The Problem With The ‘Mommy Business Trip’

0425 mommyIn the battle for work/life balance, we hear a lot about how traveling for work is difficult for mothers of young children. But some mothers, according to a new article in the Wall Street Journal, are desperate for an excuse to travel for professional reasons. The paper calls it the “Mommy Business Trip.”

These are not mandatory business trips for working mothers employed full-time. Instead, they are conferences for women who work part-time, or on side projects, from home. There are conferences focused on crafting, blogging, yoga, and direct marketing, to name a few.

Here’s how the Journal sums it up:

Mothers who work from home —bloggers, interior decorators, crafters and the like—rarely get to travel alone to escape the daily grind. Event planners, networking organizations, travel agents and consumer-goods marketers are targeting these women by sponsoring conferences and conventions. They have figured out a simple way to make them happy: Give them a reason to go on a business trip.

“It’s a fun and educational thing to do for people who are married with children and need a legitimate reason to leave home,” says the conference director for an event hosted by Yoga Journal. That’s the key: a “legitimate reason to leave home.” The women who attend can’t justify leaving their families to jet off to Vegas just for fun, but if a conference has a sheen of professional advancement about it, suddenly it becomes justifiable to pay hundreds of dollars to sip wine and socialize.

This is admittedly a somewhat cynical take, since it seems everyone leaves happy. But what does it say about the world we live in that simply needing a break isn’t a good enough excuse to take a weekend away from home? A “mommy business trip” is all well and good, but shouldn’t a “mommy trip” be good enough?

Photo: 3523studio / Shutterstock.com

 

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    • Lastango

      I’m usually loathe to comment if I can’t read the original piece, but — assuming it says what you report it saying — I do have a couple of notions to share.
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      Ruth, I think you’re asking a meaningful good question with, “what does this say about the world we live in?”. On a basic human level, it seems to confirm that few people travel alone for pleasure. We need someone with us, or we need an organized group to be part of at the destination. For these trips, hubby presumably has to stay behind to look after the kids. So, unless the wife has a friend to take a trip with she won’t go if she’ll be alone at the other end. That means that the structured companionship is an important part of the product for these business trips. The planners make it easy — the participant doesn’t have to line up a friend to go along on a getaway. She just has to sign up and get on a plane.
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      Also, these trips don’t (again, from your description) seem to be “business trips” at all. It seems more like the physical equivalent of lifestyle blogging, with a smorgasbord of offerings so there’s something for everyone. It’s possible that at, say, the direct marketing sessions, someone could learn new tips & techniques but I wouldn’t count on it. The session material probably won’t be anything that can’t be gotten from a book or on-line for free. Among the participants, there won’t be any truly successful or innovative people there to learn from. If that’s mostly true (another supposition I’m making without actually knowing) then the conference organizers are helping people fool themselves, for a little while, into thinking something meaningful is happening. That happens all around us, in a lot of ways. We’ve talked before here about the useless in-house leadership programs and structured mentorship programs corporations make a show of providing for young women executives. After a while the participants figure out it’s patronizing bunk, and worse than useless because it wastes time and energy, and because (IMO) it stamps participants as people who need this new form of remedial special ed make a career for themselves. (I’m all in favor of true mentorship, but that’s not what’s happening at these programs.)
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      In sum, that would make these trips a form of entertainment. There won’t be any real demands or stress, and a good time will be had by all. If, at bottom, people aren’t really expecting anything more, then they will have gotten their money’s worth.
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      One other thing: while there’s no way to tell without going, there’s a real possibility these sessions are a thinly-disguised marketing event, put together by a network of sponsors banding together to sell stuff to these women. I accept it in some venues; for instance, there would be no TV if there were no sponsors for the programs. But it would be quite another thing to be deceptively lured to a conference when one would be bombarded with commercial messages from (here) the crafting industry, the yoga industry, the self-improvement racket, and so on.

    • http://robot-heart.tumblr.com heartbot

      Katherine Stone, one of the bloggers featured in this article, was mortified by how she was portrayed: http://www.babble.com/babble-voices/something-fierce-katherine-stone/2013/04/25/my-apology-to-mommybloggers-husbands-everywhere/. So maybe the story actually is: this WSJ article is full of it.

      • Lastango

        I see by following the links at Stone’s post that the conferences specifically for professional bloggers seem to have a lot of hard-core, professional content. There doesn’t seem to be all that much that’s “mommyish” at those events; from the agenda, it comes off like information that might help anyone set up and run a blog — any sort of blog, aimed at women or not — as a money-making business.
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        One other thing: I see that Katherine Stone is a presenter at one of the conferences she links to. So, when she talks about her enriching experiences at the conferences, that access may allow for experiences and conversations not available to the ordinary attendee. That doesn’t mean other attendees don’t get value, only that Stone’s experiences while there may not be typical.
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        This seems like an interesting subject area, but without access to the original WSJ article it’s hard to say more. Good wishes to Stone and everyone else who works hard to succeed in what is becomming a very competitive, increasingly-professionalized marketplace. It seems clear they have to continually upgrade their skills and awarenesses if they want to establish themselves.

    • http://twitter.com/JLCBamberger Joanne Bamberger

      Sadly, you are wrong in your characterization of these conferences. Part-time? Side businesses? This isn’t the first time the media have portrayed women online in this way and, sadly, I’m sure it won’t be the last. http://www.the-broad-side.com/wall-street-journal-you-should-know-better-than-to-mess-with-women-online

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