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I.T. Phone Home

I.T. Phone HomeAdvances in information technology are helping parents stay engaged in their kids' lives while working on the road, says a Tufts graduate. Cambridge, MA.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.24.02] Corporate travel may be down, but millions of people continue to take business trips each year. According to recent statistics, one in five adults worked on the road at least once last year - most averaged nearly six trips in 2001. For many, business travel used to pose a challenge for parents who wanted to preserve their family life while on the road. But the expanding crop of high-tech gadgets is making the task a lot easier, says a Tufts graduate and frequent traveler.

"Technology gives me the ability to have life be seamless," Mara Aspinall - a 1983 Tufts graduate and president of Genzyme Genetics and Genzyme Pharmaceuticals - told The New York Times.

On the road at least a few days each month, Aspinall and her family have found innovative ways to share their daily lives from a distance. Phones, faxes and email are among the tools her sons - ages 9 and 10 - use frequently.

"Giving children access to technology turns parent-child long-distance communications into a two-way street," Aspinall told the newspaper. By communicating often while on the road, Aspinall says she's been able to preserve a lot of the "immediacy" of her children's lives.

"If you ask children on Wednesday what happened last Monday, you lose a lot of the flavor," the Tufts graduate told the Times. But technology has helped her stay on top of her son's lives, regardless of where she is.

During a business trip last spring, Aspinall was able to review her son's final report cards when they arrived at home.

"It was an important milestone, sharing your end-of-the-year report card," Aspinall - who said her sons faxed their grades to her hotel, then called to chat about them - told the Times. "You wouldn't want to miss that, or hear about it later."

And her sons appear to enjoy using technology, which has proved to be a good learning tool as well.

"The boys send homework to their parents by email, phone and fax, and they learned to navigate time zones during the three years that their father was based on Stockholm," reported the Times. "Once, when a grandmother apologized that a birthday gift would be late, one boy - then 5 - suggested FedEx."

It's a trend that many families are adopting.

"Inspired by the dizzying array of portable devices on the market and a growing emphasis on home and family after Sept. 11, frequent business travelers are taking the traditional nightly call home to new levels," reported the Times. "Using instant messaging, phone, fax, email and even videoconferencing, travelers are keeping up with home life an sharing virtual family moments from far away."

For the Aspinalls - and many other families -- distance has become much less of a barrier to family life.

"It's not relevant whether I'm in Massachusetts or New York or California, they have the ability to get me when they need to," the Tufts graduate told the Times. In fact, one of the rules in the family's "constitution" states that Aspinall's children can call her or her husband at any time.

Of course, technology alone isn't enough.

"In the long run, high-technology communications cannot replace face-to-face family togetherness, in Ms. Aspinall's view," reported the Times.

But their virtual time together is a major help.

"It's just a feeling of belonging, a feeling of being together, whether you are or are not," the Tufts graduate told the newspaper.


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