Why a business trip is a guilty secret for working mothers

It’s a working mother’s guilty secret that after a few days away at a business conference we come home feeling more refreshed than after a family holiday, writes Theresa Miller.

Unless you’re staying at a five-star resort, family holidays can be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic… same routine…different venue. That’s why more mums are packing their bags for business trips …a chance to learn new things, make valuable contacts and rediscover who they are – without the ties.

I was lucky enough to be invited to Montreal for C2’s annual three-day networking event aimed at disruptors, innovators and businesses wanting to shake up their old habits.

The event was held in and around a circus big top; the colourful and novel set designs, hands-on workshops and provocative speakers made the atmosphere feel more like a giant playpen for adults than a conference. Among the popular labs were pools of plastic balls, chairs suspended in the air, clouds full of mist and virtual reality labs.

Despite the quirky environment, I had some meaningful discussions and made several useful business connections.

In one workshop, our mission was to bake cookies with a bunch of strangers, come up with a brand name and a marketing plan, in just one hour. With the clock ticking, we created red, love-heart shaped biscuits with a ginger kick and called them “Glamies – for the diva in you”. We discovered that collaboration minus ego (and company politics) plus a tight deadline is a recipe for success.

In another workshop, run by the former Disney animator, Dave Jaboski, we witnessed the power of creativity when we ‘plus’ each other’s work and build on it, rather than immediately cutting it down. “The world needs creative solutions now more than ever before,” Jaboski said.

In the conversation marketplace we discussed the fate of the media, and learned the latest in technology, social media trends and sustainability.

Meanwhile in the experiential labs, I glimpsed the future while wearing a virtual reality helmet and recorded my brain waves with an ECG monitor.

When I took a bike tour around Montreal’s canals, our guide, Mike talked about the importance of affordable, social housing and sustainable living. “As adults we need to wake up and have tough conversations; we don’t live in Disney Land,” he said.

My head was fizzing with new ideas.

What was also liberating was not having to pick up the kids from school at 3 pm or fretting because I hadn’t remembered to defrost the chops for dinner.

When I left the conference I was incredibly grateful for the experience, and to my husband for holding the fort back home.

I vowed to make time at least once a year to break out of my routine. Whether you’re a parent, carer or a small business owner in a rut, we all need a brain break to kick-start our creativity and innovation muscles.

Back home, even my teenage daughter was mildly impressed by the tricks I’d learned at the Instagram story-telling workshop.

The good news is you don’t have to leave the country or even tap your credit card to get a healthy dose of brain food. There are free public events and interesting panels at universities, libraries, art galleries, book launches and business councils.

Do your brain and business a favour – get out more.

Theresa Miller is a freelance journalist and author