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Summer of Change

Typical Summers

I have been working since I was 15 y.o. with nothing more than a few weeks of vacation every year as a break.  The only extended chunk of time I ever had off was when I took the typical 6 or so weeks of maternity leave after having each of my kids.  Even then, especially as I grew in my career, there was still never a true feeling of ‘off time’ from work.   There was always some project or some deadline to think about.  Having a whole Summer off (and truly disconnect) is something I had often dreamed about but never thought possible.   Summers usually consisted of me or my husband driving our daughter to Summer day-camp, then going on about our daily grind: work.  There was no difference in our day to day between the seasons.  It was all the same: work.  I actually dreaded summers because it meant having to get up even earlier in order to bring my daughter to day-camp and have enough time to get to work on time.

This Summer, however,  was different.  Really different.

Summer of Change

You see, I have recently been through a significant life change.  For the first time in my life, I am not working.  Yes, my blog is entitled “a Working Mom’s Guide” but this is just a temporary season in my life- like Summer.  While I admit that the circumstance around me not having gainful employment is something that left me with constant self deprecating recordings that play over and over in my head, there was one bright light.  It gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate where my passion lies.  In addition, it has given me something more than any job could provide: endless time to devote to my family and a Summer of memory making that I and my daughter will forever remember.

We started the summer off on a softball high where my daughter and her U10 teammates celebrated a Division Championship.  Quickly, we transitioned into a softball summer camp.  It was four hours every day for 2 weeks and I was actually able to drive her to and from without having to rely on anyone else.  I was even able to watch and cheer her on from the stands during the exhibition part of the week.  Being so used to planning ten steps ahead or thinking about all the work that is due, this camp was the first time I came to the realization that I didn’t need to do any of that.  I actually got to live in that moment.

Fun Excursions

It’s not to say I wasn’t looking for work, I certainly was!  But when I wasn’t, I was planning for or on an excursion!  We went to the beach countless of times – I always had a beach bag packed and ready to go!  Living within a half hour from the ocean, it is a quick car ride to catch some waves and rays.  The summer before, I was only able to get to the beach once- maybe twice- so we certainly made up for it this year.

I was able to re-connect with an old friend.  This was something that I hadn’t been able to do or I just never made it a priority.  We went on a mountain excursion to see some beautiful falls and natural swimming holes.  The water was cool and crisp and the memories warm and amazing.

Ella and I then practiced a mother / daughter ‘camp out’ in our backyard.  We wanted to make sure we could set up our site on our own while in the comfort of our own yard.  It was a success! We then went on a 3 day camping trip with the aforementioned friend and her grandsons.  Can you say girlpower?   My daughter learned to pitch a tent, start a fire, and not rely on technology.  It was the best three days!

We traveled by train to Portland, Maine where we explored all the city had to offer.  In the past, I have always driven there by car so it was a super cool experience to travel by train.

We visited The Mystic Aquarium and the Mystic shops.  In addition, we were even able to explore downtown Mystic and see the drawbridge open!

We visited a local science center and learned about some of the amazing animals we have in our state.   Mini-golf was on the list as was being able to participate in 7-Eleven’s free slushy day!  I took her and her friends to the movies, out to lunch, to arcades, and they had several sleepovers! My daughter also had a few day trips with her friend’s families and left me to my own devices.  I took myself to a Sunflower festival and basked in their beauty.

Looking Back

As I reflect on the summer, it was all about reconnecting and grounding myself.  It is about realizing what is important and what deserves my time and attention.  It is about loyalty and realizing that friends and family deserve my loyalty over a place of employment.  I have realized this summer that  wherever my search takes me, I will be looking for that career to fit into my family and life.  I will not adjust my family and life for a career.

If I could give this summer a hashtag, it would truly be #bestsummerever!

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Work Travel: Exploring New Places Alone

One of the benefits of some careers is the ability to travel for work.  I love work travel for many reasons.  That’s not to say I would want to travel 100% of the time, but I do like to travel about 25% of the time.  For my family, this number works for us.

Family Benefits

I love to experience different places, cities, and try regional restaurants.  I love exploring and taking in new sights.  It is also not to my expense so that is also helpful.  I view it as scouting for future family vacations and places to put on my bucket list for when I have more time to spend in an area.  Often times, I will FaceTime my family and give them a room tour, share my meals and usually bring home a little treat.  I try to share with them as much as I can so they do not feel as though they are missing out.  Technology is a wonderful thing!

Traveling for work allows everyone to develop independence.  Especially the kids.  I hear countless stories from coworkers whose children cry when they leave.  Their children are afraid of the parent not coming back or they feel abandoned.  My kids know I will be back and that I am working.  We talk about this alot and they understand it to be part of life.  So whether I am gone for a day or for a week, they know it is temporary. Ultimately, I get “me time” while my daughter gets ‘Daddy time’.

They also understand that schedules may be flipped.  We all get a better understanding of the various job roles around the house and this fosters a better understanding of everyone’s importance.  Like when my husband had to attend school’s open house alone or when I have to remember to take out the garbage.  It gives an appreciation for the family as a unit and for everyone as an individual.  It ultimately leads to a better balance for you as well.

Work Benefits

There are times on a work trip where there may be not much time to explore.  This is especially true if there are dinner events and meals scheduled.  It doesn’t mean, however, that it needs to be all work.  If there is any personal time allowed, try to explore.  The only two rules I abide by is 1) always be on time to any scheduled events and 2) do not overdo any alcohol consumption.  It seems silly to even write but I have seen many people not know their alcohol limits and pay for it both personally and professionally.

Prior to leaving for the trip, I will often check for things to do in that area or restaurants I may want to try.  Choose places close to the meeting center as so that traveling to explore is under 20 minutes each way.  Think “Uber-able”.  Yes, I made up that word but you get the idea!  If your meeting involves anyone from the local area, this is a prime networking opportunity.  If they live there, you can ask for their input or, better yet, ask if they would like to accompany you.  It is a great way to build relationships and foster collaboration.

Many times, I may take an earlier flight to the meeting or come back on a later flight to accommodate some exploring.  For example, when I have an afternoon meeting, I will fly out the night before and explore in the AM.  This guarantees I will be at the meeting on time and allows me to see a few sites.

Site seeing and finding out about a local area also gives you some great topics of conversation.  There have been so many times when facilitators or meeting hosts will ask “What did you do last night?” and the resounding response is “Sat in my room and worked”.  Boring.  I, on the other hand, will talk about the Museums I visited, the restaurants I tried and the shopping centers I explored.  It makes the travel so much more interesting and in turn makes me more interesting and helps me build my network.  It also shows independence, inquisitiveness, and ability to think outside the box and be confident wherever I am.

The next time you are able to do some traveling for work, take that opportunity.  With a little forethought, you can get both personal and professional benefits from it!

If you are prepping for a business trip, shop some of my favorite styles below:

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