How to Make Traveling for Work Easier on Your Toddler


After writing about Jed’s difficulties the last time I went to work, you were all AWESOME at offering suggestions for how to make it easier for him! I am looking forward to trying almost all of them in the future, but I know several of them will be better suited for when he is older.

One suggestion really stood out as something he could understand right now, though, and I did it before I left for work last week.

Credit for this goes straight to my friend Joy, a fellow FPIES Mama. During her stint as a military wife, she said she used this technique to great success with her kids when their Daddy was deployed. Thank you very much, Joy!

It’s so simple: take construction paper and cut strips. Then make a chain of construction paper rings, one for each day the parent will be absent.

Construction paper strips

Construction paper strips

I’d intended to have Jed help me make the chain, but in all the insanity of trying to get packed for work I ran out of time before bedtime. So I made it myself and introduced it to Jed before we left for the airport.

I couldn’t find my tape, so I stapled the rings together. Next time I make it, I’ll use one color only for the last day of the trip. That will be easier than saying “the second ___” every time.

I can’t believe how much this helped! Jed LOVED IT!!

Before we left the house, I picked up Jed and said “Hey, honey – do you want to see something really cool?”

Then I walked over to the chain, which I had hung on a wall sconce in the dining room, and showed it to him. “Sweetie, you know how Mommy has to go fly today?” I started.

He immediately grabbed me in a huge hug and said “NO! Mommy no go fly!”

Hanging on a candle wall sconce where he can easily see it - but not easily reach it!

Hanging on a candle wall sconce where he can easily see it – but not easily reach it!

So I told him that I had to go to work sometimes because that’s how we got the money for Thomas trains and cereal, but that I would miss him every second I was gone and would come back as soon as I could.

Then I pointed to the chain again. “Every night before you go to sleep, you get to take ONE ring off the chain. When you get to the second yellow ring, you’ll take it off, go to sleep, and the next day I will be home! Isn’t that cool?”

At that moment, he just hugged me tighter and reiterated that I shouldn’t go to work. A mere ten minutes later, though, he was over at the dining room wall, trying to reach the rings!

I asked him “Which color ring are you going to take off tonight, Jed?”

He looked at the chain, thought for a second, then turned with a big grin and said “Yeddow ring!”

Darrel and I laughed and told him that he had to wait to take off the yellow ring, that he had to start from the bottom.

Excitedly, he said “Blue ring!”

Every night I was gone, he would take off another ring before bedtime. Every day when I asked him what color ring he was taking off that night, he would tell me the correct color – then he would say “Mommy come home yellow ring!”

The whole week I was gone, he never once told me “Mommy come home!” or “Mommy stop flying!” (Though he did tell me “Love you, Mommy!” and “Jed miss Mommy! Mommy come home yellow ring!”)

It was such a relief to not have the guilt over being at work this last week, considering how everything else was going!

So there’s the tip of the day: if you travel for work and have young children who don’t understand calendars yet, make a chain of construction paper. That way they can visually SEE how close it is to the day Mommy or Daddy come home! 

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