My first real trip away from the boys/motherhood is a screwjob

A few weeks ago, when a production company told me they were filming a segment about the last project I worked on and could I come to North Carolina for an interview, my first thought was no. It’s way too far, especially since we live in Europe now, there are no grandparents around the corner to help.

But for the past two years—actually even before they were born, as I was restricted from traveling at a certain point because carrying twins makes you a “high-risk” pregnancy– I have said “no” to every professional opportunity that has come my way: speaking engagements, other books, conferences, articles. Some things I was interested in, but the boys were either imminently due/newly arrived or we were packing up and moving somewhere again, so I knew I could not in good faith sign a contract and deliver on a deadline. Other things I was happy to have an excuse not to do.

It is a luxury, of course, that I have a choice. I have friends who work and travel away from their kids on a regular basis.

Even though the days are long, the years have been fast. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to spend it watching my boys learn to smile, sit up, crawl, walk, talk, run, and scream “NO!” at me.

Yes, there was the time we went to a friend’s wedding or to Stonington for our anniversary, but those were just a night here or there and we were within a few hours drive from my parents and the boys.

But since we moved to Ireland and the boys started part-time crèche, I have a little space in the mornings around the laundry and the groceries and the guests for myself. I started getting a sense that this year it is time to start saying yes again.

My extremely supportive husband said, “Go. I’ll figure it out.”

Their crèche, where they spend their mornings, said they would take them for full days for the week. S will have to leave work early every day to pick them up, get them home, give them dinner and a bath and put them to bed.

“You’ll hate me by the middle of the week,” I told him.

“I know,” he said, “but right now I love you and I’m telling you if you want to go, go.”

Still until just a few days ago, I had no ticket booked and thought there would be some excuse not to go, for which I would have been partially relieved. The travel was complicated, the legal permissions were potentially fraught, and let’s face it, I have nothing to wear. I wear awkward clothes because I hate shopping and no one sees me and more often than not I am grabbed by saucy, sticky little hands or have a trail of snot of my shoulder where one of my boys has wiped his nose.

But as my husband says, “Stop being an impossibilist.” (Either choice is something that won’t make me happy, i.e., if I say no, I’ll be a bit angry with myself/him and if I say yes, I feel guilty and selfish and when their faces crack a little at the mention of me going a way, I want to start bawling.)

* * *

So here I am. I open my laptop at 37,000 ft and see the pen marks on my keyboard C left when he climbed up onto the chair at my desk and helped himself to a pen. When a child on board singsongs, “Momm-mmee!” it feels directed at me. I am marked: a mommy, no matter what now.

There are two mothers traveling alone with their toddlers. I saw them form an instant bond when we were waiting to board. Observing them now, I realize how absorbed we become in the rants and raves of our young children, how we plead with them to stop making noise, stop fiddling with someone’s seat, to stop making such a spectacle and how tense it all is. But really for everyone else, it just fades into the background. We are lost in our thoughts, our books, our movies. The chatter and the protests and the struggles are not so large to the rest of us, though they feel huge to the parents in the middle of them.

I have wished so much for solitude, yet the sight of a chubby, red-cheeked boy trying to play peekaboo with me in the row ahead ambushes me. The two seats next to me break my heart with their emptiness. I wonder how I am going to get through the week without holding my sons.

And that is the great screwjob of motherhood. I will have more time to myself this week then I have had in two years. I have longed for these uncharted days. But I will not have the afternoons of kissing bruised knees, performing impromptu musicals, and receiving the intense and profound love of my children.

I am so used to worrying about them: do they have their hats, their mittens, their snacks? Are their diapers clean? What will I make them for dinner? I referee their attacks on each other over toys. And sometimes, it is so draining. My mother always says what they need the most is you.

What no one tells you is how much you need them.

27 thoughts on “My first real trip away from the boys/motherhood is a screwjob

  1. Yep, you’re marked all right. It is a scarlet M. I appreciated this post more than you’ll know. So much of the time it feels impossible to be extricated from them, then you feel so lonely, I can only relate to something I have no actual knowledge of: a new amputee. The burning of the missing limb…. Who knew that it would be so fraught of a gig? On a lighter note however, well done for going and seeking and perhaps even saying yes? And on another, I promise you, there may even be some black pants in your future that can withstand grape jam, just wish I could go with you to buy some! 🙂 Sara

    ps: enjoy some good brew by yourself with that laptop for me, would you? I miss that the most–the space to create–well without getting goldfish, milk, applesauce….

  2. I’m glad you go to go. I have to admit that on my few (admittedly short) business trips I was thrilled to be away. Try to enjoy your time because before you know it you will be back in the laundry.

  3. ditto to all above…beautifully said, you touch my heart always & I hope you surprise yourself with moments of blissful you time…you are an amazing Mommy +++++

    xoxo Coco

  4. Well, you know my take on this whole thing! The week will seem to go by both fast and slow and you will be thrilled when it is time to go back home to the boys. However, the first rough moment at home and you’ll think that work trips aren’t THAT bad. Safe travels.

  5. Thanks Erin. So true, we need our children.

    But NOW, go enjoy that free time. Throw yourself into this adventure for YOU and you’ll go back to your children with more joy than you could imagine. They’ll love you even more, if that’s possible.

    Love, Chrissy

  6. Erin,
    This is huge for you! I’m really proud of you and I’m sure you will have an amazing time and will be much prouder of yourself than you will be sad to be away from the boys. You’ll chat on the phone, you’ll skype, you’ll miss them and then, in no time, they’ll be there in front of you grinning and shouting, “Mommy!” and you’ll be the happiest mom in the world again. Congrats on starting to say “yes” again! It’s HUGE!

    • Yes, my two year-olds have Skype (or “kype” as they call it) in their vocabulary. On the whole I glad I said yes and got a chance to step outside mommydom for a few days. Yesterday, though, it just started feeling too long. I hope to be a more patient, relaxed mommy when I get back. How long will it last? A few hours?

  7. I would seriously go ahead and enjoy yourself as much as possible. The week will fly by and you will wonder what happened to it. Kids are amazingly resilient, I’ve also found. I thought both kids would be somewhat saddened by my short trips away, however few they are. But apparently they hardly noticed (this according to my mother, who I think noticed my absence more than they did).

  8. I read your blogs and I know exactly how you feel. To this day my boys think Wednesdays are the worst day of the week because it is the “ONE” day I work late. All the other days I am home to greet them off the bus. This is real life and I think it is great for our boys to see us finding happiness and joy in other things other than just them… I know that sounds harsh but it is true. We need to show them that we are important so that they will do the same for themselves as they grow. Like you I spend at least 80% of their lives with them… Enjoy your 20% guilt free. I always say guilt is a wasted emotion. Lol:) and I tell them often that no one will ever love them as much as their mommy and for now they agree…I will enjoy it while it lasts puberty is around the corner 😦

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