How to Be Present for Your Family When You Travel (All the Time)

Take it from someone who missed Thanksgiving at home eight years in a row.

As a remote operations assistant for ESPN, Jenna Mayo has traveled for work four days a week for 18 weeks in a row. Focusing on college football, she handles all logistics for ESPN's broadcasts and has worked everything from National Championships to College GameDays, even the Heisman Trophy ceremony in 2009.


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Given the schedule, she's wound up working on Thanksgiving for eight years in a row. Out of all the states in the U.S., there’s only 10 she hasn’t visited. 

Her busy lifestyle does not stop there. Having been in the sports industry for 15 years (including stints with the MLB, NBA and NHL), Jenna also teaches as an adjunct professor for Johnson & Wales University’s Sports Entertainment and Event Management program and mentors student athletes on college campuses where she emphasizes building character and leadership skills. As a certified public speaker for Charlotte’s Speakers Bureau and Safe Alliance, she educates women on the signs of domestic violence while also serving the Alpha Chi Omega sorority as a lead specialist for domestic violence awareness. When her son was born, she published a children’s book, My First Auburn Baseball Book, inspired by her alma mater’s team.

Working hard in a male-dominant industry, Jenna has always aspired to set an example for women and girls that they should not be intimidated to choose a career in which they're the minority. As a wife and now mom of two, Jenna manages to invest in both her family and work at the same time—even when she’s on the road.

“People want to feel loved, valued, missed and important,” Jenna says. “When I’m away, I want to make sure my husband and kids feel that. It’s my responsibility as a wife and a mom.” 

How exactly does she do it? We asked.

1. Follow the love languages

In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman writes that we each express and experience love in one of five ways. Channel your family's love languages. If your daughter's is words of affirmation, be sure to call her every day. Stock the refrigerator before you leave or make a meal your family will like if your husband's love language is acts of service. Gift giving is another one, but you have to be careful with kids, because then they’ll expect it. The other two languages, quality time and physical touch, can be done once you’re home and before you go. 

2. Be in touch daily

I try to have some form of communication every day and tell them I love them. We like FaceTime. My dad used to send me Beanie Babies when he was in an airport. Now that we have iPhones and all of this technology, we can do things that are free and unique. We can call, text and stay connected to our loved ones in so many ways. 

3. Get creative 

When I work shows, I take a picture with a sign that says “I love Kyle.” I’ll usually be standing on the field or the sidelines of a game. I got the idea from one of my colleagues whose husband is a military chaplain; she laminated his unit’s insignia and would have a mascot or cheerleader hold the sign up. My son’s also obsessed with trains and planes so I’ll send pictures when I see tracks or I’m on my flight. 

4. Leave notes 

Write special “I love you” or “I love you because…” notes or even inspirational quotes or bible verses and hide them in lunch bags, briefcases or backpacks. You can either keep it consistent each time you go away or make it a surprise. 

5. Schedule time for when you’re home and have something to look forward to

When I first got married, I was gone every week for four days, usually on the weekends. Instead of going out on Saturday night, we would plan a dinner or date night on a Monday or Tuesday. Make sure you schedule time to do that. 
 

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