The guilty travelling mother

Officially my maternity leave ended last week and with my first week back at work being on another continent I was kind of thrown into the deep end of motherhood guilt. Not only is there the guilt of leaving my 5 month old daughter during the day whilst I work, there is the added guilt of leaving her for 7 days and 8 nights. 

The night I left for Europe, Aviana decided to wake up 3 times for some unknown reason, where previously she has been sleeping through the night. Maybe she knew I was gone. Maybe it’s the 4mth sleep regression. My poor husband had to deal with that on his own, and throughout the rest of the week too she did not sleep particularly well. Aviana also managed to catch a cold, her first one, perhaps that had something to do with it too. Luckily she wasn’t teething too! That really would have sucked for Chris.

And so I feel guilty for not being there to giver her cuddles when she doesn’t feel well or when she wakes in the night crying for some unknown reason. I feel guilty my husband has the burden of sole responsibility, and it’s tough to catch a breather (because work isn’t really a true breather). I also really miss nursing her! It is an amazing bond but I didn’t think I would miss it as much as I have done. 

Having said all this, I have had some good times this week. I graduated from my 9 month executive development programme! Finally it’s over! I presented my team’s project to some of the most senior people within the organization (it was an amazing opportunity!) and received great positive feedback about my presentation style. Apparently I was so compelling I didn’t need a PowerPoint presentation, I’m not sure there is a better complement than that. I also had a bit of fun on our graduation night – it’s been over 1.5yrs since I’ve had more than one glass of wine in a night! I’ve also eaten some fantastic food-just look at this beef tartare and pana cotta…..mmmmmmmm. 


I know I have a few more trips away this year, and Chris will be on his own again a few more times. But that’s how it is with my job, I can’t avoid it. Almost everyone in my team has children, it’s just the way it goes. I’m sure we will figure it all out. Chris will probably travel himself at some point soon too for work and I will experience what he does. Not so sure how Aviana will deal with it as she gets older. Actually, I’m not really sure to what extent and how much she misses me right now. She can’t express herself obviously. I have a big fear of her going on a nursing strike when I return. 

So yes I’m feeling a little guilty right now…and very much looking forward to coming home soon and to feel a little less guilty!

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I guessed you were a mother

“I guessed you were a mother”.  The statement took me by surprise.  I didn’t realise that people guessed others parental status or not.  I had been teaching and facilitating a course all week long and he was a student.  I wasn’t sure how to respond.  Firstly, what was I doing that made me appear mother-ish?  Was it some words I used, the way I taught (which apparently was very good), my demeanour, my pouchy tummy, my mumsy clothes? I didn’t ask.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the truth!

It got me thinking about how I have changed as an employee since becoming a mother.  Has it affected the way I work and how I work with people?  Over the years I have taken the Belbin team roles test to see how I best work within a team.  It’s a 360 degree feedback test, so I invited several people to respond to questions about me.  In the final report you receive analysis of your preferred way of working compared to how others perceive you.  It also provides a list of words that others describe me as.  I had taken the test PRE becoming a mother and POST becoming a mother.  Within a 1.5 year time period people had described me differently.  The word “Caring” become top of the list since becoming a mother, whereas before it was waaaaay down bottom of the list.  That surprised me.  The word “Impatient” had also appeared on my list whereas nobody had described me as that before becoming a mother. People perceived me as analytical both before and after – thank goodness that hadn’t changed seeing as being an analyst is actually my job!

So what does this all mean?  That I have probably changed in the way I work – whether it was associated with becoming a mother or not, I don’t know, but I reckon it’s likely true.

Changes in 2019

I don’t really make new years resolutions. I’m not a fan of them because I would almost certainly break them and get depressed at not keeping them.  Most of the time new years resolutions are all about things I think I should be doing ALL the time (like eating healthy, sleeping well, learn new things, do exercise, take care of myself…blah blah blah)  However, I do like to reflect on the past year and project to the next.  There are three things that I am both excited and nervous for in 2019.

