For me, one of the strangest parts of traveling for business is how much it has changed me as a mother. Gone are the days where I am accessible all day every day, and it's meant I've had to give up on the idea that I can somehow control the outcome of things happening several time zones away. It also means that sometimes, when things go south on the home front, I end up having to parent through an iPhone. This leads to some seriously awkward moments.
Here is what yesterday looked like:
4:00 a.m.: Alarm on my iPhone informs me that, whether I like it or not, four hours of sleep is the limit. I drag out of bed in the dark, fumble around to find the "on" button for the coffee maker and get dressed in the dark, hoping that my husband can get a few more minutes of sleep before he has to get up to take me to the airport.
4:15 a.m.: I make a cup of coffee and say good morning to my husband who is now awake and drinking coffee. I mumble um-hmm's in my husband's direction, hoping I haven't distractedly agreed to anything I'll later regret.
4:30 a.m.: I dump out my untouched cup of coffee, realize I didn't tell my sons goodbye the night before and leave for the airport with a pang in my heart that I missed a goodbye.
5:00 a.m.: I kiss my husband goodbye and roll my carry on suitcase into the airport only to realize that our usually empty TSA line is snaking through enough velvet rope to host a red carpet event. I spend the next half hour regretting that I didn't get up earlier, wondering if I am going to miss my flight.
5:30 a.m.: I am at the front of the TSA line and hand the agent my iPhone to scan the QR code for my ticket. Why do I always worry that this isn't going to work despite having done it many times? She hands back my phone and grunts for me to move to the right. I wish I'd saved my fresh cup of coffee for her; she needs it worse than me.
5:35 a.m.: I join another line of people in varying stages of partially disrobing before entering the scanner so another TSA agent can finish disrobing me with their camera. I'm waved over to a rubber mat where yet another TSA agent asks if she can touch my hair. What am I going to say? No? She probes around my up-do, asking if there is anything under there besides the barrette she feels. No, I tell her, there isn't. If I was wearing a beehive, I'd get the question. I used to hide all kinds of things in my mom's beehive while she was sleeping.
5:45 a.m.: I run into a couple of friends who are building another tech startup in our state. We chat for a few moments about the challenges of building a startup in the middle of a desert -- and about the fact that we wouldn't want to do it anywhere else. I text a flurry of I-love-you's and goodbyes before boarding the plane.
7:30 a.m.: I land in another city and turn on my phone. It starts buzzing as almost three hours' worth of texts, emails, and social media interactions vie for my attention. I check my texts first.
HUSBAND: our youngest says he is too sick to go school
SON: Dad is trying to make me go to school sick.
HUSBAND: he is taking a shower but says he is going to throw up
SON: (litany of complaints about the unfairness and cruelty of his present circumstances.)
I sigh. You have to understand, this is an ongoing issue and due more to anxiety over a change in routine than to any real illness.
7:40 a.m.: I find my suitcase at the gate and make my way to a very long, slow line waiting for a shuttle to the main terminal. I decide it is time for some iPhone Parenting.
SON: (croaking and weak voice for effect) hello?
ME: What's going on?
SON: Long, dramatic story of how horrible his life is at the moment. His voice has miraculously recovered.
ME: You're going to school.
Strangers turn their head slightly, only hearing my side of the conversation.
SON: Impassioned plea for mercy. Gory details of throwing up.
ME: You're going to school.
SON: But I'll throw up.
ME: That's fine. You can throw up at school. If you stay home, you will lose your XBox until summer break. (By the way, I haven't thanked Microsoft properly for giving me such a wonderful bargaining chip.)
SON: Unidentifiable mumbling and a grumpy goodbye.
7:41 a.m.: The man in front of me turns fully around and gives me a nasty look. Another couple exchange a "look" and shake their heads visibly so I will know they disapprove. Another woman cluck-clucks her tongue.
7:43 a.m.: I receive a text from my son. He is going to school. The lady inside my head does a little happy dance and then sits down in the corner to feel just a tiny bit guilty about being such a mean mom.
It's a different life, this journey of being a CEO and founder of a company while being a mother, wife and daughter. But I'm figuring it out one day at a time and making peace with the realization that I'm going to have to do by making up my rules all along the way.
11:45 p.m.: I receive a text from my older son.
SON: It might be the food I made for supper, but I've been throwing up.
11:46 p.m.: It dawns on me that I probably sent a sick kid to school and infected his classmates and teachers.