Motherhood and the business trip

Miriam McCaleb recently flew from Canterbury to Canada for a conference and describes the bittersweet privilege of work-related travel, mixed with family-related homesickness.


I don’t get out much these days.  I would describe my style of parenting as “attentive” or “responsive”, while my husband would say something more like “obsessive”. “Suffocating”, if he’s in a bad mood.

For me, putting my career on the back burner while my kids were young was not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing I could comfortably do. Again, I can speak only for myself when I tell you that I’d have been a basket case if I’d have driven away from them too often. Any joy I’d have gotten from working (and I LOVE what I do!) would have been squished by how missy I get when I’m away from my children. I’m borderline pathetic.

Yes, they drive me bonkers. And Yes, they are the cheese to my vegemite. The Maggies to my Marge. The loves of my life.     

Anyway, baptism of fire ... having never been apart from my youngest, I wound up going to Canada for a conference last month.  I was gone for seven whole sleeps. All by myself. Alone.  

And things were fairly optimal for the Little Girl. She’s four, and she was in her own house, with her own Dad in charge and her own sister keeping the routines consistent.  

And yeah, she was fine. Hubby did a great job of keeping the kids fed and regulated in my absence. They were all good. Me? Not so much. I was the one lying awake at night, not them.

Of course, the fact that I was at a conference dealing with child trauma didn’t help any. The heavy, heavy content colluded with my hideous jet lag to create a perfect storm of overstimulation and sporadic weepiness.   

Oh, the injustice! That I should wait years - literally YEARS - to rock a fabulous eye makeup look only to have it dissolve by morning tea time because the speaker was so moving that all in the audience were tearing up and sniffling.  

It is humbling to finally spend more than my customary three minutes getting ready (no breakfasts to prepare, no missing school forms to locate ... bliss!) only to be reminded in no uncertain terms that humanity leaves little room for vanity.  

Life, eh?  She has a sense of humour.

To close, I will try to rustle up some wisdom for my fellow mamas, should you find yourself with the opportunity to fly solo. 

  1. Practice answering the “what do you do?” question in the bathroom mirror.  If it’s been a while, you might appreciate the rehearsal.  I sure did.
  2. Do whatever you need to do to feel OK about the absence. I wrote notes for Big Girl and drew pictures for Little Girl (who can’t read yet) and put them in separate envelopes so they could get something from me every day while I was gone. Nerdy, I know, but it worked.
  3. Just because you can Skype doesn’t mean you have to. It can be really upsetting. Talking on the phone is fine, but also not compulsory.
  4. Take in the sort of mindless entertainment you would not indulge if the Impressionable Ones were watching. I watched fluff, pap, and drivel. And I loved it.
  5. Should you find yourself seated next to young men on aeroplanes (it kept happening to me!) enjoy a wholesome flirt, but don’t be surprised if they call you “ma’am”.  

Miriam is a former university lecturer and kindergarten teacher who now parents and writes in North Canterbury.
She encourages her fellow mamas to aim high and to simultaneously be careful what they wish for!  A spontaneous submission to present at the The 2nd International Neurosequential Model Symposium (aka a conference showcasing the work of one of her professional heroes, Dr. Bruce Perry from the Child Trauma Academy)  led to the faintly bewildering honour of presenting a workshop at this prestigious event in beautiful Banff, Canada.  She was surrounded by smart and compassionate professionals all working to support the healing of trauma, especially for children who've experienced a suboptimal start to their lives. She was so preoccupied with the logistics of leaving her family for a week (a whole week!) that she forgot to be nervous about presenting. Read more from Miriam at



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