Joe Boughner: The Naked Dad


Being A Parent Via Webcam: Four Largely Ineffective Tips

You Thought Travelling With A Toddler Was Hard? Try Travelling Without One!

Oh sure, on the surface it seems glamourousjetting off to the furthest reaches of the continent, riding in shiny elevators up to shiny offices, and sitting in shiny boardrooms all day long. Retiring at the end of the day to some cozy hotel room, a cocktail and room service feast to tide you over until you do it all again the next day. And to a parent, the allure can seem all the more, well, alluring. At no point in the day do you have to wipe Cheerios from your keyboard or hurriedly dab at a snot stain before it has a chance to crust over. Indeed, the first few business trips after our daughter was born did seem like something of a guilty pleasurea small respite from the day-to-day demands of parenthood.

But the novelty has worn off.

And so, like those of our generation are so inclined to do, I turned to the internet for advice on how to cope with being a dad on the road. The advice was as wide ranging as it was well-intentioned. So wide ranging, in fact, I imagine it can be hard for new travellers to sift through the load and find the tips and tricks that really work. So, if you are among the ranks of the newly-minted travelling parents, allow me to help you bring the signal-to-noise ratio in line a bit.

Here are four tips for the travelling parent that have proven to be as ineffective as they are impractical:

1. Use FaceTime, Skype, or Google Plus to video conference with your loved ones, once a day.

This is, bar none, the most common piece of advice you'll encounter as you struggle to cope with being a parent across time zones. On the surface, it seems totally legit, too. Being able to see each other and interact as you catch up on what you missed that dayit's the next best thing to being there. Except that, for toddlers at least, seeing Daddy on the computer screen is significantly less interesting than anything else she usually sees on that screen.

Hmm, Daddy in a tie? Or Backyardigans? 

And as though competing with Pablo and Tyrone wasn't challenging enough, you're also competing with everything else in her line of sightteddy bears, dry cereal, her colouring book, the dog doing something silly . . . you don't stand a chance. 

Add into this the fact that your poor spouse, on top of being a solo parent, has to make sure to be in front of the computer at a specified time. It's a great idea in theory, but so was communism.

2. Spend some one-on-one quality time together before and after your trip.

Ah, the old karma bank. This one actually does work, in as much as it does wonders for assuaging the parental guilt you might feel, but don't expect it to help make things any easier for the family you leave behind. Kids are experts at living in the now. Sure, my daughter has a blast running around the park and chasing imaginary pirates up and down the play structure ladders with Daddy, but that's largely forgotten when it's time to roll the suitcase into the driveway and wait for the taxi to the airport.

This isn't to say you shouldn't spend a little extra quality time with your kid before you head outby all means, use any excuse you can muster to create more special one-on-one momentsbut don't expect it to make it any easier when it comes time to leave.

That park trip was awesome, Daddy, but what have you done for me lately?

3. Record yourself singing her favourite songs and reading her favourite books.

The only thing more awkward than singing Snuggle Puppy and reading Love You Forever while the iMovie counter ticks along, is expecting your poor spouse to sit there holding the laptop up at bedtime while your child stares lovingly at the screen.

I have one question for the people who first suggested thishave you ever actually participated in a toddler bedtime?

My kid doesn't sit quietly while you sing or read. She interrupts. She asks questions. She turns pages back to see the picture you didn't spend enough time on. She doesn't want that song, she wants the other one. 

I admit, I gave this one a crack, because bedtime is one of my favourite parts of the parental day. I love that my daughter loves books. I love that I get to sing her a lullabye as the last official act of bedtime. But I don't think my poor wife ever even tried to play the recordings and, in hindsight, I can't blame her one bit.

4. Bring home a souvenir.

This one can't fail, right? Kids love getting stuff. Positive reinforcement and all that. Sure Daddy went away, but he brought you back something. 

I actually did this once. My daughter is now the proud owner of a postcard from Cleveland. At the time she was obsessed with mail (it's Blue's Clues' fault), and I thought she'd dig getting a postcard just for her. And she did. For a few minutes. Then her attention turned to something else.

This one might make more sense when she gets a bit older, but, frankly, she has enough stuff right now, she doesn't need me adding to the pile every time I go away. Furthermore, there are times when I'm travelling once a weekbuying her love back would break the bank. And just how many Calgary-themed tchotchkes does one toddler need?

Special bonus: One tip that actually does work!

Ok, it's not all doom and gloom. I have found one thing that helps, at least a little. Ready?

Take care of your spouse and make for damn sure he/she knows how grateful you are.

Let's be honest, travelling is hard on the traveller. It's hard on the kid. But it is HELL on the parent that stays home. I am lucky that I married an honest-to-goodness super hero! When I'm on the road, it's my wife that keeps things on the rails. So, I try to do little things that help. Measure out and grind the coffee beans for the week; prepare a meal or two that can sit in the fridge, so she just has to pull them out and heat them up; and get the laundry done and folded before I go.

And most importantly, I talk to her every night after the kid is in bed and her duties as a parent are over for the day, and remind her that I know how lucky I am.

Thanks, Amy.