How Airline Miles Make Me a Better Mom
If anyone has heard the story of how, when, and why I went 'all-in' on airline miles, you may remember that it was precipitated by becoming a mom. Once this happened, I realized that the only way to keep my new daughter as connected to family as I wanted, given geography and my social work salary, was to be creative about how to manage the costs of travel.
Of course, I also wanted to continue to travel and explore outside of family visits, and with the added financial and time stressors of a baby, the need to visit extended family more regularly, and having to purchase even more seats than ever, airline miles became the one and only viable solution to make all of that a reality. While it didn't take a math genius to realize how valuable airline miles could be, what I didn't know then was that airline miles would not only enable us to travel more than ever before, but they would actually make me a better mom.
Some of the ways that airline miles have made me a better mom are probably somewhat obvious in that miles allow me to give our children exposure to more of the world, while some other ways are much more nuanced. In honor of this Mother's Day, I can't think of a better time to share some of the reasons I'm grateful for how airline miles, and really the entire miles, points, and travel community, help me be a better mom.
Miles make the impossible possible
Would I have flown in 'seats that turn into beds' with my daughters without airline miles? No. Would we have explored places such as Paris, Alaska, Scotland, and the Cayman Islands? Probably not. Would they have seen their family members who live in other states so frequently that they can pick up right where they left off? Not a chance.
Miles can make otherwise impossible dreams very tangible realities. My girls don't know a life without travel because miles have been a part of our lives since they were born. When they learn about various historical events that have taken place around the world in school, we can actually go there and see what it looks like, smells like, and feels like to stand in that exact spot. When they are taught about something like whale migration, they will have seen the majestic whales...both in Alaska and Hawaii.
When they take a foreign language class, they (hopefully) won't roll their eyes at learning to say seemingly simple things in different languages because they know how valuable that can be when all you want is to order a sandwich or find the bathroom. If it weren't for airline miles, none of those otherwise impossible sentiments would be a reality for us. Giving my children those gifts makes me a better mom.
Miles allow you to say yes
On a less serious note, miles make me a much more fun parent because they let me say yes more often. You want to celebrate your birthday at Disney World or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Instead of laughing that idea out of the room, I can instead look at the available miles, points, and deals and find a way to say yes...at least on occasion.
One of the things I loved about staying at the Hyatt Ziva in Cancun, which is an all-inclusive property you can book with Hyatt points, was the ability to say yes to almost everything they wanted since it was all included. You want another smoothie? Yes. You want a second dessert? Yes. You want to go back to the kid's club? Yes. Ocean? Yes. Pool? Yes. Everywhere we turned it was yes, yes, yes.
They say that kids build life-long memories on vacations, and I've even heard family vacations referred to as "happiness anchors". Being able to give my girls the gift of a mom who can sometimes drop the schedules, chores, and routine to just say yes, makes me a better mom.
Travel forces you to take a breath and reconnect
There is no question that our family trips have brought us closer as a family. When all you have are each other, you can dedicate the time to enjoy the moment and create shared memories that just don't usually happen in the same way at home.
For us, this has also meant that my girls are very close, even though they are 5.5 years apart. I can't say that is all thanks to the travel given to us by airline miles, but I can't say it is unrelated, either. At home, my oldest can head to her friends' house, hop on her computer, or set off to her many activities instead of playing with her little sister. On our trips, they just have each other for company, and fostering an environment that brings them closer together makes me a better mom.
In fact, I think these shared and dedicated moments make us a better family.
On the flip side, sometimes the reconnecting that miles allow is done without children. Airline miles have allowed Josh and I to have unforgettable adventures with each other, with friends, or even by myself without the kids. These trips serve to recharge the soul in ways that help me return home with a fresh perspective and ready to be a better mom.
Travel forces you to learn flexibility
It's easy to get wrapped up in your daily routines at home. There are the chores, homework, activities, school, early wake-ups, bathtimes, bedtimes, and the monotony of the everyday that can blur days and weeks together. Predictability and routine are good, but so is learning to be flexible and roll with what life brings you.
