Motherhood is synonymous with guilt. For mums who have to travel often for work, this guilt is amplified. It’s a constant travelling companion for them because it’s always there, always lurking in the shadow of their love and devotion for their children.
Three mums who spoke to BDLife credited “the village” for helping them deal with the elusive work-life balance. For them, the village means their parents, super nannies and partners who offer their unconditional support.
1. Rosalyn Mugoh, Managing Director, Zamara Kenya. She's married with three children aged 11, seven and one.
Rosalyn believes work-life balance is a myth. She prefers the term work-life integration.
“How can you separate your life at work and life at home?” she asks.
Rosalyn credits her “amazing village” for her successful work-life integration. Her amazing village is a tight-knit support network that comprises her spouse, parents and nanny. Her nanny knows exactly what to do in case of an emergency. If any of her children need medical attention, she knows how to hail an Uber and get them to hospital.
She’s learnt to treat parenting as she would a business.
“Orderliness rules the day so we have lists and schedules. I work out the schedules in partnership with my support system. Besides, children thrive on routine and structure.”
She travels every two months to different parts of the world and each trip lasts a maximum of a week. Occasionally, the trips take longer but she has found a way of integrating these long absences into her parenting too.
“If I know the trip will take longer than a week, I plan it around school holidays so that my children and husband can join me.”
Rosalyn also relies on technology to help her be present in her children’s lives when she’s away.
“I FaceTime a lot with my children when I’m away. I do their homework with them. I pray with them. I take part in their bedtime routine too. I also show them around the hotels I’m staying in and it helps them feel like they are part of the trip too.”
But Rosalyn still has pangs of guilt once in a while. Her daughter once offered to pay her the money she would have earned while away so she could stay at home and it broke her heart. Over time, she’s learnt that letting her family know about trips in advance lessens anxiety and guilt.
“My children leave little welcome back notes for me if they go to bed before I come back home from my trips. They also slip in notes and photos of themselves in my suitcase and when I find them when unpacking, it warms my heart.”
She wants working mums to know that are doing their best and that is enough. And that they are enough.
2. Dr Stellah Bosire, Co-Executive Director East Africa Sexual and Reproductive Health Initiative. She has a five-year-old son.
Dr Bosire considers being “an absent parent” a perennial outcome of living in a capitalist society where parents have to work and spend long hours away from their children. Even so, as a mother who travels six to seven months cumulatively in a year for work, she admits that she sometimes struggles with the question: Am I a good mother?
“I have insecurities about not being there enough, of missing an opportunity to correct him when he's wrong, of him not feeling loved enough and of him feeling like he's all alone.”
She compensates for time spent away from him by giving him 100 percent undivided attention when she’s in the country. Before she leaves, she eases the separation anxiety by telling him about the country she will visit two weeks in advance.
Dr Bosire has a set of seven questions that she must always ask him when she calls home while away:
“I ask him about his day, his classmates, whether he was good to his class teacher and his friends, if he shared anything and if he did anything wrong and if he apologised.”
She counts herself blessed to have a reliable nanny she can count on to take care of her son while she’s away. She co-parents with her son’s father so the nanny knows to alert him about important school days too.
“I wish I could take him for all my travels but that would mean disrupting school, disrupting his social system and all. I never stop being a mother even when I travel, I'm still a disciplinarian! I still have to ask about his day at school.”
Dr Bosire believes that affirmation is the best gift to give a working mother and she wants them to know they did not make a mistake in choosing their careers and are just living the process that is their life.
3. Priscilla Muhiu, Regional Head, Glovo . She’s in charge of Morocco, Egypt, Kenya and Ivory Coast. She has three children aged 11, eight and four.
Priscilla’s biggest fear about leaving her children behind when she travels is that they might fall ill when she’s away and that she will not be there for them.
Like most working mums, however, she has a strong support system and this helps allay her fears.
“I leave the medical cards with the nanny and she knows what to do in case of emergencies. My mother also checks up on my children every day when I am away.”
She travels one or twice a month for a maximum of one week.
She struggles with feelings of inadequacy as a mother but finds comfort in the knowledge that she is working so that they will never lack.
She always looks forward to her children’s excitement when she comes back home.
“I remember a month ago when I came back from a trip and my eldest son was super excited to see me. He was jumping.” Her advice to other travelling mums is to maximise time with their families when they are around. They should also not beat themselves up because of travel.