She Works Hard for the Money

Every time I tell someone what I do for a living, I get the same reaction:

‘You have the greatest job’, they tell me.

‘Um, it is a lot of hard work. But I guess it is OK.’ I reply.

Since moving to London as an International student, I have worked at British Universities. I have done many roles – from accommodation, to student support, to events and immigration. Currently, I work for a big central London University in an international marketing role to, simply put, recruit students. I am responsible for devising a marketing strategy for specific overseas markets (including the USA, Mexico and Brazil), and for reaching the targets and objectives laid out in my marketing plan through various marketing activities (advertising, customer service initiatives, recruitment fairs, student support, etc.). I travel to these countries frequently, spending on average 12 weeks abroad for work each year. I have a reasonable budget, expense account, laptop, blackberry, and corporate credit card. I rack up more frequent flyer miles than I can use.

From the outset, I can sympathise with people who think the job I do is pretty cool. And I have absolutely loved doing it for the last 5 years. However, having just come back from a transatlantic business trip (the second since 2010 began) I am beginning to see this job as nearing its expiration date.

Just in case you think my job is really glamorous and don’t believe me when I say it is hard work, my 6 day business trip looked something like this:

Day 1: cab arrives..Heathrow, Terminal 5...checked in...lunch, new Gordon Ramsay restaurant...ooh, manicures!...nearly missed the gate waiting for the polish to dry...10 hours on board...only 2 decent movies...arrive...cab driver nearly kills me on highway...refuse to pay him for driving like an ass...hotel security removes crazy cab driver from lobby...check in to hotel...room is very nice – no mould in bathtub...only 7pm local time... don’t care...sleep.

Day 2: wake at 4.30...wake at 5.30...wake at 6.00... get up...smoothies for breakfast!...go shopping...conference starts...networking lunch...introductions...'yes, it has snowed in London this year. No, you are not the 100th person to make that comment’...afternoon nap...get dolled up...black tie dinner...choose a table with no creeps...make chit chat...food pretty good...after dinner speech starts...getting drowsy...second glass of wine putting me to sleep...don’t pass out at table...speech takes ages, still going on...finally finishes...grab purse...don’t make a scene...don’t stumble...exit...elevators up to room...collapse.

Day 3:  wake at 5.30...please go to sleep!...wake at 6.30...get up...networking breakfast...force myself to interact...more chit chat...smile...conference very dull...working lunch with new client, not too bad, at least he is interesting...more sessions...smile...more networking...day over by 5pm... check emails in room...dinner with colleague- grilled salmon with 2 martini’s on the side...sleep well, thanks to the booze.

Day 4: wake at 6.30 – thank god!...another networking breakfast...smile...more boring sessions...conference ends by noon...check out...cab to airport is late...arrive and check in for flight...flight delayed by 4 hours...try and amuse self in stupid terminal for 6 hours...board flight...arrive at hotel at midnight...order room service...quesadilla’s are soggy, clearly microwaved...get into bed...start sneezing, damn feather pillows...call reception for foam pillows... wait 30 minutes for pillows...finally sleep at 1.30am.

Day 5: wake at 6.30...breakfast is late...call reception to complain...breakfast arrives – no juice, water or tea...waffles are cold and stale...call reception again to complain...shout...get breakfast and quesadilla’s comped...check out...drive 3 hours to university...find parking...carry 4 heavy boxes into auditorium...set up table and displays...smile...talk to students...smile...check blackberry...leave university...very tired...drive to airport...try and get earlier flight back to London...no luck, ticketing woman very mean, no sympathy...go through security...get stopped and searched for 3rd time this trip...have dinner in terminal...have some wine...board flight...LUCK!!!...get whole row of seats to myself...lie down...sleep.

Day 6: arrive at Heathrow...no sign of taxi driver...find taxi driver and shout at him...he shouts back...get home...search for keys...realise that I stupidly packed them...open suitcase on the sidewalk...search for keys...fingers  find disposable razor first...blood everywhere...cursing...find keys...get in door... cry...collapse on bed...get ‘welcome home’ kiss from Husband...cry again.

This trip was particularly hard because it was so short. The jet lag is the worst, and normally I schedule my trips to be 2 weeks long. But it is not always possible, as in this case. By this summer, I will have had 4 more weeks of business travel.

In addition to the jet lag and running myself ragged, my work also puts a strain on my personal life and marriage. Husband rarely (compared to me) travels for business, so he is often left behind for weeks at a time. We have the kind of relationship where we truly enjoy each other’s company, so being apart is really hard. I try to leave little love notes around the house for Husband to find while I am away – scattered about the house, in his sock drawer, in the freezer, on his Xbox controller, or underneath his pillow. We call each other every day, even though with my schedule and the time difference it is not always easy. He can handle the weekdays on his own, but at the weekends it can be really depressing to be alone when you are used to constant companionship. He tries to have his family or friends visit (or he visits them) if I am gone for more than 2 weekends. He rarely complains and is really supportive, which is great.

So yes, I agree that in the beginning I really loved the overseas travel and excitement of my work. And it has been amazing to be able to see my family and friends while on business. But I don’t want to do this sort of work while bringing up a family. I know other women who do this job with kids, and somehow it works for them. But for me, I want to end this career when I have a kid. I do not live to work. I work to live. And when I have kids, my priorities for work will change. Perhaps I should say if I ever have kids, as it is proving rather difficult to get knocked up when you are not even in the same time zone as your hubby!

Leila Lacrosse blogs weekly on The American Baby Plan in London at http://leilalacrosse.livejournal.com/

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