Work travel is an increasingly important aspect of the globalised economy. While much attention is paid to the costs and logistics of business travel, little is paid to its effects on close relationships.
Although such travel is not necessarily detrimental to family life, problems can arise when spouses and children feel abandoned. Dealing with the potential resulting guilt, loneliness or resentment is a challenge that parents manage in both creative and destructive ways.
Adjusting when returning home can be problematic as pent-up feelings may be released, good and bad. Being greeted with hugs from excited children feels exhilarating, but arguments arising from brewing resentments between partners can spoil an anticipated blissful reunion. Readjusting from hotels and digital communication to the intimacy of family life can leave travellers feeling emotionally out of balance.
One mother of three, who travels on average three weeks a month, says that in order to survive the time apart from her children she finds it easier not to think about them. “I miss them terribly, but at the same time my way of coping is to pretend almost that they are not there,” she says. “It’s like they are living in a parallel universe, but not one that I’m in at the moment.”
Her husband’s recent redundancy has made her family life even more stressful and she finds that travel provides a much needed escape. “When things are so awful, it is nice to be on another continent and to pretend that none of this is happening. It’s like your own little world that belongs to you where you’re not a mother, and you are not necessarily an employee, you’re just this person that goes and sees people.”