AP on the Road

by Emma on February 24, 2011

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Heading to Chicago, Summer 2010. (Flying as a lap child - enjoying a few minutes in an empty seat during boarding!)

My 22-month old daughter zooms around the living room like an airplane, making whooshing noises. “Mama!” she says, “Whoosh!”

“That’s right, honey, Mama’s getting on an airplane soon. But I’ll be back in two days, OK?”

“Uh-huh,” she smiles, and hugs my leg tight. She knows I’ll come home, and that I’ll miss her terribly while I’m gone – we’ve done this before.

I think there are sometimes misconceptions about how feasible attachment parenting is for working parents, or in my case, a working and traveling mama. But for my family, AP has been nothing short of essential to maintaining a strong relationship with my daughter and organizing our family’s priorities.

I work from home and travel in the U.S. and abroad to visit clients. In many ways it’s an ideal arrangement – when I’m not on the road, I can be at home with my daughter during the day, every day. But the travel… well, after Ruby was born, I dreaded the day I’d have to get back on the road.

My husband and I talked a lot about how we wanted to handle it. We ultimately felt that our daughter was too young to be away from me that first year. Nursing in particular was non-negotiable for us. I hated pumping (crazy respect for all of you who do!) and worried about my supply dipping during separations. My daughter never took a bottle (we never really tried), so in some ways that was our excuse to haul her along.

So haul we did. When Ruby was six months old, I started traveling again on a limited schedule. Bless his heart, since our daughter was born, my husband has used every minute of his hard-earned vacation to travel with Ruby and me on work trips. None of it was easy, and most of the time, it wasn’t even very fun.

“This is our priority right now,” we’d repeat to each other, when the packing, flying, hotel food, exhaustion and 1 a.m. hotel fire alarms (yes, this has happened more than once…) started to get to us. “Someday it will be different, but this is what we need to do for our family.”

At conferences and client meetings, I would race back and forth to our hotel room every two hours to nurse Ruby before my next event. I was stressed to the max trying simultaneously to be mama-me and professional-me. And though he loved the time with our daughter, trying to maintain sanity in tiny hotel rooms with a baby wasn’t exactly easy for my husband either.

But all the chaos has been worth it. Because we co-sleep, even at conferences and meetings where I hardly saw her during the day, at night my daughter would snuggle up against my side, tucking her fingers and toes under my body, and make up for not nursing during the day as much as she might have at home. Though I do work a full-time job requiring a fair amount of time away, I wasn’t away from my baby overnight until she was 18 months old. Our nursing relationship is STILL going strong as we close in on her second birthday.

I do travel without her most of the time now, though we try to go together if there are too many trips in close proximity to each other. She’s at an age where she mostly does better with keeping her routine and her surroundings at home, even though she misses nursing and misses me. I just pump for comfort while I’m away, because it doesn’t really matter if my supply dips. She still co-sleeps with my husband when I’m gone, which reinforces their bond and the centrality of his role in her life.

I am also appreciative that all our running around when she was tiny made my daughter a great traveler. She’s been to a dozen states and overseas. She is comfortable in new places. She loves flying. I think what she learned through all our mobility is that home is where the three of us are, not just in our house or our town. Home is the family bed and the comfort of nursing, wherever they might be located.

All this is to say that I am a firm believer in AP even for, and maybe especially for, working parents. While some see AP as a constant physical connection, what AP has helped us create is an unbreakable emotional bond that withstands even physical separations.

What about you? How important do you feel AP is to you as a working parent?

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Emma (4 Posts)

Emma is an attached mama to her wild, chatterbox three-year-old girl and sweet baby boy. Currently on a year maternity leave from her full-time work-from-home job, she can usually be found nursing, washing cloth diapers, mediating budding sibling conflict, cuddling with her kiddos, and catching the occasional cup of tea with a good friend.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Misty February 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I love this blog! Great to see the creative application and great lengths both you and your husband went to. It sounds like ur daughter is night weaned? I an bf a 16 mnth and cosleeping. How did that come about and did u do anything to encourage it?

