British Columbia

On a guilt trip? How to keep your family intact when you travel for a living

Travelling for work can take a toll on parents and children, but there are ways to reduce the struggle, says therapist and author Alyson Jones.

Business traveller's guilt can be tough for parents trying to support their families, says therapist

Travelling for work can be hard on families, but it can also be extremely rewarding, says therapist Alyson Jones. (cjayneandd/Flickr)

When Caroline Alvarez got the call to travel to Toronto on business, it meant a week away from her partner and their 14-month-old daughter.

"It was a liberating thought," she told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's B.C. Almanac. "It was an opportunity to get a break from all the household chores ... and to get a full night sleep."

But as the trip drew near, the thrill of seven days without having to deal with dirty diapers began to subside.

"I started to feel the guilt. I started to feel selfish for making this commitment of being away."

Like many mobile workers, the insurance executive felt a healthy dose of business traveller's guilt.

But according to therapist, author and family life educator Alyson Jones, those guilt trips shouldn't deter you from travelling for a living.

In fact, when managed properly, they can help strengthen your relationships.

Useless guilt

The first step is shedding away some of the guilt," says Jones

"Guilt isn't a particularly useful thing. If there's things we can change and do differently, then we need to, but just feeling guilty about something doesn't really do anything," she said.

"What helps is having some strategies in place," she said. "There will always be sacrifice in whatever you do ... But there will be gains too — it's just a matter of managing the expectations and putting plans in action."

Jones says pinpointing the means of communication is a great first step.

Setting aside times for phone calls, Skype sessions, and keeping each other updated throughout the day over text will help overcome the disconnect that many families endure.

"We can literally be in each other's pockets sometimes. It's not that we can't see each other or say hello."

However, when trying to stay in touch with young children, she says you shouldn't shove an iPhone in the face of your toddler — instead, ease them into the technology slowly.

"We have to take cues from the child. For some children that will work, and for some it won't. It's just too overwhelming."

Giving back

Jones says it's also important to give back to your partner upon your return, especially since a week away from your regular responsibilities can be refreshing..

"You get to come back to the table with a lot more energy," she said. "For that parent that is left at home, it's also important that they have moments when the other partner is back that they get to do some things that are special, and maybe a little selfish for them too."

Giving your partner a chance to unwind will give them the boost they need, especially if there's another trip around the corner.

Jones admits that the needs for every couple are always unique, but you shouldn't let the time away deter you and your family from reaching your long-term goals

"There is no right or wrong way. It's about life, the opportunities that you have, the passions, the purpose that you're exploring — and then making it work."

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac