I finally unpacked my suitcase. It sat on my bedroom floor for a week and a half and I kept going into it for all my essentials. Now, I do have two small children and I homeschool and have somewhat of a busy schedule, but I think there was more to my leaving my suitcase unpacked for so long than lack of time. I think that the truth is that I wasn’t ready to be home.
Earlier this month, I took a solo trip to Seattle, Washington to visit my two college besties. It was the first time I’d been away from my kids for more than one night since my son was born six and a half years ago. I’ve been a stay/work-at-home mom the whole time, and I have been homeschooling this year for Kindergarten. I knew it was high time for me to have some time to myself, but I was worried. I was especially anxious in the week leading up to my flight. What if my kids got sick? What if my husband got sick? What if something happened while I was gone?
I got on the airplane a ball of anxiety. I was having such a hard time I actually thought I was going to pass out for one second, and the minute we lifted off I asked the flight attendant for a Bailey’s and coffee to calm myself down. I landed in Seattle, immediately texted my husband, and didn’t stop thinking about my family until dinner (and margaritas) that evening. And then it hit me… I was now 2000 miles away from my children. My husband was going to have to figure out any problems that arose, because I was nowhere around to help. Upon this revelation, I finally relaxed.
I was in Seattle for only three days, and I have a secret for you. One that took me utterly by surprise. Promise you won’t tell. Ready? I did not miss my children. When I booked this trip, I purposefully made it short, thinking I’d be so homesick and wouldn’t be able to handle anything more than a long weekend. I was wrong. Our last night in Seattle I was so sad to be going home the next day, and when I actually got home and was standing in the pickup line outside the Nashville Airport, I teared up a little bit. I was back to my normal life, but my heart was still with my friends in another city. Then I started to feel guilty.
What the heck was wrong with me?? I didn’t deserve these beautiful people in my life. I should have been aching to hold them again! So why did it feel like such a bummer to be home? I took a deep breath as I saw my family pulling in to pick me up, telling myself that I’d be fine as soon as I got in the car. But that evening at dinner was even worse. I was having such a hard time with the absolutely normal chaos of dinner that I barely spoke.
My compassionate husband knew exactly what was wrong, even though I didn’t. “It’s a shock to your system,” he said, putting voice to my feelings. “I feel the same way every day when I come home from work.” There was some insight. I usually get so annoyed with my husband when he comes home from work and is irritated with the kids after only ten minutes. “What do you think I’ve had to deal with ALL THE LIVELONG DAY?” I always chide him. Suddenly the shoe was on the other foot (except he was being like, nice). I gave myself permission to be sad after that, and over the next few days (and a lot of tears) I realized some of why I was having a hard time returning to real life.
Away from my kids, I remembered something I’d forgotten: I am more than “just” a mom. Now, I LOVE being a mom. It’s the most important and most wonderful thing I’ve ever done or will ever do. But it’s not all there is to me. Away from my kids I remembered that I used to be this person with ambition and desires that had nothing whatsoever to do with raising tiny humans. Raising said humans takes up about 99% of my brain space right now, but for those few days away from my kids I suddenly had room in my mind for so much more. It felt so amazing to have long, deep conversations over even longer dinners with no one pulling on my arms, constantly whining in my ear, throwing food, running around the restaurant, or complaining they were bored. I didn’t have to chase anyone else or think about what they might enjoy more than walking around the city and having coffee. No one constantly interrupted me or demanded my full attention. Best of all, no one was mean to me! No one threw a fit and told me they hated me or that I was the worst. It was refreshing!
Just as importantly, my kids got a break from me. Their dad had a chance to exercise his solo dad skills without me controlling anything, and he did a fantastic job! In fact, the kids had such a good time with him that they hardly had time to miss me either. And my kids got to see me do something just for me, which was healthy for all of us.
Now, I’m back in the groove of my normal life, and I’m enjoying myself as much as always. But I learned an important lesson: I have to get away more often. For my health and sanity, I can never again wait six and a half years to spend time away from my kids and with other adults who help me remember that I’m a real person. I’ve come back with a brain full of inspiration, reminders of who I am and what I want out of life. Over time, I also do feel more energized for my kids and their chaos. I think for me, one trip sans kids per year is going to be the new norm.
And if upon my return, from now on, I realize that I did not miss my kids one bit, I’m not going to be guilty at all. In fact, I’ll take it as a sign of a great trip as I unpack my suitcase.
Have you ever taken a solo trip? What lessons did you learn?