Working Mama: Travel, Work, and Family

March 25, 2013 By Alexis Podolny Heald 0 Comments

This month our Working Mama talks about being far from family and how work and travel keep her connected to them - both in the past and in the present.

My family lives all over the bleeping world now, which is no mean feat considering there are only three of us children to cover it. My father likes to boast that the sun never sets on his “empire” of children. As we all live so far apart, the sun is literally always shining on at least one of us. What blows my mind is that we all got to where we are because of work. It forms us as a family, it dictates our relationships with each other (long distance) and it will be formative in the shaping of our next generation. Travel, work and family.

Many (maaany) years ago, I thought I was going to move to Spain and ended up here in Amsterdam instead. It’s a longer story than that, but that’s the abridged version. I never thought I would love this city so much - much less meet a fantastic dude, marry him and make a Munchkin. My parents are to blame for all this, and they acknowledge it. They fell in love with traveling at an early age – my father studied in France and my mother moved to Mexico after university. They took all of us kids on the trips they could manage, and we all caught the bug. Their work kept them from moving overseas ever, but they dropped everything and moved when they fell in love with a place in my native country, the US. It was this type of decision-making we took in, whether we realized it or not.

One of my siblings followed a career to Chicago. When it flagged, she sought sunnier pastures and moved to the west coast of the US. Her journey is the shortest one of the siblings, but it is easy to forget how gigantic the US is. It took them three days to drive their van across half the country.

Another sibling is in Asia now. She will never stop moving - having chosen a career in the foreign service that will keep her and her family perpetually on the go. It’s a great career for travel but not for those who like to nest certainly. She worked very hard to get where she is.

When I think about my family vertically rather than horizontally, I am struck that probably all the women have been workin' mamas in one form or another. My family lineage on both sides is neither prestigious nor particularly unique. As far as we can trace back, they were peasant, farmers, and merchants. Back not so very long ago, every mama was a workin’ mama. We just didn’t call it that. Work was farming or running the family business, as well as raising the kids and running the house too. In those days, there was no choice to follow a career, though I know my forbearers also traveled to where the work was. In their case, it was to greener pastures (literally) to farm or (less literally) to better market prospects in the United States.

We have been moving for generations - our families spreading and gathering like cloth - as we seek new and, hopefully, better ways to provide for our own. I try to take comfort in that when I’m beating my head against another wall of work/family conflict. I imagine my ancestors probably did the same thing many times. I know my mother did. I know my sisters do as well. It is the common family bond I guess!

Alexis is the mother of one adorable Munchkin and wife of OH. A working Mama and a new Mama, she writes regularly for us on the challenges of balancing family and work life.

photo credit: TitoRo via Flickr cc

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