Earlier this summer, I was invited to a really big conference in the blogging and writing community and was at first, hesitant to go. I would need to travel, get a hotel - the whole shebang. But I kept weighing the pros and cons of the education it would provide me for the work I do everyday and finally decided to take the leap - with my entire family in tow.
Yup, the whole conference was at a family friendly resort that offered such an amazing rate that I came to the conclusion that I probably couldn't afford to take my family on this dream vacation for any cheaper, so we just went for it. The weeks leading up to the conference were a bit stressful and my type A personality took full force. I needed to plan our itinerary and find a steady balance between work and family fun so that I felt it was at least a little bit of a vacation for me. Translation: I spent hours everyday cross referencing session times with keynote speakers and pool hours and Disney ticket prices. It was exhausting, but well worth it going into the conference with a plan.
When we arrived, it took all the will I had inside me to actually get to the conference and absorb everything that I wanted to get from it and I realized that there are so many women who have to do this year round whether they have families they can't leave or are single mamas rocking it in the business world. Things aren't always easy when you're traveling for business, so I set out to chat with some business-minded moms who have had dealt with it all to make sure they stay on top of their game.
When there is an emergency
The scariest thing to think about while traveling would be having an emergency of some kind, but life is filled with unexpected things, so sometimes you need to roll with the punches. This is exactly what happened to Nancy J. Horn,owner of The Mama Maven. She said, “I had traveled to Chicago in 2013 for the BlogHer Conference so we could run an event a few days before the conference started. The day after the event I woke up and was vomiting all day (turns out later I had ulcers and something I ate triggered a reaction). I had planned to take my then 5 year old daughter sightseeing, but instead she had to stay in the hotel room all day and watch TV while I slept on the floor of the bathroom. It was awful. I learned that I should have had a back-up plan if something happens. I could have arranged for my friend to come pick up my daughter for the day and I could have gone to an urgent care. Or have a go-bag with activities for a kid in case you have to go to an urgent care (and take your with you)."
Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail
Words of wisdom
Traci Stapleton, Sr. Manager of Client Services at Kalypso offers the ultimate mom mantra for when traveling for business with your family: “You are in control of the pressures. You will never be perfect, you will never be all places or get it all done. Be intentional in the time you have with your family, be attentive and present. Don't beat yourself up chasing unachievable expectations." These are the words that we all need to hear when we're out trying to be the jill-of-all-trades.
When you just can't unplug
Then, there are times when a trip that isn't completely intended to be a work trip, somehow ends up being one. We all know how difficult it is to turn off “work mode", esepcially when you're self-employed, and Natalie Greaves, Writer & Strategic Communications Consultant, Graves Writes learned from an experience she had during a family getaway to her parents' home country of Trinidad & Tobago. “I found myself answering way more work requests than anticipated. Between the beach lime (slang for party) and sampling some of the best curry ever, I had an epiphany: if work was going to follow me, it would be so much easier if I changed the way that I worked. So I quit my job!
As long as I have a solid internet connection and some headphones to jam during my daughter's nap time, I can map out an hour or two daily to get in a marathon session of consulting. We'll up the ante this summer during our next surf trip."
Tips from a pro
Melanie, a single mom to Ellie, and Partner & COO, BDI Events, often brings her daughter along on business trips. While she tries to figure out a plan to keep her at home, life happens, so she often comes along! She recommend to “utilize the hotels network of trusted sitters – they are usually really great and super well vetted (and used to working with random kids!). Keeping kids on their normal time zone, if possible, and pay to bring a friend or family member along… it doubles the cost of the trip, but can be well worth it if it's an important trip or meeting (and might be tax deductible!)."
Organization and thinking ahead is key
Seasoned travel writer, Samantha McNesby, has her kids with her while visiting new places often and while she loves having them with her, being organized and planning ahead is key. “I love bringing my kids along when I travel; they have gotten to see so many amazing places this way! One thing I always do is rent items at our destination – strollers, mini-fridges and more can be rented at many vacation destinations and sent right to your room, so you don't have to struggle with these items at a busy airport or go without. "
And when it comes to luggage, she has a pretty epic tip to share. “We travel a lot, and color coding the kids' luggage is a big help. Each child has their own color or style so we can quickly spot pieces in baggage claim and they know which bag is theirs. Hello Kitty, Star Wars and a few other favorite characters make it easy to spot our pieces in the airport."
Find apps that work for you
Felicia Chanell, owner and Brand Vibe Strategist of Swanked Creative is all about using apps to help keep you organized right down to the smallest details, like food allergies. “Plan every thing you can! I love using Trello to plan everything for an upcoming trip. I create cards/lists for our itinerary, travel details, hotel information, etc. This is perfect for planning activities that will be fun for my 4 year old. I even plan what restaurants have gluten free menu options." And for coordinating client need, “Gsuite/Google Drive for storing everything for my business to access while traveling. GSuite also has unlimited storage on my plan so I can upload photos directly from my phone to the drive to clear up space."
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.