I am leaving on a red-eye tonight and my husband and son have mentioned numerous times that they’re going to miss me. As I get out of the car and hoist my bag onto the curb, I look back to see my son’s sad eyes through the back window, and then he forms a heart with his hands. And mine cracks a little. Being missed can be painful when you’re a business traveler.
I’m only to be away for three days. But I feel guilty. Guilty that I’m leaving, but mostly guilty because I won’t miss them. It’s not because I don’t share their feelings. It’s because for the next three days I will be barraged with meetings and social events, problems to solve and victories to celebrate, and the stress of being in a noisy, bustling, unfamiliar city. I won’t have the time or energy to miss them like they miss me.
When I first began to travel for work, my children were very young. Each time I’d go on a trip and my husband would tell me he missed me, I’d translate this to, “Your travel makes more work for me.” That was a mother’s guilt talking. And after all, we’d always split everything 50/50, so I was my 50. With each trip, I would add one more layer of simplicity so his additional child care responsibilities while I was gone would be less onerous. But each time when I returned, he would tell me he missed me. Finally, I said, “I’ve put every detail in place so you basically have no difference in lifestyle whether I’m home or away.” He looked at me almost in disbelief and answered, “I really appreciate that. I do. But child care has nothing to do with it. I missed you because there’s a big void when you’re not here.”
My heart broke with shame that I had somehow interpreted this as a tactical issue, but then again at how sweet it was that my absence was felt.
I’m trying to get OK with being missed. I know it means I have people in my life that care a lot if I’m around or not. But some gifts are harder to receive than others. Now, my flight is boarding and there will be no looking back for three days. I text my son a simple heart emoji. That will have to do for now.