as my readers nicknamed that part of you that has a running track in your brain that lets you know when everyone’s supposed to get their teeth cleaned) and encourages men to earn money and play dumb around the kids (see: Huggies ad).

But here’s one great gift divorce has given me (and my kids): when he was given the chance to be the primary parent during his alone time with them, LOD absolutely rose to the task. He’s a zillion times better dad now than he was when we were an intact family. When they’re with him, I never worry about anything (unless I realize I have info that he doesn’t have because I forgot to give it to him).

FWIW, I’ve seen this a lot. Men who really weren’t on top of things with the kids when they were married rise to the challenge to become stellar parents. (Of course, I also see the opposite, that some dads just fade away and use a divorce as an excuse to do less and act helpless. I’d argue that that’s a matter of basic character, though.)

Think about how great it is for our kids to see moms and dads being equally good at parenting. And moms and dads both traveling for work and making it be OK for the kids.

I try not to be all “Eff Yeah, Divorce!!!” here, because I know a lot of readers are in the early, painful stages and it sounds too much like not acknowledging loss. But seriously? There are some massive, massive family dynamic benefits to a) being happy, b) being who you really are, and c) just pulling your share without the power imbalance and psychic debt load of being married.

(I’d also like to give an enormous thank you to my mother, aka Grandma Jellyspoon, who is taking the kids for three straight days in a few weeks when I have school for an entire weekend and LOD will be at a conference for work. I can’t even express the difference it’s made in our lives to have back-up.)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr. Confused permalink
    April 19, 2012 5:04 am

    I’m off to a conference for more than a week as of this weekend so this is relevant to me right now. I’m married (I just read this blog cuz I love Moxie) and I absolutely trust my husband to take just fine care of our kid while I’m gone.

    I have a colleague who does what the Times article mentions – plans the menu, leaves schedules, etc., and it just seems so wrong to me. It’s a pain for her, and more than that, it’s infantilizing to her husband. He can’t figure out for himself that the kids need food, buy it, and serve it to them?

    When either my husband or I travel, we just kiss the spouse & kid goodbye and trust that everything will be ok. The kid will be fed and dressed and get to school. We’re both competent parents. Maybe because there’s one less pair of hands the apartment might turn into more of a disaster area than usual, there might be a couple nights of takeout, and the kid might spend more time on her computer (giving the parent a breather) than we normally like, but nothing harmful will happen. The only thing I do ahead of time is spend a little more time with the kid so my husband doesn’t feel quite so overwhelmed with kid exhaustion (she’s in a question stage that is mentally draining) and to get in the love before I leave, and then similarly put in some extra parenting time right after coming home.

    I guess what I’m saying is that your need to control every moment while you were away and LODs seeming incompetence might have been part of your issues in your marriage, or one of the signs that not everything was going swimmingly.

    • askmoxie permalink*
      April 19, 2012 8:08 am

      Dr. Confused, I didn’t travel for work when LOD and I were still together, and I didn’t need to control every moment at any point (people who know me IRL would die laughing at that). From my perspective (and I know LOD is planning to write about this) I would have been happy to let him do it, but he didn’t want to. I really think the two of us were living out cultural roles because we had nothing but cultural roles in our marriage. And it didn’t change magically when we split up, but splitting up forced us each to do things we hadn’t done before.

      I’m happy you have such a truly joint parenting marriage. I couldn’t, now, imagine being in any kind of relationship that wasn’t like that, but for me it would really be about not being afraid to actually relate to each other instead of staying in my box because I was afraid that coming out of my box would expose the bad things.

  2. belinda permalink
    April 19, 2012 8:22 am

    To Moxie: You’re still sitting there in judgment of LOD; just because that judgment is now more positive doesn’t mean that you’ve given up your OZian pretensions.

    To Dr. Confused: my ex won’t give our son his prescribed medications (asthma), won’t let him have any snacks (ever), and skips meals regularly (during one 24 hour period he only made available a single bowl of soup.) How controlling do you think I was when we were married? We were divorced four years ago. When will his behavior stop being my fault?

    • askmoxie permalink*
      April 19, 2012 8:28 am

      Of course I still judge him. Just as you judge your ex. How could we not? If we were able to not judge that would indicate a totally different relationship.

    • LizScott permalink
      April 19, 2012 4:28 pm

      YES. This is my issue with the uproar from that article — in some cases, people control because they HAVE to. And I bet they resent it as much if not more than everyone sitting around judging them for it

      • April 26, 2012 6:28 pm

        That’s the unavoidable truth: to any co-parenting arrangement, a deadbeat spouse is Kryptonite.

  3. August 7, 2012 3:30 am

    This is a very inspiring story about co-parenting after a divorce. A lot of people who are in a similar situation will surely find this article helpful. Thanks for sharing.

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