1. The travel trailer adventures.

    EXCITING! Late last year we bought a 32’ travel trailer and a 4×4 truck to pull it. The idea is that we can go visit state and national parks and enjoy seeing America without taking the need to take a tent.  I am excited for all the cool places we are going to see.  We are hoping once we have de-winterized it that we will get out and visit somewhere new one weekend a month with a few longer trips anticipated for 2019.
    NERVOUS! We are going to have to learn how to drive the truck and travel trailer. YIKES. In the US you don’t need a license to pull a trailer, let alone a 32’ one. The only reason we would need a license is if we were using it for commercial purposes.  There aren’t really driving schools that will teach you how to drive it.  That terrifies me.  We haven’t moved it anywhere from the campsite yet.  People say the best idea is to just get out there and do it!
  • 2. Organisational changes at Work.
    • EXCITING! Traveling for work has its ups and downs because it often involves transatlantic travel over the weekends. The good news is however I do get to visit new and exciting places.  I need to embrace this as an exciting point!  My team is also doubling in size and I have applied for a new position (a promotion) within it so who knows what will happen there, but I want to think positively about it.
      NERVOUS. Organisational change brings on a lot of unknowns, but as well as organizationally changing my job description has changed a little bit which will bring new challenges.  I hope I quickly learn the new skills I need for this new job description.  I have a few courses already under my belt and I have a few more this year to take.  I also suspect there will be confusion and stress through this change not just for me, but others so we need to tough it out together – I am nervous that colleagues won’t and work will become less fun.  I really hope not.
  • 3. Toddler Development.
    • EXCITING! I am looking forward to Aviana becoming more independent and enjoying more quality time together, learning about her personality, hearing her talk endlessly (she talks A LOT to us!!) and potty training (bye bye nappies/diapers!).
      NERVOUS. Potty training. Haha yes, I am also nervous about that.  We did actually try potty training several months ago but Aviana fell ill on the second day, she just wasn’t rising to the challenge as we think she can.  She has proven that she knows exactly what to do on the potty by peeing and pooping on it on her own terms.  She also spent a few days at daycare successfully using the potty and staying dry just before we moved her to the new Montessori school.  So potty training will come soon hopefully.  I am also more nervous about dealing with toddler temper tantrums.  Admittedly I think she started these several months earlier than 2 and I feel a little more prepared on how to cope with them (How to talk to your child is a great book for helping in this area)…but I am nervous that there will be bigger ones on the way!

    What are you looking forward to in 2019?  What is making you feel nervous about 2019?

    An unexpected visit to the ER

    Last summer (2018) I left my work conference in Washington DC a day early – I took the greyhound home because it was the quickest I could get back.  Chris described his symptoms to me…he was crawling up the stairs, his legs were extremely painful – inexplicably painful that he could barely walk.  He had numbness and tingling spreading up his legs.  Chris went to urgent care where the doctor couldn’t really explain what was going on, but took several gallons of his blood to test for various things including Lymes Disease.  The doctor sent him home and told him if it started to spread up his body to immediately go to the Emergency Room.  I made it home and it was clear Chris was very ill, with what exactly we had no clue.  It was all very worrying.

    The next day when Chris woke up the numbness and pain had started to spread to his hands and arms, so we sent Aviana off to daycare and headed to the nearest ER.  It was there that Chris was admitted into hospital for tests and observation.  The doctors were very concerned and he became that patient that would have had House M.D. appearing at his bed.  It was a mystery.  Each day they ruled out various diseases with tests and observations, new doctors and specialists appeared with their theories and hypotheses.

    It was very difficult for me to leave Chris in hospital and go home to look after Aviana in the evenings. It was difficult for Aviana to understand why daddy couldn’t play with her.  The hospital is generally a terrifying place for a toddler, beeps, noises, wires, strange people etc aren’t overall very welcoming.  I had friends who helped to look after Aviana whist I visited Chris in hospital.  Of course this all happened when our regular sitter was out of town otherwise it would have been a whole lot easier to handle.  It made us realise how far away our family is in a time like this. Of course we were all worried.

