Thursday, October 11, 2007

These Boots Are Made For Walking

. . . and that's just what I'll do. One of these days these boots are going to walk all over Peru. (That is the 45 by Nancy Sinatra in the picture)

I am going to Peru in a couple of days. I'm excited about the trip. I'm going with some girlfriends, to learn some Spanish, eat at some fabulous restaurants, and visit Machu Picchu. We are leaving our children behind, in the care of our husbands, all of whom are perfectly capable of running things while we're gone.

So why is it so damn hard for moms to leave their children, even for a vacation that they really want to go on? I have to admit, I've left my kids before. But my friends haven't. And leaving your kids, especially for the first time, is very difficult for mothers.

The first time I left my oldest child was to go out to dinner with my husband. I had a difficult childbirth and a rough couple of weeks with my new baby. I distinctly remember my mother telling me that I needed some time with just my husband. What? WHO? I don't need time with him! She said, "I know, you might not need time with him right now, but he needs time with you." So we made plans to go to dinner, somewhere very close by, and my mom would babysit. Walking out that door and leaving my baby for the first time was one of the hardest things I've ever done. All rational and logical thought left me and raw emotion (or was it hormones?) took over. I had to sit in the car for fifteen minutes, sobbing in the driveway, before we could go. I couldn't enjoy my meal or think of anything to talk about besides the baby, no matter how hard I tried. I was very anxious to get back home.

With practice, I got a lot better at being separated from my children. It was never very easy for me until they were a little older and more independent. But I did it, for the benefit of my marriage, and myself, and my kids too. A little space can do wonders for gaining perspective and time away allows me to recharge.

One of the hard things about leaving children is arranging everything and trying to make sure all their needs are met when we are away. Carpool, sports equipment, lunches, snacks, what will they eat for dinner, can my husband do the laundry, will he do the laundry, will the homework get done, bedtime. We mothers get really involved in the details of making sure the Excel spreadsheet is filled out to the most minute detail so nothing gets dropped. All this focus on detail distracts us from the thought, the fear, what if something happens to us? What if we die in a plane crash and leave our children? They still need us! This fear is very real, if somewhat irrational, for most mothers, whether they care to admit it or not. We are hard-wired to care for our children, to nurture and protect them for as long as we can. But we have to help remind each other that separation is OK, even good. Our children gain life skills, get to see their father can provide for all their needs, and they even get to miss us. We, in turn, get some time away, a chance for a unique adventure or to learn a new skill, some perspective on our daily lives and our parenting. We might even get a glimpse of the possibilities in store for us when our children really don't need us so much anymore.

I think I need practice for that too.

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