Author: Edward Maggard
Before we all get back to traveling the way we did before Covid, if that is even possible, it would be good to remind ourselves of the challenges that travel produced. Those challenges affected our spouses and children as well as ourselves.
One leader I recently heard about said that he had been traveling up to three weeks at a time. The problem was, he got used to it and found himself more and more detached from his family, and they got used to him being gone. When he was home he actually disrupted their routine. This is a pretty extreme case and it resulted in a job change, which is still a lot better than a family change.
Upon further reflection, perhaps this isn’t as extreme case as it should be. Many marriages have failed due to the relational distance created by work travel. Here are a few tips to creating and maintaining healthy boundaries regarding travel.
1. Talk about expectations.
Early in my career, my wife and I decided how much was too much. If circumstances called for going over the agreed-upon limit, we talked about it and determined whether the opportunity or responsibility was worth it.
2. Talk about the trip.
When you talk about why you need to take a certain trip, your priorities become more clear. It can be tempting to just go when you were asked to because it makes you feel important. After all, “if they are paying me to do this I must be valuable to the company right?”
3. Communicate when you are on the road.
Take time to actually plan this, and be regular and consistent. If you are physically tired, or just tired of talking all day, increase your energy level and try to enjoy the family connection. They can tell if you were just calling out of obligation. Ask about each family member and listen carefully for the subtle messages.
Here is an example we can all relate to. There is a big difference in a doctors visit when the doctor seems in a hurry and when he visibly relaxes and asks us more questions, genuinely seeking our well-being and wanting us to feel cared for. That is the feeling we are looking for when our loved ones call home.
It is tempting to bring our children something from our trip, especially if we feel a little guilty for being gone. This is OK on occasion, but if it becomes expected it can put emphasis on things rather than relationships.
5. For the spouse at home.
It is OK to talk about the plumbing leak or the children’s behavioral challenges, unless that’s all you talk about. Try and make homes seem like a place that is warm and welcoming. Share positives as well as negatives.
If you were a family with a strong faith, praying for one another while apart will do much to decrease the emotional distance. Plus, we can all use a little divine assistance.