    Eventually Chris was discharged and told it was probably a virus and one of these things that happens. (Ummmm yeh, just one of those things???!)  When he became an outpatient Chris had some nerve tests done which confirmed he had nerve damage in his legs…and so was diagnosed with acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, also known as Guillain Barre syndrome.  It is basically an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system mistakenly attack the outside of the nerves and damages the myelin insulation.  It is often triggered by an infection of some sort (he had some kind of stomach bug thing a few weeks before), but it can happen to anyone, anytime. They don’t know why it happens. Scary. Chris was told his recovery could take from 6 months to a year.  He was off work for several weeks, exhausted as he slowly gained his strength back.  He also suffered from a lot of ‘brain fog’ as well, so mentally he has had to build his strength back up before going back to work. There are still unknowns if this would ever come back again (chronic form), but so far, it’s looking promising.

    Chris was lucky that this did not spread further to their parts of his body and that the damage did not require him to need physiotherapy nor need much longer hospitalization.

    So that’s where I was and where I went to.  It was a crazy summer and I decided to take some time off blogging to focus on my family.  Then I got busy with learning how to sew and knitting blankets for local families who lose their babies (that’s another story for later).

    I miss blogging but I have also been thinking very carefully about this blog and what I write about here.  At the forefront of my mind has been Aviana’s privacy, especially after reading an article about a kid asking her mother to stop blogging about her and her mother refusing to.  I don’t want to be that kind of parent, but at the same time I want to share my experiences as a parent. So I will return to this blog!

    (Ps. the post I posted the other day was SOOOOO old and incomplete, sorry about that- I have a lot of draft posts I have yet to finish!  My goal is to finish them within the month!)

    Goodbye 2018, you have been full of highs and lows.  Hello 2019 – what will you bring us this year??

    Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

    The sickiness

    It just HAD to happen the two weeks I was away on work travels.  Before I left Chris got really ill with some kind of respiratory infection…and of course it had to happen when snowmageddon happened.  Chris was due to travel, but he was too ill and then we had 9” of snow!  This meant I had to look after Aviana whilst daycare was shut and Chris was a poorly bunny tucked up in bed.  We have some wonderful friends who came to our rescue who walked through the snow to our house and helped clear our driveway so I could get out and drive Chris to Urgent Care.  The day after Chris’s trip to urgent care I was due to fly to California.  With all the snow I was mostly expecting for my flight to be cancelled/delayed.  But in the end my flights went smoothly, despite the snow, and so off I went to California leaving sick Chris to look after Aviana.  Chris had some extra help from our sitter on a couple of evenings.  They survived, but Chris was exhausted, still recovering from his respiratory infection.

    I came home for 24 hours at the weekend and then I was off again,  but this time to Paris.  After I made it to my hotel I received a sitrep that Aviana was not acting her usual self.  Either she was acting strange because I had left or she was getting ill.  It turned out she was getting ill.  Chris was sending me pictures and videos of Aviana looking incredibly sorry for herself.  She couldn’t sleep lying down or on her own and just cried and cried.  Poor Chris stayed up most of the night with her sleeping upright on him.  Worried about her labored breathing he took her to urgent care.  She had Bronchiolitis and sores in her mouth, it was viral so there was very little that could be done to help her recover quicker except for rest, cuddles and fluids.  The sores in her mouth meant she wouldn’t eat any food except for yoghurt, blueberries and chocolate ice cream.  Haha, yes we resorted to the ice cream (my idea ice cream, chocolate was Chris’s idea!!!).   Poor love, she was in so much pain.

    Chris was due to travel for a couple of days for work, but the doctor said Aviana couldn’t come in contact with other children until 48hrs after her fever had gone….which wouldn’t have been a problem except our sitter works with other children so that meant she couldn’t have Aviana.  I offered to come home, but that would have been too late for Chris to travel, so he cancelled his work trip and stayed home with her for the rest of the week.  Of course, it was impossible for him to work at home with a sick baby and he doesn’t get much leave as it is.  It was just so typical – I have 8 days of leave I carried over from last year…I’m the one with all the leave and I wasn’t there to help!

