This article was originally published on EventMB & reprinted here with permission.
As you know, being an #eventprof is a wonderful adventure! There are times, though, where the hours become long and you are extremely busy. Even for an experienced planner, those long hours away can be difficult for both you and your family. Having a plan and strategies to handle the struggles that come along with traveling and long hours is important in order to maintain happy relationships with your family and friends.
Feeling Left Out?
As your event draws closer, there seems to never be enough time in the day. When that happens, your family and loved ones are usually the ones that suffer, as you withdraw from them and become more focused on work. While they know you love them, and often say they understand, true understanding is sometimes difficult for them to accept. In reality, they may not even truly understand what your job entails.
Your loved ones may become upset, confused, or even jealous once your work seems to become more important than they are. It could be that they miss you or even that they feel stuck at home while you appear to be galavanting around the world to exotic places, meeting interesting people, and dining on fancy food. While you know their version is not reality, you still need to be aware of how they might actually be viewing the scenario (i.e., Facebook life v. real life). They need to know the truth of it, and that you are always thinking of them. While my family may not think so, they are always on my mind, even when I have a 5-page checklist to finish in the next hour!
To ensure good relationships with your friends and family, the first step is to clearly communicate what is going on and what is going to be happening in the coming months. Being an #eventprof is definitely not the same as having a typical 9-5 job. Your family needs to understand that with you comes abnormal hours and wacky schedules. As with any good relationship, you must have trust and good, clear, constant communication that begins well before you disappear in the void of budgets, catering and logistics!
Ways To Include Family
Each family situation is different, and will have it’s own unique circumstances and challenges. Here is a glimpse into my family:
My immediate herd consists of: my husband, an eight-year old daughter, two cats, two turtles, and a puppy (coming soon!). Each one of my family members are impacted differently by our crazy and wonderful #eventprof life in some way.
While I am a workaholic, I do try to manage my work and spend as much time with my family as I can. There are some times when this can’t happen, though. One of the most difficult challenges we face is simply the change in routines that happen once I am in “event mode”. Little things like cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cooking dinner, doing homework, or washing the dishes are often pushed aside while I work. Usually, we share our daily life tasks, but in situations like this, everything is unfortunately pushed onto my husband for a bit. If this upcoming change is not prepared for and discussed in advance, it can be a shock and lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings.
With that said, you should also consider how you can gradually merge back into your normal routines after an event, without your spouse feeling like you are “taking over” something they have become accustomed to doing themselves.
While my husband is very understanding of our situation, children can create a totally different challenge. While my daughter is a strong, confident girl, she is just a child and sometimes misinterprets situations around her. We always make it a point to talk with her and explain why I am gone or so busy sometimes, and how it is actually a good thing that it helps our family. Explanations can only go so far, though. I am lucky in the sense that my daughter was born with event planning genes! She loves to organize and plan (she even drew a diagram of our backyard to lay out tables for our wedding last year!). I try to include her in the planning when possible. When she was younger, she helped out by sorting brochures or counting out lanyards. As she gets older, she is able to do other things such as alphabetizing name badges, learning computer software, and typing notes. By giving her tasks that she enjoys, it helps build our connection, keeps her involved, and allows her the opportunity to learn new skills (and the family business!).
Even if my daughter can't be a part of the planning, I try to involve her in other ways. We recently worked on a local event, and had the opportunity to bring her to the venue as it was being set up so she could see the actual work I had been working on. Depending on the event, there are little ways she could help out and create her own sense of ownership and accomplishment, sometimes even attending the event under the supervision of her grandparents!
Whenever I travel to an event, I always make a point to Skype home before bedtime to say goodnight (time zones can be tricky, but technology is wonderful!). I often walk her around the hotel room and show her the view from the room. Depending on the location, I sometimes also walk her around the venue using Skype or Google Hangouts on my phone, tying in the things she may have helped with. Once the event is over, we sometimes will even look through the photo gallery and talk through what actually happened. Hopefully, the photographer told a wonderful story and the emotions of the event can come through the images for my daughter to feel.
My mom was always around when I was first starting my event planning business. She was my assistant, and always helped in any way she could. During those events, we created a very strong bond that brought us closer together. Even though we no longer live near each other, I still feel that bond when I work on events today. To satisfy that void, I will sometimes ask her to help in some of the tasks I have to do that can be done virtually, like proofreading. As a bonus, it provides me with an outside attendee perspective of the document.
Depending on their skills or availability, being involved may not even mean being given an event-related task. My husband's parents live very close by and they like to help and be involved by watching their granddaughter and grandcats when my husband and I are both out of town.
As for my grandmother, she lives out of town, but I love to keep up with her. While we don’t talk as much as I would like, I always send her a postcard from the various places I travel to for events. She feels appreciated and loves to be a part of my life (and I hers!)
Believe it or not, your pets miss you, too (yes - even the cats!). Don’t forget to give them some extra scratches or snuggle time when you have an spare moment. They will enjoy it, and pausing for a moment with your furry babies will calm and relax you as well!
In conclusion, don’t forget about your family. As #eventprofs, our schedules can be a bit hectic and random, but we love it that way! Be sure to have open conversations with the people around you so they can learn to love, understand, and accept how your life works. Be thankful for your family and friends, and remember that they can always be a part of your #eventprof life.
Taking our daughter to preview an event site
Taking a quick break between shots
Quick visit at a festival visit with Grandpa & Future Event Planner Stance