When you work on projects, there’s always a plan in place with important milestones and deliverables. Approaching pregnancy, birth, infancy, toddler years and so on with a “plan” is well-intended, but likely not ever going to turn out as you planned and that’s really OK!
My work in project management started long before I had children and was not at all on my mind when grappling with a tiny, needy baby, but quickly I realized my main “stakeholder” was extremely vocal and not to be kept out of the communication loop. According to the Project Management Institute, the term project stakeholder refers to, “an individual, group, or organization, who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project” (source: Wikipedia). Now by definition, raising children is not a project however we’ll bend the guidelines here because that’s actually the basis of sane parenting — bending!
As time went on, we found our way day after day and night after night in a rather agile versus traditional project management way of “fail fast, learn fast” and slowly built up enough confidence to book an international trip back home to introduce the cute little boss baby to our families.
As any good project manager does, I started consulting with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), i.e. parents, who have been there done that many times over with international flights. Amazing advice was freely given – pack at least one diaper per hour of travel, have extra baby wipes in every backpack pocket for easy access, buy plastic toy chain links to clip on toys to keep off the airplane / airport floor, stash extra plastic bags to store dirty items, take a baby carrier, borrow a stroller from someone at your destination, make copies of passports and visas to store in different suitcases and so on. These tips made a world of difference leading up to our travel dates – less stress and worry for all “Project: Family” team members involved.
The most seasoned parents reminded me to think about myself. Having kids is a lot about putting their needs first, but don’t forget that in “Project: Family” you, as a parent, are also an important stakeholder that has needs to be met. This goes hand-in-hand with self-care and is equally important to prioritize. When traveling, remember to pack a change of clothes for yourself in case a mess is (read: will be!) made, include some “adult” snacks (and no, I don’t mean liquids!) that require teeth to eat such as smoked almonds, dark chocolate covered espresso beans and/or granola bars that aren’t sold in the baby food aisle of your local supermarket. Load great music and podcasts to keep you calm during the wait at the check-in counter and gate area. Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off at security, put good lip balm and some chewing gum in your pockets for take-off and landings.
Last, but not least, stakeholders are both internal and external, family members and strangers. The ticketing agent, flight attendants, border control officer, fellow passengers and many other people will factor into how stress-free and enjoyable your travels will be. Ask for help from a friendly face! Try to pay it forward when you can: on the same day, next month or in the next 5 years by making goofy faces at the fussy toddler during check-in, offering to hold your seat neighbor’s food tray while he/she gets situated, taking turns to keep an eye on kids while the other parent uses the bathroom during the flight, slipping new packages of slime or lollipops into your carry on for your kids and an extra few for someone else’s child. Literally buying yourself a few minutes of silence is worth it to collect your thoughts and ease the tension!
This blog post focuses on air travel, but is equally applicable to other modes of transportation or just your day-to-day journeys. Keep the lines of communication open especially when new experiences are happening to explain and offer reassurance during a rather busy and chaotic time!
Erin Kogan is a mother, VFN member, Project Management Professional (PMP)® and avid volunteer. When she’s not updating her project task board, she enjoys reading, hot yoga and traveling.