    By the time I got back from Paris Aviana was feeling better and almost back to her normal self; she still has a bit of a chesty wheeze and a runny nose, but she’s a million times better than she was.  Then of course I woke up with some weird chesty cough, I haven’t had a cold so it came out of nowhere.

    I think we are done with January and the sickiness.  Can we just start the new year again please?!

    Entrepreneurship and being a mother

    So this entrepreneurship bootcamp I’ve been on this past week was amazing and inspiring.  We had various successful entrepreneurs talk to us, some of the best ones were the founder of mixbook (Andrew Laffoon), founder of Guitar Hero (Charles Huang) and Anastasia Neddersen founder of Artveoli.  There was something very interesting I found about their talks.  They all mentioned having children.  Having children didn’t stop them from becoming entrepreneurs.  In fact, Anastasia said that you should not wait to have children, which was amazing to hear.

    guitar hero

    Charles Huang – if he listened to these potential investors guitar hero would never have been

    What was just as amazing was a student in the class who brought her 6 month old daughter with her for the whole week.  It wasn’t until day 2 that I noticed her sat in the back bouncing her daughter to stop her from crying!  I went up to talk to her and tell her how amazing she is as well as how darn cute her daughter is (BTW – not all babies are cute to me, but this one was seriously cute).   There were times that she had to leave the class briefly to attend to her daughter, but I think she was there for about 90% of the class.  KUDOS.  This lady isn’t going to let having a child hold her back in life!

    berkeley method for entrepreneurship bootcamp

    Entrepreneurship – Baby won’t hold this mamma back in achieving her goals!

    Only 5% of tech startups are founded by women, yet around 25% of engineering and computer science graduates are women.  How can there be such a difference?  Why is it like this? How much does ‘being a mother’ play a role? Do women really wait? I mean, I get it, it is hard to take time off work to have a baby when you run your own business!  But are there other reasons?  There has to be!?!

    gather

    My startup team for the week – these guys are going to go far in their lives, they were super smart! #alwaysbethedumbestguyintheteam

    That smile

    Whilst I was away traveling with work Chris sent me regular photos of Aviana.  In the photos I noticed little new things she was doing.  Notably, walking with more confidence.  One photo in particular, she had a beaming smile.  The smile seemed so genuine.  She was smiling at our cat Diesel, saying hello to him first thing in the morning.  My heart melted.  I felt massively home sick.

    I drove home with bleary eyes after my red eye flight back from San Francisco, trying not to speed or shout at slow people because all I wanted to do was get a big hug from my family as soon as possible.  I wondered whether Aviana would be mad at me for leaving her all week, or if she would ignore me or worse, not remember who I am. When I got home Aviana was in bed napping.  Typical.  And so when I heard her talking away to herself in her crib I excitedly went into her room and surprised her.  I leaned over her crib and smiled and she gave me that huge big beaming smile I had seen in the photo.  I smiled even harder.  I just wanted to cry with happiness.

    Something had definitely changed with her in the last week, this smile was meaningful and conveyed something.  I felt like she was communicating with her smile, I think she has learned that she can make other people smile with her smile.  How cool is that?

    Mompreneur? Nope.

    Mompreneurs – let me just say NO.  Boss Babes – a definite NO. Why?  Because you wouldn’t catch a man calling himself a dadpreneur or Boss Dude.  Sorry, it’s been bothering me since I caught sight of the term yesterday.  End of Rant.

    It is actually a coincidence I speak of Mompreneurs because I am on day 1 of the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship bootcamp in California Much of the week we will work through the method for a startup.  I am not sure how I ended up here with work, but I am feeling very lucky to be here.  50% of the class are Berkeley students so at the grand age of 35 I am feeling pretty mature in this class!  But at the same time I am already in love with their youthful ambitions and energy.  Their lives are not so complicated yet.

    Oh to be young and uncomplicated! We had an ice breaker session where we asked each other 2 questions to get us to learn about the importance of trust.  The first question was – what is your secret love? (person, thing, action) and second question – what have you failed at?  And what did you learn?  I chuckled as some of the students answered – not getting on their college sports team, or, not getting a job.  Ahhhh so young and naive.

