Working Vacations: Be Honest About It with Your Kids

By Josie Brown

Summertime, and the livin’ ain’ t so easy any more. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, 71.3 percent of all women with children work out of the home. In fact, in households with two parents, 4 percent or 963,000 moms were the only parent in the labor force.

And of the 10.4 million single-mother families, 80% of single mothers are employed, with 50% working full-time and 30% working part-time.

For those single moms who do work, any vacation time with their children — especially if it is paid for — is a welcomed respite from the daily grind. It’s a chance to share experiences, create lifelong memories, have long, insightful conversations.

Can the same be true for a working vacation?

That depends on a lot of variables: the amount of time you’ll actually have with your children v.s. away from them appeasing your boss or clients; what you’ll be doing with the time; and above all, careful planning you take to assure that both you and your children et the most out of this small window of precious time.

A very visible mother is taking her working vacation in the public eye: Sarah Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate, is on her “One Nation Road Trip“, a cross-country bus tour with some of her brood and extended family. Dismayed at the media frenzy around them, one of her children– her nine-year-old daughter,  Piper Palin, shoved Time magazine photographer Dima Gavrysh and mumbled, “Thanks for ruining our vacation.”

The fact that her mother has been wearing suits during much of their trip should have been a tip-off that this wasn’t a typical family outing.

Then again, maybe Ms. Palin should have told her this up front.

If holding onto your job (or writing off some down time) while on the road means  mixing work with play over the next few months, here are a few tips for keeping your sanity–and keeping your kids happy:

1. Tell the kids the truth.
Let them know that you’ll be spending a part of your days (or nights) away from them. Explain what you’ll be doing, when you’ll be doing this, how long you’ll be gone.

2. Planning is key.
Set up your work appointments in advance, and confirm them a few days out. On the days in which you have a work item, make sure that whatever you’ve planned with your children is a flexible event: in other words, that there is no set time you have to be there, such as advance ticket purchases for an planetarium or aquarium show.

Most importantly, save all the fun stuff for when you — and not a babysitter — can enjoy it with them.

3. When you’re away, make sure your children know who will be in charge.
Is it a trusted friend, or a pre-arranged professional baby sitter? Is it a teen sibling, or a teen cousin? Whomever you choose, they should know that this person will uphold your rules: bedtime, TV time and other agreed-upon activities will be followed; and your stand-in should be obeyed, and treated with the utmost respect.

4. Be sure your children and their caretaker can reach you–and under what circumstances they should do so.
This should not include acting as referee over who controls the TV remote control.

5. When it’s time to be with your children, don’t be on the phone with clients.
Your children should have the same quid pro as your clients or boss. Office calls can go into voice mail, and you can respond to any emails and texts after you’ve enjoyed your activities with your children.

6. Again, be prepared.
Take along toys, books, and interactive games, such as puzzles, that will keep your children busy when you aren’t at their side. Be sure to bring still and video cameras, so that you can record your time together.

And every night, have conversations with them about the most memorable parts of your days. What event that day tickled their funny bone, or made the greatest impression on them?

How they answer will enlighten you, and fill you with pride.

No doubt about it, these will be some of your most heartfelt memories.


Josie Brown is’s Relationships Channel Editor. Her most recent novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, is in bookstores everywhere.

Her next novel, The Baby Planner, is  in bookstores now. You can read an excerpt here…

More SMW Articles

Are You a Wedding Slut?

My Relationship Advice for Katy Perry and Russell Brand

Marriage Over 40: More Boomer Singletons Are Shedding Spinsterhood