Business Trips as a Single Parent

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Single Parenting and Business Trips

July 2000

I am the single parent of the 3.5 y/o and although I actually have not come up against this yet, I know that someday (in the next 2-5 years) I will have to travel for business/research purposes..for a few days and either not be able to bring my daughter with me or have to bring someone along as a caregiver (we're talking remote places). I definitely will forstall this as long as possible, but the situation presents some problems. Her father lives in Alaska and her paternal grandparents live near Redding. On the other hand, my parents (who live near San Jose) both work 50 hours per week. My roommate, who would be happy to help out, starts work at 5 am, so obviously cannot take her to preschool in the morning. How have other single parents handled this? I know there are lots of options but I don't know which would be best. The way I see it is she could go to her regular preschool and be watched by one of her regular teachers in the evening (I imagine) or go with my parents and I could find some kind of quality childcare program which will take her for a couple of days while my mom is at work. Also, she could stay at home with my roommate and then be transfered (at 4 am while sleeping) to house of one of my friendly single parent neighbors who could take her to school in the morning. I know she will miss me, and I will miss her, but I want this to be as untraumatic as possible. She has stayed at my parents overnight only once. She was okay except that they really couldn't get her to go to sleep. (until 2 am!) Any suggestions? What has worked for you folks in the past? Elizabeth

I have to travel in my job about 6 - 8 times/year or so, since my son was 9 months old; he's 3 1/2 now. I have used many different kinds of arrangements. Luckily my mom, who lives in So. Cal. comes up when I have to be gone for 3 nights. She's 77 and I know can't count on this forever. For shorter trips, 1 - 2 nights, I have a baby sitter who can do it at our house. This is expensive, but sometimes I just have to do it- 100/night. this involves getting my son from day care and taking care of him until dropping him off the next morning. When my son was a baby I used some friends who could do this for a night. Sometimes I can take my son with me, as I'm planning to do this fall for a conference in Boston- which has childcare arrangements and where I have cousins. I took him and my mom to Vancouver last Feb.

I find that my main goal right now is to keep my son's routine as stable as possible, have friends stop by that he's close to, stuff like that. I hear that this will get easier as they get older and start doing overnights at friend's houses. Hope something here helps. Mona

Single parent with 2-4 business trips a year

April 1999

I work full time; I'm a single, professional (research), custodial mother of a 3-year-old. I have 2 to 4 out-of-town meetings to attend a year, for anywhere from one to 6 days each. I've found that the situation is difficult-- finding childcare, someone to take care of my child while I am gone. I've already tried bringing him with me to short meetings (which I love to do!), but it's hard (with a child) to pay attention fully to the meeting throughout its duration). My child attends a childcare school 9 hours a day, Monday through Friday. I would need someone to stay at our home (or possibly take him into their home), and do all the parent things: wake him up, feed him breakfast, make him lunch, take him to school, be available if he gets sick (fortunately, this is rare), pick him up, feed him dinner, read him a story, tuck him into bed, and provide love and a fun and caring environment for him. My child's father isn't available to take care of our child while I'm gone. I don't have any family nearby. We moved a year ago, and I anticipate another move or two in the next 5 years, so I don't know a lot of people, and by the time I will have formed a network, we'll move again. Neighbors are not really an option, most are young and single (and have nightlives or jobs/careers that require them to be available 10 or 12 hours a day). I've joined a single parents group, but it does not (apparently) have parents like me whose one big concern is what to do when you need to go out of town for a professional meeting for a few days. I've talked around at my child's school, and I have not yet (!) found another single professional custodial parent. Are there any other single mothers (or fathers) out there that, like me, have out-of-town meetings to attend a few times a year; if so, what do you do when you need to be out of town for a few days? I'd be grateful for any suggestions.

perhaps asking any of the parents (or teachers, or assistant teachers) at your child's preschool would be an option, and offer to pay them or perhaps reciprocate for other parents. that way your child would know the person fairly well (and would have a well-known playmate if he stayed with another preschool family). the assistants at my child's preschool are college students and some of them do babysitting on off hours - if I had a similar situation, I would probably ask one of them if they could house-sit and child-sit for me, and pay them. Also, if you take him on short business trips, sometimes hotels have child-care available that you could take advantage of during your actual meetings.

A suggestion: think about changing your housing situation. Look for other single parents or a family to share housing with -- with the understanding that you will take these trips and that at other times you would be available to care for other children. We did this -- my husband, myself and our three kids lived with two single mothers -- one with one kid and one with two kids. It worked for the most part. I think it is easiest on the kids -- they stay in their house, in their rooms, with folks they have already been living with. One has to be willing to make changes and accept that alternate housing might be a good idea. You can find web sites for both co-housing and alternative housing that will help you find people and houses and communities. Good luck.

I'm also a single mom, and the only parent of my kids. In truth, I haven't taken as many business trips since becoming a mom as I used to, but they're not unheard of. It's very hard to find young, non-parent sitters to do what moms do -- I've actually had a few tell me flat out that what I do *outside* of my job is too much work for one person. What's worked the best for me is exchanges with other families. The easiest way is to try to arrange this with a family of a child your son knows from daycare, as you've been trying to do. Make sure you don't limit your search to single professionals who take business trips -- I've done successful exchanges with couples and with people who just need a vacation.

You might try posting a notice at one of the schools where English as a Second Language is taught. Berkeley Adult School is one place. Many of these students are here for a fairly long term and tend to be older students with a strong desire for family life because they are so far from home. We have such a live-in student in our household, and in our case, she's a mother who had to leave her son behind in China. She's very responsible and has a mother's instinct about what to do under a variety of circumstances. Surely there must be other students who are in similar circumstances.