    Today 30 people were given 1 minute to pitch their idea for a startup.  Some of these people were already a business, but embryonic.  Only 20 ideas would be taken forward, the rest of the class had to figure out which of these 30 ideas they wanted to with.  As they pitched I noted down 5 great ideas that interested me, a couple that were exceptional and I truly believed they would be successful (Note to self, take mental note of the names of these people!), a few pitches were just plain awful, and the rest I was indifferent about.  In the end one pitch stood out for me.  The idea was still embryonic, the guy who pitched it had passion and came across as smart, but he didn’t articulate his idea particularly well because he hadn’t really nailed down what exactly he wanted to do.  This was the part I found intriguing.  We had 30 minutes to meet with the people who pitched their ideas to determine if we wanted to be part of their team (and if the wanted us too!).  Interestingly, he attracted to his team a diverse group of people with a range of skills…this is what is emphasised heavily in the bootcamp.  Diversity makes for a winning team.  A good example is Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg

    I am probably the oldest in the team and the only parent so I am intrigued how these factors will make a difference this week.  May be some day I will be an entrepreneur, my time is not up just because I am 35. No.  Age is not a factor (although experience may be) And you can be a parent and still be an entrepreneur.  I do think that risk taking is likely to reduce and may mean that the bang for buck might not be as good.  That’s just a gut feeling – a bias may be, it’s not a statement of fact.  But it is definitely an interesting issue I’m going to keep an eye on this throughout the week….How much does being a parent influence entrepreneurship?

    By the way, as this all goes on Aviana is getting better at walking, I am sure I will come back home after this week to a true walking toddler! It has also been a while since I travelled away from home, so it will be interesting to see her response to me not being there and me returning for 24 hours before heading off to Paris for another week.  The guilt is real.

    On the go again

    I am on work travels again, this time without Aviana or Chris, in Bavaria, Germany.  And so far my week has not been the greatest, although in terms of work it has been a successful trip.

    Firstly, no one was at the airport to pick me up when I arrived in Germany and I didn’t have a number to call.  So I waited for 45 minutes and decided that no one was coming, and decided to drag my huge ass bag for 3 hours on the train.  Changing twice in the early morning after a red eye flight from the US was killer.  And it was on a Sunday.  I had to stay awake because I needed to make sure I changed at the right stops!  I was PISSED by the end of my journey.  Then, where there was supposed to be a bus at the train station, there was none, so I had to walk 15 minutes dragging my suitcase across cobble stones to my hotel.  I was desperate for some sleep, but I needed to pump and shower.  So I was pretty grumpy at this fact.

    When I opened up my bag to unpack I discovered that the lovely TSA had searched my bag – and of course, what was of interest to them was my cooling unit box that I had packed to use on my return journey to carry my week’s pumped breast milk.  With great ineptitude, they repacked it the wrong way up which resulted in the ‘on button’ for the cooling unit to depress.  It is a one time use only packaging so it was now useless.  I had cut down on my packing just to fit this cooling box in my suitcase so I could carry my milk home.  But the STUPID TSA can’t replace something the way it was – there were even TWO sets of instructions in case they were really confused.

    I cried.  I ugly cried.  I was exhausted.  I was fed up of pumping.  I just cried for 15 minutes hard..  I cried in the shower, I cried whilst I pumped.  By the time I was done crying over my ‘not possible to have a spilt milk problem’ it was time to meet my colleagues to do some work in the afternoon.

    The day prior to flying I had to take a day off work because I had a horrible cold and wanted to rest and get better for my work trip.  However, no one ever told me that flying with a stuffed up nose was stupid.  So here is my advice to you…DON’T EVER FLY WITH A BAD COLD! My right ear and my sinuses were in a huge amount of pain after landing in Germany.  I later ended up with a sinus infection for the rest of the week and it was bloody gross.  I mean, I have never seen such vast amounts of thick green and yellow snot before. I guess I have been lucky enough in my life to never had sinus problems before, but geeeeeees that hurts!  I wasn’t taking any cold meds because most meds have menthol in which kill breast milk supply.  Considering I am barely pumping 6 oz a day right now I thought it would be stupid to kill off what I have left.  So I suffered with just paracetamol/Tylenol to help.

