It was my very best friend (and cousin) since birth’s baby shower last weekend, and it was a “must attend” on my list. I knew I would make a quick trip to her home in Connecticut, and I knew I would not bring my 2-year-old daughter, Aria.
I weighed the pros and cons of traveling solo with toddler:
Pro: The extended family would love to see her.
Con: She is reliably carsick, and there would be at least two hours of driving involved each way.
Pro: She is cute, and I love going on adventures with her.
Con: The point of said visit was to attend shower and then make myself useful in traditional prepping-for-new-baby’s-arrival activities.
Pro: I might even be able to relax while there and catch up with my two best friends.
Con: I will miss her.
I’ve flown solo on airplanes four times since my toddler was born. Every time I’m airborne and reading my book, this really unsettling feeling comes over me. My internal monologue is as follows:
“This is just SO EASY. I mean, I could have totally brought Aria with me. What a shame. Maybe I’m a terrible, selfish mother, always flying places by myself without my family… Why didn’t I bring her? I’m BORED. I’m tired of reading. What am I supposed to do now? Nap? Oh. My. God. I CAN NAP. Maybe I’ll order a cocktail. No, that’s ridiculous, I’ll just get one as soon as my bestie picks me up from airport. I guess I’ll just sit here in peace and think my extremely loud thoughts and make the most of it. ”
*Falls asleep 7 seconds later.*
Traveling without your kids is kind of weird and kind of awesome and kind of lonely. It pretty much parallels motherhood in general. You love your kid(s) and are obsessed with them, but would do anything for a moment alone . . . without them.
While I was up north, I felt like I was living a secret double life. “I hope nobody calls me out on the fact I’m acting like a normal, childless human today,” I would think. Because that’s normal…
The thing is, being a mama is one of my many roles, and it’s the one that fills up the majority of my days and my heart-space, but I still really cherish this other role I have of “best friend.”
Sometimes, after we have kids, it’s hard to leave them at home for short periods to maintain old friendships. “They don’t get it,” we think. Or “I’m too busy,” we say. And “they” probably don’t get it, and we totally are busy.
But what I’ve noticed is when I leave my daughter in the very capable care of her father for a few days to spend time with women who have loved me since before I was a mom and see me as the whole human being I am, the world doesn’t implode! Nobody has died (yet). My child isn’t traumatized, and I only have to suffer through about 24 hours of “I want DADDY.” 😉
It affects me WAY more than it affects her, and if anything it makes me a significantly better mama by the time I return because I have had all that space I’ve been fantasizing about and used it to think all my brilliant thoughts, and those thoughts have led me back to one big important thing: I love being a mom. I love my life. I love my family, and I love having friends who love me back.
Love. Gratitude. Mindfulness. Perspective.
All these things we say we want, but we seem hard-pressed to let go of our roles as mothers, even for 24 hours, to relocate that frame of mind within us. The gratitude is there. It’s snuggled close to mindfulness and joy and peace, and I can promise you the quickest way to locate it, is to give yourself permission to make some space and use it for things you are other than “mommy.”
I missed Aria a lot on this last trip. I felt a bit like I was missing a phantom limb, but it made seeing her again even sweeter. And, equally important, I was able to actually make myself USEFUL to my dearest and oldest friend in the world by giving her my full attention and energy while sorting through approximately 1,000 onesies, sized 0-3 months, which no preggo should have to do alone. Ever.