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Duty travel with an infant: how I went on mission with my daughter (and survived)

Posted by Beate Stalsett Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Written by Beatrice Gerli, Gender and targeting specialist, IFAD

Forget about travelling only with hand luggage. Forget about preparing presentations on the outward flight and writing Back To Office Report on the return flight. Time on the plane becomes a major test for developing skills in child entertainment: and the actual work is yet to start. Taking a baby on duty travel is a mission within the mission. But my daughter Adelaide and I survived and I am here to tell our story.

Field visit to the women’s cooperative “cuatros pinos” ©IFAD/B. Gerli
In the last week of October we travelled to Guatemala city to support a regional workshop on rural women's economic empowerment. When it was suggested that I would take part I was still on maternity leave, with a blurred sense of what it would mean to be both a mother and a professional. The workshop dates coincided with the period I intended to breastfeed so I quickly figured that it was going to be either with Adelaide or not going at all.

Why not try

I hesitated but the encouragement of my supervisor Clare Bishop and the Country Programme Manager, Glayson Ferrari made me wonder: why not try?

The mission’s agenda was encouraging: most of the workshop activities were in a hotel and only a one day field visit. And the country has no major health-related concerns. Perhaps the one thing that made me more enthusiastic is the fact that Glayson has a young son and immediately reassured me that he would help me find a trustworthy babysitter.

The IFAD travel policy entitles breastfeeding mothers to take their babies with them on duty travel, up to one year of age. This in practice means that IFAD provides for their flight ticket and an extra 10% of the total daily allowance, so that extra expenses – a.k.a. a babysitter- can be covered. This is a fantastic help for those like me who want to reconcile work and personal life: breastfeeding and a mission.

Starting the journey with new luggage. 
And this is how it went

We flew all the way to Guatemala, which I have to say was not the most relaxing journey of my life – nor for the poor person sitting next to us.

Once we arrived, Glayson had found an extraordinary babysitter: she looked after the baby during the workshop days and she would call me whenever Adelaide was claiming her meal – which easily tied in with the coffee breaks.

What made a real difference was also the help that the Guatemala team (Glayson, Klarisse, Oscar and Gabriela) and all the workshop participants gave me, together with the positive atmosphere they created. This didn’t make me feel like I was doing something out of this world, nor made me look less professional in their eyes. Quite the opposite. Many participants at the workshop, including men,  opened up and came up to me to discuss their own experience in reconciling their role of parents with their work.

Reflection

I came back to Rome, very happy about this experience.

Duty travel with a baby is probably not something one can do too often, nor on all the missions we are asked to attend. But I just wanted to share my experience with other mother professionals and get the message out there: if you feel alright about it, if conditions allows it- one can actually do it.

It was a beautiful adventure and - yes -   quite tiring. But I guess that is what parenthood is about.

4 comments

  1. Lucy MAARSE said:
  2. Dear Beatrice Gerli,

    So nice that you shared your experiences in a blog. I hope that you did set the example for other international and local staff namely we women should not feel bad / quilty when taking a baby along while working in the field.
    Cheers, Lucy

     
  3. Anonymous said:
  4. Well done dear Bea!
    Kim

     
  5. Anonymous said:
  6. Beatrice, this is great!
    Duygu

     
  7. Anonymous said:
  8. Wow! Way to go Beatrice! So inspiring how IFAD encourages and supports women so that they are able to maintain a work life balance and take care of their little babies without being made to feel less professional!