Getting on the airplane without wipes or overnight diapes. Getting me settled. Needing only worry about my bathroom needs. Sipping my coffee and actually tasting it, not hearing a request for a chocolate chip cookie at 8:15 am. A bag of books, pens, trail mix and journals. This is what it is to travel alone.
I’m headed to Texas to spend the weekend with my two sisters. We have four kids between us and they will all remain behind with our husbands. Not one of us specifically had the idea to go away for a weekend. We missed our mother, sometimes desperately, sometimes as a matter of fact, and it seemed that going away would be a good way to strengthen the bonds between us and spend some uninterrupted time talking about her. We wouldn’t need to make dinner or do laundry. We could swear, watch silly movies and drink wine late into the evening without worry over bedtime routines.
Elisabeth is the butter and salt in the kitchen of my life, staples I can’t go without for long if I want to make anything worthwhile. Loving her, indeed is like wearing my heart outside my body. It can be simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating and always vulnerable. Our highs are so high—snuggling with her small body in her warm bed as soon as she wakes up, having her tell me that if she “go’ed away that she would miss me”— and our lows are so rock bottom low. We were in that dark place yesterday in the Monuts parking lot, me trying to wrestle Elisabeth into her car seat because she is screaming, raging for a reason I couldn’t understand. Twenty minutes later she was a normal being again, calmer but I was an exhausted shell. No energy even to stop for gas and desperate to pee, all I could think about was getting home.
And less than twenty-four hours later, I’m on a plane. Headed away. Before we boarded, I was in and out of the bathroom in two minutes instead of ten. No child’s hands to attempt to reach into an adult size sink. No wiping someone else’s bottom. No stuffed animals to juggle in addition to luggage.
I resolve to eat slowly this weekend, to taste my food. Maybe to walk slower. To write and work out each day. To care for only myself. It’s time that no one gives us. Like power, time must be taken. No one gifts away anything of real value and time is not different. We, moms especially, must intentionally take it, here, there, everywhere, anywhere. Grab it in snippets of minutes or in chunks of days. Our love for our children and families may be bottomless but our energy, livelihood and patience are not. Time away rebuilds the bits of me that have been slowly sanded away by stress, worry, shouting and silent anger.
The best? At the end of the weekend, I will be ready to return. Ready and likely eager too. In fact, I’ll want to get back. My life, while not perfect, is a dream one. I have a loving husband who is a partner in the parenting of our child in all ways. This is rare and I have it. How did I get so lucky? My child is healthy, there is work that I love and a cherished, restorative home in a community that fills me. Getting back to that, getting back to her, with fresh eyes and rest will be as breathtakingly appealing as getting away was just a few days earlier. It always is for me.
“Most problems are like that. When we prepare for them and get used to them, they’re not problems anymore. They’re merely the way it is.” Seth Godin says here. I think mothering is like that. I know there will be problems: break-downs, falls, swear words, sickness and tantrums. I can’t anticipate them but I can prepare for the stress of them with regular self-care. Elisabeth isn’t an infant but I need this time away now more than ever. Maybe you do too. Find a seat for one for you too.