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Emma February 25, 2011 at 9:35 am

Hi, Misty – Thanks for your comment! She actually is NOT night weaned… This is another big discussion the hubs and I had before I started traveling without her this past fall. We knew night weaning her would make it easier for me to be gone, but we wondered whether it was worth forcing her to stop before she was ready for the 20% of the time that I’m not here, when the other 80% of the time her nursing at night was fine. We did try for about a week using a form of Jay Gordon’s night weaning method, but it just DID. NOT. WORK. We were all miserable, so we stopped trying. The first time I was away from her overnight I barely slept and worried about how she and hubs were coping. Turns out there’s a pattern to every trip I take: the first night is a bit rough – she wakes up a lot asking for me and for “nummies.” The next night, and any night after, she basically wakes up once to come into bed with hubs and then sleeps the rest of the night without waking!!!!! Of course that NEVER happens when I am home, LOL. I am starting to near the end of my willingness to continue to night nurse, but our periodic separations did not, in our case, necessitate night weaning. I do think it helped that she was a bit older and able to comprehend what was going on better than, say, a one-year-old could have. :)

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Jen February 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Emma– Thank you for this article. You have described my situation almost to the detail. Except I have 2 sons. And I’ve been doing this for 4 years now. It is painful to be away from my children, but even more painful when it is asserted that it’s impossible to be away from the children and those who do so are damaging their children. (As if I needed more guilt!!)

I completely agree with all you have written. AP has made it easier to transition back, it smoothes (some of) the challenges of traveling, and has enriched my life and those of my children. I have children who love to travel, who can navigate an airport or a hotel like adult business travelers, and who have a spirit of adventure when it comes to being in different places.

Thank you. Thank you. And… I completely understand.

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Emma February 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

THANK YOU, Jen! It is so incredibly nice to not feel alone in the AP-working-parent world – I often feel stuck in a sort of limbo since I’m not a stay-at-home mom, but not a work-out-of-home mom either. I, like you, often feel (self-imposed) guilt on all sides – guilt for being away from my daughter, guilt for putting my career second (or third, or fourth). But sometimes, when it all comes together, it’s such a perfect scenario I couldn’t ask for anything more – like sitting in a pub garden in London this past summer with my daughter, husband and mother-in-law, enjoying a lovely pint of British cider, celebrating a successful work week, and still spending time with my family. :)

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Naomi February 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I totally agree! I work full time as well and AP has helped tremendously in helping my family keep our ties strong.

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Barbara February 25, 2011 at 2:21 am

Hello, I loved your post. My life has some very similar aspects so I just enjoyed hearing about AP from a mother who has other things on the go too. I often feel when I read the posts but what about the dad’s? Aren’t they parents too? So this post was very refeshing in that it makes it perfectly clear that dad is also a primary care giver. I would say besides gestation, birth and breastfeeding men are absolutely able to do everything a woman can for their children.

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Emma February 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

Thanks so much, Barbara. I love seeing the relationship my husband has with my daughter – they are very close, and their relationship is so different than the one I have with her. She and I are both extroverts, so we are constantly talking and interacting when we are together (fun and sometimes completely exhausting!). My husband is very quiet, and they can play and spend time together with long stretches of comfortable silence and independent interaction, a dynamic I have NEVER experienced with her. It’s so neat to see. :)

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Erika February 25, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I loved this post too! I am a SAHM right now, but it is looking like I will return to work in the fall when my daughter will be 15 months old. I think that being an AP and cosleeping parent will help both of us adjust to this change, and your post seems to agree. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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April March 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Being an AP parent is *more* than necessary as a mom who works outside the home! We’re fortunate that my husband is a SAHD. Otherwise the “guilt” of being a working mother might have gotten to me by now.

Breastfeeding was difficult, as was pumping, and those early months when she wasn’t sleeping well at night were draining. But the whole experience made me believe fully that you have the time for what you *want* to have the time for. I learned early that it was of utmost importance to me to get home, spend as much time cuddling with my daughter as I could, and spend as much time practicing our flavor of AP with her as I can.

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