The Bintel Brief

The Toll of Traveling With a Toddler

By Jeffrey Zaslow

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Dear Mr. Zaslow,

My husband, toddler son and I left New York for Washington about a year ago. My relatives are in Atlanta; his are back in New York. Since we are close to both sets of parents, we travel very frequently to Atlanta or New York. We go to Atlanta two or three times a year, and to New York about six times a year.

This frequent weekend travel is taking its toll on all of us, especially the New York trips. My husband’s mother in New York is an expert at piling on the Jewish guilt about how she misses us and her grandson. This woman lives for her grandchildren, and to be fair, she also visits us every couple of months. But she doesn’t have a toddler in tow or a full-time job. In the past, when we have canceled a trip, she has gotten very upset.

Should we keep going six times a year to appease her? Or should we put our foot down and go less frequently?

TRAVELING WITH TODDLER

Jeffrey Zaslow Replies:

Dear Traveling:

It was easier when we all were back in the shtetl, wasn’t it? Our mothers-in-law were living a few houses down, and were always there for babysitting or kvelling or telling us exactly how we should raise our children because they knew everything and we knew nothing.

On second thought, there are benefits to a little modern-day distance.

It sounds as if you appreciate how much your mother-in-law loves your son and wants to be with him. Tell her you are thrilled that she is a loving presence in your son’s life, but also speak frankly about the hassles of travel, the responsibilities of your job, etc. If she’s a healthy, able-bodied grandmother, maybe you can buy her a couple of plane or train tickets so that she can come to you in Washington a bit more often.

As your son gets older, you’ll find traveling with him to be easier. And you’ll be grateful for the bond he has established with his grandmother. It will likely serve him well in life.


Jeffrey Zaslow writes about life transitions as The Wall Street Journal’s “Moving On” columnist. Alongside the professor Randy Pausch, Zaslow wrote “The Last Lecture,” a best-selling book based on an uplifting lecture Pausch gave after having been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The book has been on The New York Times’ Best-Sellers list for 50 weeks.


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