I recently took a vacation to Las Vegas to celebrate my friend’s last days as a bachelorette. My girlfriends and I have dreamed of going to Vegas together for years and this felt like the perfect opportunity. It seems it took a long time to get to that point both in terms of years and in terms of the actual preparation for me to go. I had to make all these arrangements for my kids that I haven’t had to do before I because I have never left them. Madison had been to my mom’s, my sister’s, and Matt’s mom’s house all overnight before. But Mallory had never been away from me for a night so that was an emotional hurdle for me. It was partly that I would miss her but I was more worried about her missing me. She’s very attached to me and whenever I am trying to hand her off to anybody other than her father she cries and clings to me. I had still, at that point, not seen her sit calmly with somebody else in months. If I even just go to an appointment and leave her with my mom the reports are that she is okay but cries off and on, misses me and can’t wait til I’m home. So this gave me some anxiety about leaving for 3 nights and returning after she’s gone to bed on the 4th night. I wanted to make sure she was set up to be as comfortable as possible even if I couldn’t control her happiness and make her not miss me or want me. The snacks I could pack, the instructions I could leave behind, the clothes I could set out, anything I could think of.
Now I know she would be fine without all that. In fact, when I’ve left her before just to go to appointments, I’ve even had the thought that she would survive if I straight up died. If I were not here at all she would have to move on. So if she were holding out on eating or drinking I feel confident that if she got hungry or thirsty enough in my absence she would eventually have to give in and take sustenance from somebody else. It is not ideal obviously. It’s a sad and morbid notion. But it’s comforting somehow too. That said it didn’t remove all anxiety about leaving her in discomfort. It didn’t alleviate guilt over knowing if I stayed home she would be happier. So far I had only really given myself license to go to appointments that felt necessary in terms of self care – like the dentist for cleaning or a massage for neck pain – and felt pretty guilty when I even just went to get my hair done.
So the first day of the trip and even on my way there I did feel a lot of guilt and I felt sad and missed her. I had micro-cry sessions when no one was looking. My friends did ask and I was honest about how I was feeling.
By the second day it got a little easier. That is to say I thought about both of my little girls a little bit less and got to enjoy myself. It was also a conscious choice to not keep them at the front of my mind and to instead indulge in the fun and excitement of where I was and who I was there to celebrate. But I still thought of them and I wrote to Matt each night and I did a video call with Matt and Mallory. I felt sad again when I missed the chance to talk with Madison because she was napping and later in the day it didn’t work out to see her either.
With them on my mind and with all the work I did ahead of time to prepare, I realized it’s in some ways like taking vacation from my usual job (when I’m not on maternity leave). At my job in an office where I have responsibilities that I care about and don’t feel good about abandoning there are certain tasks I can offload to coworkers and leave in their hands but I will still think about them on vacation. And there are other things that I would just try to accomplish before taking off so that they are not left in others hands. Some things feel easier to finish than hand off in the middle of execution. And then of course there are things that I would catch up on when I get back to the office after vacation. So ultimately it feels like I work harder the week before vacation and harder than normal the week after. And that always makes the vacation feel a little bit cheated or counteracted. A sort of twisted vacation tax. Well this was really similar – taking time off from my job as a mom. I thought about what I was leaving in other people’s capable hands and I scrambled to prepare as much as I could to make life easier for them before I left. And when I came back I caught up on laundry and some things I normally do when I’m home that are pretty obscure and not time sensitive and thus just easier to leave for later. You know all that Mom mental list stuff.
But I went. I saw. I drank, laughed, floated in a pool, chatted with strangers but more importantly chatted endlessly with my friends. I slept uninterrupted from 3:00am-9:00 am which is oddly better than a lot of my sleeps at home (moms know what I’m talking about).
All in all I think the extra effort before and after was worth it. I definitely enjoyed myself while I was away and I think it was also a really good exercise for me to remember how it is to be myself outside of the space of motherhood. I think it was also a good exercise for the girls to be away from me. It was good for Matt to experience taking care of them without me being only an hour away or a call away from helping or advising. They bonded with their grandmothers and their aunt. It was good for everybody even if it was hard.
Okay so when is my next vacation?