Harden Jackson attorney, Michele Jackson featured in New York Times

Harden Jackson attorney, Michele Jackson was recently featured in a New York Times article regarding moms who travel for work. Michele was honored to have been selected to offer her insight for the article.  You can read a copy of the article below or link to it here: NY Times article featuring Michele Jackson

New York Times Article:

Amy Kossoff Smith, the founder of a parenting Web site, has a ritual when she has to go on the road. She leaves a printed itinerary of all the carpools, sports practices and games, baby-sitter hours and anything else her husband might need.

Michele L. Jackson, a lawyer in Indiana who travels for her international adoption work, said she leaves files back home for each of her children with information on their activities and their medical records. She said she also texts instructions from the road, adding that she is “sure to include some sweetness” for her husband in the note “so he doesn’t feel like an employee.”

Peace of mind for working mothers who have to travel comes in all sorts of forms. While working fathers who go away on business may use some of the same tactics, mothers are often the ones laying out their children’s skating outfits and freezing extra dinners before they leave town.

Ms. Smith, whose Web site is called MomTini Lounge, said children thrive on routine and structure, “so moms who travel try to minimize the disruption at home.” She said she jettisons any unnecessary commitments like play dates to streamline the family schedule as much as possible while she is away.

Single parents can find travel even more challenging because they have to hand over care of the children to a sitter, friend or relative. This is especially tough, Ms. Smith said, if those caregivers are not as familiar with the family routines. “Juggling these things might be second nature to Mom, but for the person who doesn’t do it all the time, it can feel overwhelming,” she said. She recommended making a list or sharing an electronic calendar.

Some working mothers said they also have doctor, emergency, school and neighbor contact lists. Others said they set up grocery delivery services and order drug store supplies online.

Technology helps, too, once parents are on the road. Ms. Smith suggested that parents follow their children’s lead in deciding whether to text, e-mail or go to Facebook. “If the kids communicate via text, then working parents do, too,” she said. “And every PC and smartphone is now a video conference device.”

Phaedra Cucina, the author of the picture book “My Mommy’s on a Business Trip” (DolceVita Woman, 2008), said mothers can show younger children their hotel room using Skype. “It’s comforting for a young child to see mommy in her hotel room waving and making silly faces,” Ms. Cucina said. Older children might prefer sharing the city sights with their mother via an iPhone pointed out the window of a taxi.

But while traveling parents may be tempted by the technology to check in often, Ms. Smith said they should not try to run their households from the road. “It’s time to focus on business, not making sure your son’s homework is done,” she said. “It can be a nice break for everyone.”

Ms. Smith also said parents should manage their family’s expectations before leaving. “Things may not run as smoothly,” she said. She said she advises parents to include children as part of a team, to get things done while a parent is on the road. “Sometimes parents come home from a trip and discover their children do know how to load a dishwasher or clean their own clothes,” she said.

Leaving a meal plan is another way for some traveling mothers to keep the home running smoothly, said Lauren Fix, an automotive expert and former racecar driver who traveled over the years for speaking engagements and automotive shows. She said she used to store premade meals in the freezer and refrigerator for her children and husband. Sometimes, she said, she would leave homemade cookies as a surprise or a pot of soup or chili that could last for a few meals.

As her children got older, she said, she taught them basic, and then more advanced, cooking skills so they could make their own omelets, rice, pasta, barbecued chicken and paninis. She asked them to do their own laundry and to leave the house “clean but not spotless.”

And while it took some nagging at the time, Ms. Fix said, now that one child is in college and the other will be soon, “it turns out that cooking, cleaning and doing laundry are skills their classmates don’t all have,” she said. Other students are “always asking my daughter how to get a stain out, or how to cook something.”

Laura Kastner, a psychologist and co-author of books on family issues in Seattle, said a family’s ability to function well with a traveling mother is also linked to its members’ attitudes. “When Mom loves her work, Dad is happy to contribute and feels appreciated, and the kids can adapt well to changes in routines, all should go smoothly,” she said. Parents who treat business travel as just another facet of life that needs to be managed “usually do just fine,” according to Dr. Kastner.

Problems arise, Dr. Kastner said, when parents feel ambivalent or resentful. “If Mom talks about feeling guilty, or Dad starts sniping about the extra load he is carrying, it can set off some bad dynamics,” she said, adding that she advises parents to approach travel with “resourcefulness and optimism.”

Some children are better equipped to handle things emotionally when a mother is away, Dr. Kastner said. “Kids who are resilient, can handle change and some adversity, and aren’t very emotionally volatile will go with the flow, ” she said.

Parents need to tend to emotional issues also, and younger children can be especially upset when parents travel, Ms. Cucina said. She suggested that the caregiver plan a special event like a pizza night while a parent is away so the child will have something to look forward to.

Some families prepare a calendar showing when the mother will be away, display a map or take the children to the airport to say goodbye. “These little touches make younger children feel a part of what’s going on,” Ms. Cucina said, and give mothers the chance to reassure the children that they will “be back home soon.”

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