There's nothing like delays, flying all through the night, dragging your tails through the airports the next morning, and adjusting to major time changes to force you to learn flexibility. This is true for our kids, but it is also true for me as a mom.
I remember when I went with my older daughter to Paris and we had our day all planned out, when jetlag hit hard. Really hard. Instead of dragging our exhausted and grumpy selves to Disney that morning as planned, we had very late breakfast in bed and played in the parks when we felt like it.
We did make it to Disneyland on that trip, but I think my favorite day was the one comprised of exploring parks and breakfast in bed so late it was really lunch. I can be a Type A over-scheduled mom at times, but traveling forces me to sometimes throw out that playbook and be a more flexible, better mom.
The promise of travel gives you hope
Being a mom can be hard. I could write a whole other article on the isolation that can come when you have an unhappy newborn, are beyond exhausted and sleep-deprived, your day is 98% comprised of nursing around the clock, and you don't even recognize your own life anymore. In those, or any other hard moments, the airline miles in your account represent the hope that one day you won't be sitting on the couch holding a crying baby, in the same dirty, frumpy clothes you've worn for 48 hours straight, unable to remember the last time you even left the house.
One day you will use those miles to book that trip and you will not only get to enjoy the trip when it rolls around, but in the meantime, you get to anticipate the journey. That anticipation can give you the hope that you might need when times get tough. Having that hope and anticipation to fall back on makes me a better mom.
Miles make the mundane fun
Family life isn't all gingerbread houses and roasting marshmallows. A lot of it can be pretty mundane, but mundane can become more exciting thanks to airline miles. I get true enjoyment out of figuring out how to maximize otherwise very boring expenses on our assortment of rewards-earning credit cards to earn as many miles and points as possible. To me, that is a pretty fun game that fits in well with adult responsibilities.
A secret to life, I think, is learning to enjoy the mundane as much as possible and checking off paying bills, ordering the next size shoe, registering for summer camps, and running errands with a sly smile on my face thanks to the miles and points they are earning. It elevates my mood, and in turn makes me a better mom.
Miles give you a community that is all your own
Of all of the ways airline miles make me a better mom, this was the least expected way. Once you have kids, your friends and social acquaintances become strongly influenced by theirs, or at least that is what happened for us. As an example, my oldest daughter had a very tightknit preschool class that stayed together for many years. The kids got along famously, and the parents hung out both at school activities, at after-school playdates, at dinners, during park meet-ups and more. It was really pretty idyllic, and I thought we had found our groove and community.
Then something unexpected happened. By kindergarten and first grade, everyone went their own ways to their respective elementary schools. No longer at an age necessitating formal 'playdates', the kids started playing more in their neighborhoods, spent more time at afterschool and weekend activities, and less time with the crew they had spent their preschool years with. The 'let's meet up' requests became fewer and farther between, and the community that we had enjoyed for years largely faded away as the kids aged onto their next phase of life. It took me by surprise the first time around, but having now lived through it, I imagine this is something that will only repeat itself as our kids go from elementary, to middle school, to high school and beyond.
But you know what, while our day to day interactions shifted, the community I had that was all my own in the frequent flyer world didn't change one bit just because we had graduated from preschool to elementary school. It wouldn't shift if we moved neighborhoods, cities, or even continents. This community isn't tied to what phase of life my kids are in, it is tied to a common love of travel and finding creative ways to do more for less. It is a community that I am proud to call my own.
The blog posts, comment discussions, tweets, Facebook threads, in-person seminars, meet-ups, and more have evolved into some real friendships that transcend many of the parameters that dictate day to day friendships. I'm not a bunco mom, a dance mom, a Girl Scout's mom, a class mom, or a tennis mom. I'm a traveling mom. While that isn't the norm around my neighborhood, it is in this community. Having this community and the very real friendships it has provided, absolutely makes me a better person, and in turn, a better mom.
When I made my first big airline redemption to Hawaii as a 24-year-old recent grad school graduate, I got a taste for how miles could enrich my life, but I didn't yet have a clue that airline miles would eventually make me a better mom.
Happy Mother's Day to every mom out there and cheers to the miles that allow us to be the best moms possible.