    At least I wasn’t at home being sick on my family!  However, being ill in a hotel SUCKS!  And then the added pressure to work after travelling so far for a specific event.

    On top of all that, jet lag was kicking me in the butt and I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 1 am every night, and then being up at 6 am for work.  There were several mornings when I thought I just couldn’t face getting out of bed.  One night I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like death was at my door and I thought I had a terrible fever and that I might need to go to hospital.  So I actually grabbed my clothes just in case I needed to urgently get to the emergency room!  I may have been a little delusional at that point, but it was a rough night.

    I survived the week, I turned up to work every day and made it through some how.  If it hadn’t been for my awesome colleagues I probably wouldn’t have made it through!

    And so the end of the week came…I thought it was all over.  But no.  About 1.5hrs into my return trip to the hotel airport on the mini bus I realised I had left my passport in the hotel safe.  Luckily I wasn’t flying until the next day, so I planned how I could get my passport back.  It involved a favour from a colleague to pick it up for me and meet me at the train station. I dumped my bag at the airport hotel and then spent more than 6 hours on the train to and from the hotel where I had left my passport at…. this was time when I should have been sight seeing, shopping and catching up with a friend in Munich.  But at least I got the passport back in time!  Stupid idiot.  I blame my sinus infection really.

    On top of all that I was missing Aviana a lot.  Chris was also doing some work travels this week, so my mum has come out to help out for a couple of weeks.  Thankfully!!!  But with the travel to the UK and us being away I feel kind of bad for Aviana.  I know she is just fine and happy with granny and still going to daycare.  I just need to figure out how I reconcile the whole traveling for work thing.

    It’s going to take some practice I think!

    A Very Scary Moment

    I kissed Chris goodbye as his eyes welled up with tears and I tried to hold back mine. Aviana completely unaware she wouldn’t see daddy for two weeks, she giggled. With a stroller loaded with bags and Aviana in the meh Dai wrap in my front…I rocked it through airport security like a pro. (It is much easier to hold a baby in a carrier when going through security, getting a baby in and out of a stroller, sorting out personal items through the X-ray scanner with baby in one hand).

    Once through security we still had 1.5 hours to kill until boarding despite getting held up in traffic en route to the airport and taking a while to get all checked in (one of my bags was over weight 😳 ooops!). That doesn’t sounds so bad, but if you have ever flown from Norfolk International you would know that time would drag because there is absolutely nothing interesting in departures. So with baby on my front, I pushed the stroller around hoping Aviana would fall asleep before we got on the plane. I walked all around the quiet areas, rocking and swaying trying to get her to nap on me. Just as Aviana fell asleep, suddenly, the airport fire alarm went off making high pitched beeps every 2 seconds, there was all sorts of excitement and confusion as a fire engine headed towards the building – uhoh. So that killed some time and kept Aviana awake for a bit longer. Typical. False alarm. Finally, exhausted she passed out, so I headed to the gate and waited patiently to board.

    And then it happened…I kissed Aviana’s head whilst she slept with her head tilted back up at me. It was cold. So cold I panicked. I almost screamed out loud there and then WAKE UP AVIANA, PLEASE NO, DONT DIE! I put my arms around her and I couldn’t feel the rise and fall of her chest. She didn’t squirm or move like. I freaked and shoved my hand down to her neck to feel for a pulse. She was alive, but I could barely feel her breath on me, had she stopped breathing by sleeping in that position? Her skin was so cold I quickly scrambled to untie the carrier and threw it off like it was made of fire. And then….she moved. Her eyes opened for a second, as if to say ‘What the hell are you doing waking me up!!’ And they closed again back to sleep. Thank god, I cried a bit in relief!

    Aviana – you freaked the HELL out of me. For a slight moment I felt like I had lost you, my heart suddenly felt like it would fall out on to the floor and my gut wrenched. It was awful. Please don’t do that again!!!