Kim McDermott is an experienced road warrior. She also has two kids and remains actively involved in her community. We interviewed Kim to learn how she balances her life on the road with family and community activities.
Kim McDermott is a Clinical Research Association (CRA) for a Clinical Research Organization that provides staffing for Pharmaceutical companies. Typically, her job requires her to travel about 70% of the time. Life on the road is nothing new to Kim. She has been traveling for work since she started her first job out of college. Kim is also the mother of two children (ages 7 and 11). She shared her secrets for staying connecting with her family when she is away so often, and maximizing her productivity on the road.
Where do you typically travel?
My travels used to take me all over the United States and Canada. That was pre-9/11. After that my travel became more regional, with most of my sites between New York and North Carolina. That’s not to say I don’t ever get sent to Los Angeles or Phoenix or Louisville. That often happens when other CRA’s leave a project and sites need to be covered.
What challenges do you face as a parent being away from home?
I live in a community of working and traveling parents who completely recognize that it takes a village to raise a child, and we support each other in many ways. Thank God for texting! We have car pools for activities carefully planned out. I sometimes face obstacles when it is my turn to drive to gymnastics, and I’m out of town, but my husband and other parents will typically step up to take my turn.
Making sure my calendar is up to date is probably one of the biggest challenges, along with last minute school picnics and band concerts.
How do you stay connected with your family when you are away on business?
We don’t talk much when I am on the road. It’s usually only a day or two at a time. We used to “FaceTime,” but it ended up being more disruptive to them than helpful. My son will still call briefly or text when we gets home from school, and we will send photos to each other of where we are, if it’s dinner, my hotel room, a soccer game…It helps us know what is going on in each other’s lives. I also try to keep them connected to the places with a horse snow globe from Kentucky, a Chattanooga Choo Choo book from Tennessee, or a 3-D puzzle from the Big Apple. When possible I take them to visit places I spend a lot of time in, so they have an idea of where I am. In the past year we went to Nashville for spring break, Clearwater, Florida during Christmas, and Atlanta this summer.
Have you made any changes to the way you travel for work since you have had your kids?
Yes! I used to extend my trips as long as possible. I’d drive from Los Angeles to San Diego to spend a Saturday night with a friend, have breakfast and then fly home, or I’d spend 10 days living with a friend in Dallas and having adventures on both weekends, or visiting my sister-in-law in Seattle when I had a site visit in Vancouver. On drivable trips, I’d take friends to dinner in New York City or Raleigh. I still sometimes have fun catching up with friends for drinks after checking in on Facebook, but often I hide so that I can get home quickly before anyone knows I was in their city.
I almost always try to make trips as short as possible, which may mean a workday that starts at 4am and ends at 2am the next morning, instead of dragging a visit out for three days. It’s usually my diet and exercise that suffers the most, but I’m working on that.
Have advancements in technology made it easier for you to be away?
Definitely! Being able to SEE my family, what the kids wore to school, what a class project looked like…that makes a big difference. We sometimes do homework by phone or may even watch a TV show. My son is a big fan of Masters of SHIELD, so we may touch base about that if I’m not home to watch.
Technology helps me in the diet and exercise department too. Since I’m cutting my trips short, and hiding from friends, I might reach out to people on Twitter to find out where a good running spot is, or to find a great gluten free restaurant or juice bar. It’s helped me to experience the areas I go to more fully, and then share those experiences with my kids.
Do you have any traditions or things you do with your kids before you leave, or upon return from a trip, to reconnect or have more one-on-one time with them?
On the days I don’t travel, my schedule is much more flexible. I wake up in the morning with them and we have breakfast, I meet them at the bus stop so they don’t have to go to “aftercare,” and I can be at their school events. If I worked in an office 9-5, Monday-Friday, I wouldn’t have that flexibility.
Do you ever take your family with you during a work trip, and then extend the stay for vacation?
I do! I like being able to take my kids with me when I can so they can experience what it’s like to be on the road, to be in new cities, or to spend time with grandparents. I think it also gives my husband a nice little break. I had a friend babysit them for one trip this summer. I’ve also been able to schedule road trip vacations around team meetings. We might spend a day in Cary, North Carolina, and I will work for a day, and then continue on to Orlando.
It’s provided us an opportunity to take more vacations and see more of this country that we live in. They’ve become pretty savvy travelers!
Kim’s Work Life Balance Tips for Parents Who Travel For Business
Share the reward perks
Two years ago we used Marriott points to stay at a 2 level suite at the Residence Inn on our way home from vacation in New Hampshire. The kids LOVED it. Since explaining to them what travel points are, they haven’t complained much about my schedule since. They get to share in some of the perks, too!
Take the kids to visit your frequent destinations
When possible I take them to visit places I spend a lot of time in, so they have an idea of where I am. In the past year we went to Nashville for spring break, Clearwater, Florida during Christmas, and Atlanta this summer.
Make the most of work time and “you” time on the road and focus on your family when you are home.
When you are on the road, make the most of that work time and “you” time. Get the extra reports done, get the extra treadmill time in, and get the manicure when you are on the road. Spend extra time both on work and enjoying yourself, and when you get home be fully engaged with family life. Being on the road helps me to appreciate domestic tasks, and vice versa.
What are your work life balance tips? Share them in the comments section.
Business Travel Life
Business Travel Life is an online resource supporting the road warrior lifestyle. We give business travelers the tools they need to maintain their wellness and productivity when traveling. The topics we cover include business travel tips, travel workouts, healthy travel hacks, travel products, general travel tips, and industry trends. Our goal is to make business travel a healthier experience – and to make healthy travel practices more accessible to all road warriors.