I was having an earl grey latte tonight with a friend in town for a conference, and she was telling me about her next work “conference” she needed to attend, which happens to be in Shanghai. Unless I’m listening to someone tell me that they are traveling internationally on business for a specific customer or pitch, or to train some new hires/open a new office, I generally hear “international work travel” and immediately think it’s bullshit. I have a friend who started a new job earlier this year, and immediately he was asked to travel “for work reasons” to Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam. When he came back, I point blank asked him how much “real” work or training he did given that this trip was less than a month into his new role. He sheepishly admitted that it was a vacation disguised as a work trip, but no one internally wanted to admit it.
Well, all power to these people. They get to travel on their company’s dime and enjoy themselves. If they have the opportunity, why not? But the conversation immediately went a little sour (or at least, in my head, it did) when she said that her mother was also coming along, too, and that they’d be spending a week traveling in China together. I physically felt dread in my limbs, and this wasn’t even me traveling with my own parents.
To add to this, a colleague I’m friendly with just got back from a six-day trip to London with her mother, and she said that she felt like coming back to work was actually a vacation because it meant she didn’t have to listen to her mother complain about all the food and how expensive everything was, nor did she have to pose at each tourist site and take 20-plus different photos of her mom.
Chris says I just attract “mama-whipped” people in my life. “What is wrong with you — you just like spending time with people who take their mothers on vacations, don’t enjoy themselves, then come back and complain to you about it all!” he claims.
Well, I don’t really look at it that way. Maybe I just attract people who want to create the ideal “mother-daughter” relationship with their moms, but it never ends up turning how they’d like it to be? Don’t we all aspire to some better state of being?
The way that I look at taking family vacations with your parents as an adult is — in an ideal world, it’s time spent enjoying a different place in the world as adults in a family. If the child is paying for it, it’s a way of saying, “Hey, Mom! I’m doing well enough so that I can not only afford to take myself on a vacation, but I can take you on a vacation, too! Now, you can be proud of me!”
Okay. I just re-read that statement, and I realize it’s almost like the child is trying to prove herself. Or potentially give bragging rights to her parents so that the parents can come back from vacation and brag to friends and relatives about it… which we all know is definitely going to happen. I guess at the end of the day, deep down, no matter what background you come from, no matter what your relationship is like with your parents, every child wants her parents to be proud and happy for her. That is what this is really about.