Christabel Orwa Thuku, a wife and mother, and an administrative manager has recently been travelling for work. She talks about the tips she has learned along the way on helping her son, Eli, cope when she travels for work without him.
When my husband and I started a family, we never imagined we would work in different cities. Our home is in Mombasa, he works in Eldoret while I regularly travel to Nairobi for work. Our son who is two years and eight months old is in Mombasa.
My husband got a location transfer at first. It was a big change in our home but it was a decision we both welcomed. We would visit him every other month. Then in December, I was told that I would work in Nairobi for three days. I left very early in the morning when my son was sleeping to report to the SGR train station. It was not easy to leave knowing well that night would be the first I spend away from him. Throughout my entire journey, I kept imagining what he would think of me when he waits for me in the evening to come back home. Would he think I abandoned him?
The second time that I travelled again to Nairobi was in January. I left for two and a half weeks. I nearly resigned this time. My mother-in-law advised me to keep my job since it allows me to do the things I want for my baby.
I travelled back to Nairobi a week ago and it is becoming easier than the last two trips. Funny enough, he is not obsessed with me when I come back. He would welcome me home and the next minute he goes on about his business. But every morning he would follow me whenever I exit one room to another.
“Don’t go to work.”
“I will be back in the evening.”
He would think that I am going again and he would not see me for some time. As he gets older, he will understand when I explain to him about work trips and day to day job. I also hope to afford to travel with him and his nanny and get an extra hotel room.
At the moment, I have learned ways I can help him cope when I am away.
- I communicate with him throughout the day
I want my son to know that I still care for him. To be honest, he holds the phone for less than two minutes. He is busy living his life. Haha! I hope he remembers that I am still here for him in those moments that we talk on the phone. I talk and sing lullaby to him before he goes to bed.
- His days remain as normal as possible
We make sure to stick to his routine and that he has everything he always has even when I am far away. I want him to feel that a lot of the things have not changed and that gives him security. He likes watermelons very much and he eats them every day.
- Giving him with something to remember me by
Before leaving home this time, I gave him my computer tablet because, let me say, I was driven by guilt. I downloaded educational videos and songs to keep him busy and which will remind him of me.
- Having people who already know him around
I am grateful that we have a strong support system. It gives me peace, especially, knowing that his grandmother is around. If she were not, I do not know what I would have done honestly. It was important to have familiar faces around.
- I give him undivided attention when I am back from a trip
I make up for the time I have spent away from him. In fact, I spend all that time with him and lavish him with gifts. I have become conscious of the fact that it is easy to spoil your child when you are constantly travelling. I have found myself spending a lot of money because of the guilt of being away from him.
Although I have always wanted to work in Mombasa, work business trips are great opportunities in my career. I was promoted earlier this month to an administrative manager’s role. I am happy to see my sacrifices bear fruit. Being away has been a blessing to my child in many ways. He has learned to do many things. For instance, he was once afraid of the pool. I came back to discover that he went into a pool. This is a milestone that both my husband and I did not witness. He also eats better when I am away. I was happy to see that he gained weight. Seeing all these has made it easier for me to travel.