Our son Liam turns one today. One incredible year, likely as intense (or even more so) than many of my wild travel years before his birth. And what an exciting road it has been! So much that we’ve learned from and through him. For one, it’s that clichés (don’t) hold true. Some do, yes. But many don’t! In any case, what Georg and I have experienced is that all of a sudden, all of society seems to be adding their two cents on “how to deal with and raise a baby”. It reminds me of my mum, a retired secondary school teacher, who likes to say: “It’s like school. Everybody has been to school, so everybody has an opinion about it.” The tidal wave of well-intended advice guaranteed to wash over young parents … it naturally hit and rocked us a bit, too.
To this end, there is one phrase I’ve been holding on to in my first year as mum of baby Liam, one that makes complete sense:
Each mum is the best for HER child.
… Each dad the best for HIS child. Powerful words that always helped to make us feel calm again. And confident. Because they are true. Babies do actually “choose” their parents a little: Liam is after all quite similar to us in many ways, such as his innate curiosity for the world, his good sleeping and eating habits, his happiness about literally going anywhere with us! He was just shy of two months when we took him on a trip to Falkertsee lake, a high alpine lake in Carinthia, Southern Austria. Followed by a week of a Taekwondo camp in Styria, a weekend in Prague, a month on the road in Portugal and Spain before he even started to crawl. He was always just as curious about the world as we are as his proud parents. Add to that countless day trips, many hours spent at friends’ houses or at the Dojang (watching mum, dad or granny doing their Taekwondo thing!), as well as sleepovers at the grandparents’ house. I suppose much of his smiley calm of being at ease with the world around him comes from the fact that we’ve always “handed him around” in all confidence, introducing him to people and the world literally from when he was but a few days old.
So why should travelling, something that my parents absolutely love, be something troublesome or terrifying for me?, Liam would likely be saying if he already could.
A word on “empowerment” …
… meaning the quality to support each other in life and business, be it the working out of a new life balance as a young mum, the life of an entrepreneur, or the life of a travel blogger – or all at once, as it is for me now. There is no one, right way of being a mother, an entrepreneur, or a blogger – there are as many as there are mums, and mum entrepreneurs! Networks can be a great support, as well as some inspiring books, blogs or other creative products of travelling mums, but I do admit that there are not that many role models to choose from, unfortunately. As in all tradition and likelihood, it’s still mostly women who give up their jobs for a few months or even years when the children come. As one whose creative ideas and entrepreneurial thoughts always flow, it has not occurred to me once that I should now “stop travelling or working because of Liam”. Like, what?! It would be like switching a part of myself off, impossible in my opinion if you love what you do.
So just how do you do it, combining work and travel with baby in his first year? Is it possible after all: Working, travelling, blogging, writing, doing sports, taking couple time, even recreational, quality time on one’s own ..?
Five honest answers to the question of being able to “make it all work”: Family, working time, time for yourself.
- Family, quite literally, is everything. As cheesy as that may sound, it is so true. It starts with the partner, as in all likelihood, it’s daddy giving mum the first opportunity to take a break from baby in order to relax, take care of herself, and continue working from home, for instance. We are ultimately blessed in that sense, as we can also choose among absolutely wonderful grandparents AND (on Georg’s side of the family) even great-grandparents for Liam’s immediate day care needs. All of whom live (very) close to us, the (fit and relatively young) great-grandparents even in walking distance. How very lucky we are. We are forever grateful for the additional family support we are receiving.
- Keep calm, let go and … pursue that inner peace of yours as best as you can. Whether through yoga, Kimoodo, reading, or creative photo editing: Choose whatever appeals to you. What really impacts positively on you does so on baby, and by continuation, on a happy family life. Liam must have been “breastfed peace and happiness”: He’s always been a (very) good sleeper, always smiling, and now turned into a really sweet little explorer boy. Why is all this talk about inner peace important? It means more of that precious energy for continuing to do other things than minding baby. Working, working out, taking time to read, to write an important message, etc. Never should we lose ourselves too much in the struggle of “having to do it all perfectly on our own”.
- Organisation is life
halffully done. Now’s the time to be(come) really efficient. As soon as “baby sleeps”, it’s time to cook, eat, talk on the phone, take care of the little things, write some blog posts, emails, check for appointments, hang up or take down laundry – and more often than not, many of these things at once, plus a baby on your arm or next to you on the floor while you’re working. It is what it is. And it does not stress me out too much, it’s exactly how I would have wanted it. I’m loving our new family life and the joy Liam brings us every day! The only things I delegate to when Georg is looking after Liam, are the things requiring more concentration in my work, such as writing proposals, doing translations, the like. I honestly do not know how else it would work, if I didn’t have partner or family support. How do single mothers do it!?
- Call for that precious little ME-time, and don’t be shy or feel bad about it. Call on daddy, granny, a friend, a babysitter … it should not be “optional” or make us feel bad if we look after ourselves as young mothers. I remember walking over to Georg and Liam, sighing happily, “Now mum is feeling wonderful again, as I’ve had that hour to finish my blog post ..!” Insert whatever makes you feel happy: Reading, writing, treating yourself to a massage, going out for a walk or a jog, training Taekwondo, meeting a girlfriend: No mother should feel bad about spending happy moments away from her baby! I believe that in the end, baby just feels when you’re happy. If you’ve been out for a little while in the meantime, baby certainly won’t remember, or hold it against you, but baby will remember all the genuine love and happiness you’ve been able to give him from those recharged batteries.
- Combining being a travel blogger and a mum: So is it “the ultimate truth” then, to simply pack up baby on your trips and transition to becoming a digital, travelling family? After all, Liam has left quite a few traces here, has caused us to take new and exciting trips, and has allowed us many a new experience. And yes, in a way, I believe it has been true for us, as my business after all also revolves on my life as a writer and blogger. Our decisions as parents are his (hopefully very happy) childhood. And Liam just happens to have a travelling, writing, teaching mum who speaks seven world languages, as well as a sports-obsessed, naturally curious and very handy travelling dad, too. He has not raised any protest yet. I’m hoping he will hold on to being the sweet, open, travel-loving little boy he has become during his first year with us.