Tips for working mothers to get time for themselves in a year without business travel

by Liz Benson

Lately I’ve found myself wistfully reminiscing with other professional mothers about business travel. Remember how, in the “olden days” before March 2020, travel was often a part of work?

Whether to an international luxury hotel with excellent in-room dining or a quick overnight domestic trip, travel was part of what many of us did regularly. Now, no thanks to COVID-19, it isn’t.

Yes, travel is tiring, messes up exercise routines and presents us with challenging dietary situations. But it also offers adventure, new friends, learning and the chance to form different perspectives on familiar topics. And business travel, specifically, affords working mothers two invaluable benefits: a break in the daily routine and time to ourselves.

It’s a fact: escaping the gravity in the everyday routine is tough. Most of us are up with an alarm at least five days a week to start a day of ferocious multi-tasking. When the last child’s bedroom light is finally snapped off, many of us have an internal debate between being so tired that flopping into bed is the right thing to do while the desire for time to ourselves keeps us up way too late. Only to have to peel our eyelids apart when the alarm goes off the next morning, so we can do it all over again.

Most of us could likely arrange with our partner to have a day or two away from the family now and again. Oddly, the guilt of asking for time for ourselves stops most of us from verbalising that request. Yet when our boss needs us at a critical business meeting out-of-town, we release guilt like a hot air balloon. With the family logistics settled, we’re spinning the wheels on the cabin baggage out the front door before you can shout there’s a Bolognese in the freezer!

Managing work and life is a hamster wheel in Groundhog Day. Few among us turn down the chance to step off that treadmill for even a few hours. The chance to slow down, breathe, think and catch up is tantalising.

Business travel was the perfect reason to break the routine and have time to ourselves. “Time to ourselves” isn’t necessarily swigging extravagant cocktails, boutique hopping or seeing a Wonder of the World. More often it’s simply sleeping beyond the alarm, enjoying a second morning cup of coffee or sampling a club sandwich in bed while watching TV and catching up on email.

With travel restrictions and evolving COVID-safe guidelines, most working mums can no longer use business travel as the reason to step off the hamster wheel. Obviously, we know that no breaks in routine or making time for ourselves is bad for our stress levels, mental well-being and general health. It drains our happiness, connectedness to those around us, our productivity and can unhealthily colour our perspective.

So, although breaking the daily routine and finding time for ourselves feels like one more entry on the to-do list, it is really important we do it for ourselves, our families and our work. As the end of 2020 approaches and the silly season looms, here are five ways I’m aiming to enjoy some benefits of business travel without getting on a plane:

  • Book time away. With lead time and planning, a night or two away is manageable for most families. Let your partner, family or friends know this is a gift you really need. Time away will never happen if you never start the conversation.
  • Re-balance household chores. Look for ways everyone in the house can join in the chores to lighten your weekly load.
  • Schedule 1:1s for one. At work, book time with yourself to protect some hours each week for whatever you need to do to stay on top of work and life.
  • Weekly Me Time. At home, plan how you can take a few hours for yourself each week, or month, to do whatever replenishes your mind, body and soul.
  • Productive time. Notice when you’re most productive and use that time for your best thinking and save the “busy” work for your less productive hours. This helps improve daily focus and productivity.

Do you miss business travel too? Have you found other ways to break the routine and find time for yourself this year? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Connect with me on LinkedIn (below) and share your ideas with other full-time women.