Feature: Mama Writes, Mama Will Travel

If you are a mom who writes then travel is surely in your future. If you don’t believe me just take a look at this blog. Since March when Writer Mama came out, I have been hitting the road on a regular basis.

And here I go again. This weekend, I’m off to see the writers, the wonderful writers of Willamette (sung to the tune of “We’re Off to see the Wizard”).

Every time I leave, I make sure the needs of my whole family are covered and coordinate the details with my husband. It’s like some kind of insurance policy and if you are going to write, you’d better plan ahead and get yourself some.

Call for Back-up!

When I travel, I need back-up. It’s too much to ask my husband to be on duty 24/7 for however many days I’ll be gone. So I call up our playdate friend, Barb, and I call in some favors. Of course, it’s only fair to offer her some extra coverage in return. Does she need a break from her four-year-old son? A night out with her hubby, perhaps? Does she feel free to call anytime?

After three years we have a pretty good idea of each other’s schedules and what we each usually can and can’t do for each other. With no family nearby, Barb has got my back and I’ve got hers. Whose got yours?

Plan Extra Carefully

I go over my travel plans like Saint Nick. I make a list and I check it twice, even thrice. Why? Because the first time I’m thinking about what I need. The second time I’m thinking about who I will see and what they will need from me. And the third time I’m making sure all of this will jive with my family’s needs.

Think traveling is easy when you are married and have kids? Think again. It’s three times as hard. Maybe you can synthesize all the players in one fell swoop. I like my system cuz it works for me: cover the basics, check everyone’s needs, then confirm. What works for you?

Plan a Trial Run

Last summer around conference time, I didn’t have a book. I had stacks and stacks of manuscript drafts. However, I had enough clout to land some speaking gigs based on the credentials I had. If you land a book deal, you will probably have at least as much clout and I encourage you to flex it.

A bad idea is to never venture out until your book comes out because then you’re putting a ton of pressure on yourself and your book. I learned a ton presenting at conferences last year and I’m happy to say that my presentations are much better now, as is appropriate for an author (as opposed to an almost-author).

So, as soon as you land that book deal, or better yet even sooner, get your buns out there and be visible. You’ll be so much more polished later thanks to the real life experience today.

Learn Quickly From Mistakes

Last time I drove to the PNWA Conference, the water pump went out in our Montero just as I was merging onto I-5 to fly like the wind home. What did I learn after two extra days at Seatac that I didn’t plan for? I learned to never, ever drive my own vehicle further than an hour away from home when I’m traveling alone. If I’d been driving a rental, it would have replaced and I could have been home the same day. Instead I was stuck, unprepared and unhappy (although I tried to make the best of it). This year, you better believe I got myself a rental car.

Wean Yourself From Your Family Gradually

Speaking of that trip to Seattle last year. I very suddenly went from being gone for three days to being gone for five days—the longest I’d ever been away from my daughter. Fortunately, she was with her dad and had a regular childcare schedule, so even though mommy was missing, her routine was pretty much unchanged.

What surprised me was how hard it was for me to be away from her, especially in such an unplanned manner. However, I learned from my recent five-day trip to New York City, that planned or unplanned, it really doesn’t matter much.

When my husband unwittingly showed up at the airport without our daughter to pick me up, I burst into tears because I missed her so much. (He’ll never make that mistake again.) So I’d say it’s wise to know and honor your limits, both theirs and yours.

Or…Take the Fam’ Along for the Ride

I do not take the family along with me easily. We have two puppies at home, so for all of us to leave the dogs must be taken to the kennel and then picked up. Extra money must be spent. However, it’s not as hard to bring my daughter along, so long as I can arrange for support wherever I’m going (I did this on a trip to Third Place Books this past Spring). You might leave your child or children with family or friends. You might arrange for the whole gang to come along, including the pets (or hire a petsitter back home).

Here’s a few things to keep in mind before you unwittingly combine work and family travel:

Can you meet all of your responsibilities if you bring the family?

Can you maintain your sanity at the same time?

Will everyone be relatively happy about the situation? (Think win-win-win.)

Or does the situation have the potential to be a complete disaster? (It’s possible.)

Remember that traveling alone is one thing and traveling with the entire family is something else completely. I know of families who support mom’s desire to write. But I don’t know too many families who can maintain this level of support on the road. So be smart and take care of your professional needs first, then see if there is room left over to manage having your whole family around.

If the answer is “No,” don’t feel badly even for one second. This is your job, your work, your profession, and your spouse and most others who work have similar feelings about keeping home and family comfortably separate.

[Note: I typed this with my daughter wiggling on my lap, so I’ll fix the typos later.]

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2 Responses to “Feature: Mama Writes, Mama Will Travel”


  1. 1 Beren deMotier August 3, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Hi Writer Mama,
    Happy to talk to you at the WW Conference Writers Faire last night. Not only was it fun to promote my book, I got to sit down for a couple of hours–rare for any writing mama (my four-year-old has unaccountably fallen asleep while waiting for me to come read, so I am taking advantage of every moment).

    When we talked you asked how I wrote a book with three kids–15, 12, 4–and I told you that it was written almost entirely in the front seat of our Toyota Sienna minivan (I acknowledged it in the book) after driving for five minutes to get the youngest to sleep. During the two years of writing it, he logged a lot of hours in that car seat. For intense editing, I hid out in the Lloyd Center Doubletree for writing marathons (eating, sleeping, writing only), resulting in strange debris on the home front when I returned–why is it that working spouses like take-out so much?

    Thank you for all the work you’ve put in helping other writer mamas.
    Beren


  1. 1 Blast From the Bloggy Past: August 2007 (Warning—Long and rambling post, some nostalgia involved) « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on August 18, 2008 at 5:30 pm
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