I’ll never again shoot off an insipid tweet like “Leaving on a jet plane” because we all know the next line of the song goes something like this: “Don’t know when I’ll be back again.” And, see, I thought I knew when I’d be back again and when I thought I’d only be gone for two days and traveling on both of those days, it all felt a little short like maybe I should stay away a little longer and fill the tank up with more sleep and uninterrupted reading, talking, and daydreaming.
But here I am in North Carolina when I was supposed to have arrived in Atlanta Tuesday night and driven just under two hours to home sweet home that just a week ago was home barf home and not a place I felt particularly distraught about leaving. Now the path to home is no Yellow Brook Road. It’s more like a scene from The Walking Dead. Or so I’ve seen on various social media feeds.
Fortunately, all is well at my house as evidenced by the photos my husband has texted me.
I know it should feel like a luxury being alone in a hotel (for the third night in a row!) eating meals I didn’t cook and sleeping in a bed alone without any pinkie toes inching up my nostril. (My husband’s pinkie toes would never fit in my nostril, but Thomas and Mary Elizabeth’s come close. Trust me on this one.)
I know, too, I should not be wah-wahing about being away from my children and my life of domestic bliss (oh, the piles of laundry that await me!) because chances are, there’s a mom reading this who would give anything to make the “leave-it-all-behind” fantasy a reality. I know because I have been that very mom.
I ‘ve been there. I’ve been mired in the mundanity of it all: the endless counter-wiping, sibling squabble refereeing, and meal prepping. All these everyday duties drifting aimlessly along an underlying current of anxiety that none of it mattered at all. All that work I did day in and day out – did it even count as work at all? I don’t do anything; yet, I did everything. At the end of a day I’d be exhausted and wonder for what? What did I really do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Ah, but would it really feel like nothing if I went away? Ha! Imagine the chaos. Forget the abandoned Atlanta interstates and snowpocalypse. My home would be a disaster, a health hazard. How would anyone find anything without Mom the GPS Unit?
I’m sure most moms have had fleeting fantasies of making their escape and our Ralphie moments when we return and our family fawns over us and asks how we reached that lowly state and we answer with something pithy like, “It ‘twas too-much-laundry-and-not-enough-thanks poisoning.”
I was ready for a break. I was eager to be in the presence of some amazing moms, moms who were honest about how much they loved motherhood but also were aware of how it stretched you so thin sometimes you thought you might unravel.
I flew to Philadelphia on Monday to be a part of Danielle Bean’s amazing Momnipotent study for mothers. It’s obviously still in production, but the book and accompanying DVD and journal are expected to come out some time in the late spring (you can sign up now, though, for email updates; see link above). It was a gift to be a part of it and to meet authentic, real moms, including a mother who had daughters who weren’t always the quiet, calm type. “One of daughters clocked her sister on the head this morning over food,” she told me.
Alleluia! I mean, sorry to the victim of the clocking, but I’ve met so many moms of girls who seem to have the girls who are sugar and spice minus any real spice whereas I live in a house where spiciness and sauciness and just plain loudness dominate, and the only sweetness that seems to be present sometimes is the dark chocolate I am surreptitiously cramming in my mouth in a moment of stress. I’ve found myself wondering too many times if I am doing something wrong instead of just recognizing that I’ve got spunky kids full of life and all its glorious drama, and that their every whim and behavior isn’t all about me. Get over yourself, Katie. You are no puppet master. You’re often just along for the ride, so put the safety harness on and try to enjoy it. Weeeeeeee!!!!!
I miss it all so much. Worried friends have been texting me and telling me to try to just enjoy the time sans kids and at first, I did. But now I’m just ready to be home. I miss my husband. I miss my kids. I even miss the spiciness. It’s too quiet in this hotel room. There have been far too many solo trips to the bathroom. Well, actually that may be one luxury I’ve kind of appreciated. No entourage – not even a big, black dog breathing on me as I empty my bladder is kind of a big deal.
Yes, I have a book to read. It’s good enough. I have my laptop and that novel I’m should be writing, but the words aren’t flowing too easily out of me. Maybe I need more of a soundtrack to be inspired. Where’s my toddler’s pteranodon-like shrieking when I need it?
There’s only so much time you can spend on social media. Uninterrupted Twitter perusing gets old very quickly. Gym hotels are lonely. Eating alone at a restaurant isn’t as idyllic as it sounds at least not when you eat meal after meal in silence. I’ve always enjoyed the role of the solo tortured artist. Even as a young girl, I liked to retreat to a creek nearby my home and write alone in nature. The life of a hermit cloistered in silence has a certain appeal to me. I like being on my own. But I like to be the mom and wife, too, perhaps more than I even realized until I’ve gotten a taste of what it would be like to be away and alone for several days in a row. Maybe my kids sometimes take what I do for granted, but maybe I take my beautiful, messy life for granted just as much at times.
When I finally walk into my door, I’ll be relieved and happy to have all those kids and that dog and husband so happy to see me (the new cat will be nice to see, too, but he generally doesn’t greet me with the kind of enthusiasm the rest of the family does). Yet, I know just like everyday motherhood, it won’t be all warm and rosy. The noise decibel is likely to make me cringe and kick myself for not basking in my solitude more. The immediate meltdowns (Mom’s home now, so we can fall apart and blame her for the fact that we can’t find this or that) will frustrate me. I may very well wonder why I was in such a hurry to return to the pandemonium.
But there’s one thing I won’t wonder about, at least not for awhile. I won’t wonder if what I do matters. Maybe it’s not the doing that really matters – lo and behold, they survived without me! – but it’s the just being there that does. Sometimes the tasks I perform might feel invisible or taken for granted, but I should never feel extraneous.
A mother is not an Oxford comma; she needs to be there. She is not the checker-offer of items on a to-do list. She is the heart of her home. Maybe the cooking and laundry folding don’t matter as much as we think. My kids and husband don’t seem to be all too worried about all that, although my husband mentioned that Thomas hasn’t been pooping as much. “Have you been giving him any smoothies?”
“You know, I haven’t. I’ll make him a big fruit smoothie tomorrow.”
“Throw in some greens, too,” I advised.
They had hash browns and some other odds and ends for dinner because the cupboards are getting bare, thanks to the snowpocalypse.
So Mom keeps things regular in more ways than one.
But it’s not my Miralax-like power or my laundry folding technique my kids are pining for (if I’m honest I am a lazy folder, and my husband is far more precise and actually folded my filming outfit for Momnipotent into a neat origami swan or close to it anyway). It’s just me they’re missing.
When my husband told me my 4-year-old said, “I miss Mommy because I love my mommy,” I nearly cried. They do notice. Maybe not the behind-the-scenes work, but they do notice me and when I’m not there, there’s a void only I can fill. That’s powerful stuff. That’s “momnipotence.”
I know I’ll end up getting fed up again and feeling inconsequential in my mothering journey, but my longer-than-anticipated absence from home has made me aware of just how wrong I was to think that my life and what I do don’t matter. Even if I do it imperfectly, they want me with them. There’s a house full of people who miss me and want me home. I’m on my way.