Travel for Dr. Mom

When my baby was 11 months old I had to leave him for just under two weeks in order to take a trans-Atlantic flight to defend my thesis. Because my husband had to stay home and work, and day care was not available where I was defending, neither my husband nor the baby could come. Given the situation, I decided the best for the baby would be to leave him with my parents. That way my hubby could continue working while the baby was with his grandparents (whom he adores). After work my husband could then play with the baby and put him to bed. The baby would be with people he knew and the routine would be almost the same (except that mommy would not participate in the daytime care, play and bedtime).

The period before I left was hard, mostly due to the guilt I felt for leaving my baby. This was exacerbated by people exclaiming that 2 weeks was too long to leave an 11 month old. Luckily my baby is used to my leaving for short periods of time. He stayed alone with my husband from three months while I worked on my thesis, and he also spent days with his grandparents and with a neighbourhood sitter before I took the trip. That meant that when I actually left there was no drama (for him at least). He didn’t cry or even whimper he happily watched me go secure in the knowledge that I would return. I got a little teary, but he was fine.

I heard from my husband that the first night without me was hard for both the baby and my husband but that after that the baby actually slept for longer periods than when I was home to breastfeed him. The first night was hard for me too, I cried on the plane, but after I arrived at my destination I was too busy to miss the baby painfully. Skyping every night helped too.

When I returned home my baby looked surprised and then happy to see me. He definitely recognised me and he came to me right away. In the end, only the nights were different. While I was away (and despite valiant pumping efforts) I lost my milk supply. That meant that the baby just didn’t know what to do with me when I came to him at night. I must admit that watching him hug his dad and not me in the wee hours was hard since the nights had always been our private cuddle time. But on the other hand I did get to sleep more while daddy took the night shift 🙂 In the end the night-hug strike only lasted a few days and when the baby came around and melted into me as he fell asleep, I enjoyed that hug more than any other.

Ultimately, I feel that keeping the baby to his routine and not dragging him across the Atlantic was the best for him and me. He got to spend time with people whom he loves and I left knowing that he was with people who love him and whom I trust. Oh, and I also successfully defended my thesis, so I’m now officially “Dr. Mom”.

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2 Responses to Travel for Dr. Mom

  1. Kirsty says:

    Hello;Well, I kind of found this post by fluke – looking for a paper from IOC 2006, Hamburg. Dr. Tieleman referred me to you, and here I am.I was drawn to the Dr. Mom commentary for two reasons. #1. I am currently in Year 3 of a Ph.D. program (Biology) at the University of Saskatchewan, and #2. I am a mom of two wonderful children, one of whom was also born in November of 2007.I read your post “Travel for Dr. Mom” with a mix of wistful reflection, empathetic frustration and laughs. In the first year (2005) of my research program I travelled to the Arctic circle to live in a remote field camp for 3 months. It was a remarkable experience, but a difficult one as well, as I had to leave my 1 year old daughter behind.Reading of your pre-departure guilt reminded me of how difficult my own separation anxiety was in that time before I left my first born. Many people also thought I was crazy/selfish/wierd (insert your own inaccurate adjective here), and I fought with myself regularly, reminding myself that this was going to be harder on me than it was on her. And like you say – it was.I missed her like mad and avoided calling home for as long as I possibly could (bad satellite phone connections just make things worse…).When I finally did break down and call, my husband answered the phone with great relief. Him and said baby were on a trans-Canadian road trip, having a grand old time, no drama at all. That was three years ago, and my little girl and her dad are still as thick as thieves. The time they spent together while I was away was incredible for them both. Looking back on it all, I am glad that they had the opportunity that they did. I learned that children are far more resilient than some people give them credit for, and that you can never underestimate a parent’s love and the ability of two people to work together.Anyway, I could go on for hours about the experience, but I won’t. I just wanted to thank you for your post. It was nice to hear that this experience of mine was not unique. Congratulations to you on your Ph.D. and may you have many more adventures as Dr. Mom and as a family!All the best,kbg

  2. Reading your blog makes me feel that it would be OK to get into graduate school. Thank you for that!

    My situtaion is complicated by the fact that we are expats and my husband's job involves a lot of travel.. But I am sure we will learn to adjust and come up with what is best for all of us!

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