The Mathematics of Work-Life-Travel Balance

The Mathematics of Work-Life-Travel Balance

by guest blogger Andeep Singh, documentarian and television and Web video producer

It seemed like a really smart idea. In fact, the math was so easy that it practically solved itself.

1 work trip to the Bahamas + 1 husband + 1 kid = The perfect combination of business and pleasure.

Work meets the family vacation. It was brilliant. Until it wasn’t.

Years before I was a traveling mom, I was a traveling field producer. There were the 12-14 hour long days, unpredictable schedules, hangry crews, pissy talent, unfulfilled stories and a producer with a plan and an American Express card when things got rough. Then at the end of the day, we’d find a place to have a drink and a great meal, discuss our artistic goals in this weirdo creative world and do it all again the next morning. It was awesome—even when it wasn’t.

But as single-me transitioned to married-me and then parent-me, work travel did not = a balanced home life. Missing school concerts were heartbreaking for all of us. Inadvertently losing track of time and forgetting to make a phone call home before bedtime unleashed major mommy guilt. And then there was the worst line of all time, “Mommy, please don’t leave me!” It’s gut wrenching. Like many working moms, I often think, how could I put my work ahead of my child?

So when the Bahamas came calling, I was answering. I had cracked the code.

If husband A and daughter B could have a mini-vacation while mommy C worked, how much fun would everyone have?

Turns out, very little.

In the mornings, I would leave while my daughter cried, tears streaming down her face, because I wasn’t able to go to the pool with them. After the day was done, I would come back hoping we could all do dinner but instead discover a manic child fighting sleep and an exhausted husband who really needed a break. And I was torn between being at work versus being with my family—again.

Then came my worst moment as a mom.

In the middle of the shoot day I went back to the hotel to pick up something. I turned my head and from the corner of my eye, I could see a small moving figure. She was skipping down the hotel lobby, flip flops flapping, goggles swinging, her towel swim robe flying like a cape. My eyes widened. I panicked. It was HER… my 4-year old.

Time froze for a moment and I became John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. The calculations presented themselves before my eyes:

Hypothesis A: I could wave, give her a big hug, listen to her ask me to join them at the beach and then inevitably break her heart yet again with the lame explanation that mommy has to work; which would then bring another round of tears and sadness and disappointment combined with the dreaded extraction process all the while my production schedule would crumble and the crew would go into overtime.

Or

Hypothesis B: Hide. (I‘m sure John Nash could have come up with a better option B that included string theory or some such thing, but quite frankly I didn’t go to MIT, so this is all I could come up with.)

So I hid. Behind a very large tropical potted plant. And I spied on my daughter through the leaves as she skipped, prophetical singing, “Let it Go.” Elsa aside, it didn’t change the fact, I felt like garbage.

I could imagine the therapy bills; hers and mine. However, after months of thinking about this, I realized that if I could do it all over again, I would actually do the same thing.

The truth is production life is exactly like parenting life; they’re both all consuming. So to do both well at the same time, just isn’t possible. Those are the laws and limitations of time and space. Family vacations only work when the family is together; and productions only work, when the crew is together. Ultimately, as I’m learning, it’s about your level of commitment, in whatever space you’re in.

So sometimes 1 husband + 1 kid at home = 1 mommy working on the road.

Math is funny that way. Even when it doesn’t add up, it can work.

AndeepSinghAndeep Singh works at the Rodale Video Network and has produced nonfiction television, film, and digital video content for some of the biggest networks in the country, including ABC, NBC, PBS, CBC, and A&E. She recently completed producing her first feature documentary film, titled Living the Fantasy, which follows the lives of six high-stakes fantasy football players. Originally from the Great White North, Andeep has a serious case of wanderlust, is afflicted with perpetual food envy, and is mildly obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.

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