Life Optimized: Jet Lag

Rant time: I recently read a blogger’s take on motherhood. In addition to other surface level topics (i.e. baby style), said blogger raved about the ease of traveling overseas with the youngest children. Upon a deep dive on the corresponding Instagram feed, said abroad travel was from the east coast to Europe.

Record scratch.

A rookie can handle a single flight from JFK / Dulles / Hartsfield to Heathrow / Fiumicino / Charles de Gaulle with kids. Conversely, even a pair of hardened parents will struggle getting their sole toddler over jet lag on an itinerary from the east coast to Central Asia. That is right people, today we are talking about getting your toddler one time zone short of halfway around the work.

As my husband spent the last two years working at the United States embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan, our family flew ten or eleven (pending whether the states were in EST or EDT at the time of depart) time zones away. It was brutal enough that we only chose to do it one additional time for an much needed spring vacation stateside.

A two leg itinerary over 26 hours long, we connected in Frankfurt both times we traveled east. With a 45 minute layover, we were just lucky to make our connection during the maiden voyage. The second time, both the Pamper Pirate and I took a snooze during an ever-so-long layover, in addition to allowing him to sleep through our first {overnight} flight. I immediately regretted allowing our child to have that layover nap as soon as we were seated. After six overnight hours of hellraising in the Business Class cabin, the Pamper Pirate fell asleep upon the descent into Astana.

From wheels down on Saturday, it took us until the following Thursday to get the Pamper Pirate on local time. It was only six days but it was long enough for me to be convinced that he would never get back to a non-noctural schedule. When he fell asleep while eating his French fries – his favorite food! – during Tuesday lunch, I considered just keeping him on EST until our eventual return eight months later. But by two days later, we did it.

So how did we do it?

It was not by melatonin gummie, as advised by another embassy mom. (Although admittedly I did tell my husband that I would have preferred adding a few spoonfuls of coffee to the Pamper Pirate’s midday smoothie.) No, we got the Pamper Pirate on local time via a double pronged approach that has nothing to do with caffeine or a melatonin gummie: First, we allowed our little one to sleep in but made him skip his daily nap. This was made tougher by the fact that we were exhausted as well and wanted to take the nap ourselves. This brings me the the second prong: one parent needs to stay on the same schedule as the toddler and one needs to immediately moving forward with the local time change.

Note that I am not addressing our westward itinerary. Other than the Pamper Pirate vomiting in his godpoppy’s car as he was riding front facing for his first time on 66 from IAD to the District, he did great adjusting to time for our spring vacation. Moving back in January was a tougher challenge, ostensibly due to the winter weather. We were early birds for the first few weeks back in the states.

I, on the other hand, was confronted with a bout of what I believe was vertigo as soon as we arrived at the hotel the first time back. After a faux missing phone resulting in my husband and best friend searching the trash can outside our hotel and eventually finding it in the jeans I had been wearing for entirely too long, my husband, bff, and son made our Nobu reservation. The latter fell asleep during dinner.

Better than French fry lunch, I say.

Emily Hikade, founder and CEO of Petite Plume, previously worked for the federal government. I knew when I heard her discussing her previous career track and how she took her young and growing family abroad on numerous missions on Second Life, that she would be an authority on facilitating conquering jet lag for littles. To conclude with words of wisdom from a true mom-on-the-intercontinental-go:

I would keep them up as late as possible, but there were always days we’d be up in the middle of the night. One time we were up with jet lag, eating breakfast at 3am with the kids and someone was pulled over in front of our rental, so my kids were plastered up against the window watching the policeman and some poor fellow walking the line. I can only imagine what the police officer thought when he saw three kids, ages 2-7, wide awake at 3am with their noses pressed against the glass!

Emily Hikade, CEO of Petite Plume and foreign service veteran

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