It’s me, writing from the other side.
Yep, that other side. The side where children sleep through most nights, get on a bus and are away from you for 8 hours daily, and when they toilet so independently that you can longer discuss their bowel patterns with your spouse.
Yes, there is actually this side. It’s kind of odd at first, like visiting a foreign land where you keep looking around for “your people.” Just like when you became a parent for the first time, you feel a little awkward and unsure of your role and your place in line. You have a smaller purse and no longer carry baby wipes or a change of clothes. It’s weird, and foreign, and oddly unfamiliar, despite the fact that you spent a much larger percentage of your life in this world (Bk Read: Before Kids) that the one that feels comfortable to you.
But there are some serious perks too. Date nights, uninterrupted exercise (and other things), feeding yourself while not simultaneously feeding someone else, and none greater than sleep. Oh yea – and there’s another – travel. BY. YOUR. SELF.
I know it’s not everyone’s thing, but I love to travel. I love to see new places, meet new people, sit and people watch, taking in what the daily rhythm of random places feels and sounds like. I like asking waiters what “the thing” is on the menu the town in known for, and buying trinkets made from local crafters. I grew up in a family that also loved to travel. My mother’s talent for scoring deals combined with the fortune of having relatives that worked for the airlines made travel possible for the daughter of a teacher and plumber and that is one of many things I am thankful to my parents for. When I met my husband, we traveled together (gratefully he enjoys travel adventures as much as I do), and when our daughters were born, we held tight to our belief that seeing the world and experiencing life as others do, is not only essential to development of self, but is…well, super awesome. So we mastered closing a stroller and popping it back up through long security lines at the airport like masters, carted them around in carriers on our bodies while pulling wheeled luggage and balancing car seats in the other arm, packing our SUV to the roof with snacks, baby gear, and enough entertainment to go hours in the car.We ignored naps and routines many times in favor of jetting to new time zones and chose spending any extra cash on travel (places both close and far) over new clothes (I’d rather be in Hawaii in my old Target t-shirt with holes in it than home with a new spring wardrobe any day) or an updated house. We took an 11 month old and a 2 year old to Hawaii. 11 hours flying. YES. WE. DID. All in the name of exposing our kids to the world (never mind neither of them have ANY memories of the newborn whale nursing from it’s mother 7 feet from us. Oh well — another reason to go back!)
But here’s the thing, even though having kids did not stop me from traveling, it did stop me from traveling the way I used to. I don’t mean ultra posh resorts with all inclusive bars. I mean, having a whole hour to read a book. I have been a mother for almost 10 years and I have not traveled alone or with girlfriends for reasons other than work (read: child development therapists having dinner while discussing rising Autism rates – what a party!). So when I had the opportunity to join my Aunt at one of the nicest resorts in North America at a reasonable price (just plane ticket and meals) AND bring a friend – I couldn’t resist. We planned and I spent lots of time with my friends over at Trip Advisor. We aligned scheduled and secured child care (aka Daddy back up – thank you grandparents) and all was good… until my Aunt’s plans changed and we were forced with decision to still go or not. After much deliberation, we voted YES. Why not? Spontaneous choices are healthy, right? Except that rocking a 7 year old to sleep while she sobs that she doesn’t want you to leave her (WHY does this not happen when their adored father goes on guy trips?) and spending more time writing out directions by the day for your husband (“What day does she go to dance again, honey? …really?) and laying out clothes for the week complete with notes for what shoes and headbands to wear takes more time than actually flying across the continent. No wonder so many women don’t indulge themselves with time away on a girls trip. Is it really worth the hassle of (heaven forbid) arranging life without you?
I am here to say, yes, ladies, it is. And while you have all the options in the world (we keep reminding ourselves, we don’t have to hurry for ANYONE. No kid. No dog. No doctor appointment. No practice. No PTA), there is one undeniable fact. Becoming a mother changes you forever. And no matter how far you travel or how long you are away, they are never far from you. I am writing this from a time zone 2 hours away from home, but I got up at 4:50 because that’s when I would be up to get kids ready so we don’t miss the bus. I keep forgetting to shut the bathroom door (because no one is going to interrupt me). I only have 1 carry on and 1 personal item. Only 1. No booster seat. I could read on the plane – or sleep. You know what I did?
Yes. I found this guy. His mom was having a rough day flying alone and he liked us. (I almost tried to keep him and I think she might have considered given her level of tiredness).
Even though they never leave us, it is good for us to leave them. If you can rip the bandaid off quickly and give yourself time to think or be quiet enough to listen to what you need to hear, you won’t miss the message. You’ll know that reminding yourself about the woman you are will make you a stronger mother. Showing our children that we have interests (outside of them) provides a strong example of self and a positive model of a work/life/service balance. We are their first and most influential teachers. We know this without a single doubt when considering the responsibility of teaching manners, or letters and numbers, or our faith practices. Why don’t we consider it within the context of us being individuals – and not just their Moms?
It took me almost ten years to get the courage (and lose the guilt) to take the plunge (and I still almost chickened out), but I am happy I did. They are surviving this week and so am I. When I get back, I am certain we will appreciate each other more. Plus, I got to see this yesterday morning, and drink a whole cup of fresh coffee. That I didn’t make. And I didn’t have to reheat in the microwave – not even once.
Knowing when the time is right for you to step away and recharge may come at a different season than it does for a friend. But I am here to say, whenever that opportunity presents, it is worth it dear girl. Promise yourself, that even if it is a short drive away to see an old pal, that you will eventually gift yourself (and your children), with the opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes — perhaps the eyes of the very person you are right now, because even though THEY are never far from us, if we aren’t careful WE can travel far from ourselves. And there really is no place like home.