Landmark Forum Leader and Landmark Education Communication expert David Cunningham wrote an article for The Livingston Parent Journal about balancing work and family life when one travels frequently. Here is the article:
At the onset, the life of the road warrior may seem glamorous: fancy hotels, frequent flyer miles, fine dining, exotic travel. But the down side of working on the road is also well-documented. Finding time to connect in a meaningful way with family members is one of the biggest challenges.
In the not so distant past, it was almost always fathers who were on the road, from the days of men going out to hunt to the days of traveling salesmen. Fathers were not really expected to help much around the house or with the children, so it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference. Times have changed, of course. Working mothers often find themselves on the road, and much more is expected of fathers in terms of home and family. The demands on everyone are simply greater than they used to be.
Travel can be exhausting, and road warriors often come home tired to an equally tired spouse who has been caring for the house and children alone and who may feel resentful about the time the road warrior gets alone. Children may feel abandoned and the road warrior may feel guilty, or the children may be ecstatic and disappointed with the road warrior’s exhaustion. This wild blend of emotions can be a ticking time bomb. So what can a person do to strike a balance between the demands of life on the road and time with family?
Here are some tips for keeping work and family life in balance and harmony while on the road:
Keep your word at all times. When you promise them you will be home, come home. If you say you’re going to call at a certain time, keep your word. You wouldn’t be late to a business meeting, so don’t be late calling your family.
Plan quality time when you are together. There are many ways to do this. Plan family adventures. Think about ways the time you do have a together can be meaningful and satisfying for everyone. Be fully present for every conversation, giving everyone a chance to talk, and actively listening.
Listen. Take time to listen even if it’s on the phone. This usually means being quiet a couple of minutes and really listening without interrupting. This goes a long way to making the other person feel important.
Don’t multi-task while you’re talking to family members at home or by phone. They can tell, and this erodes how they perceive you feel about them and their importance.
Don’t complain. When you come home, don’t find anything wrong. Instead, appreciate that your spouse or child has been running things while you have been away.
Celebrate together when you get home. Plan something great. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can be at home. You want down time. They want to be with you. Put down your bags, and give them all your attention while you do something they would love to do.
Some planning, time and commitment can not only prevent emotions from boiling over, it can also pay off in a big way. A close family with lots of sweet memories is a benefit for everyone. A change in perspective may be all it takes. Looking forward to family time as a joyful experience, rather than something akin to a business meeting, could be all you need to summon the energy to make it happen.
David Cunningham is a communication expert and seminar leader for Landmark Worldwide, a personal and professional growth, training and development company that’s had more than 1.3 million people use its programs to cause breakthroughs in their personal lives as well as in their communities, generating more than 100,000 community projects around the world. In The Landmark Forum, Landmark’s flagship program, people cause breakthroughs in their performance, communication, relationships and overall satisfaction in life. landmarkworldwide.com.