You know my motto: loved ones deserve the chance to miss one another.
I think it's good to get to miss one another, I think it's good to get some space for a bit in between. I think it makes us see, from a better vantage point, how much we love each other, and how important we are to each other, day to day. I think it helps us strip back a layer of taking one another for granted.
This summer, instead of it being my kids off and about on a busy schedule, it's been me off and about, and it has given my kids the chance to (a) miss me, (b) see how it is with dad primary parenting, and (c) discover they are capable of being quite competent when they need to be.
(Bless my heart, I'm a little overfocused on details and slightly control freakish. Like a Girl Scout Gone Wild, a bit. Everything must be prepared, planned, organized, and completely thought through, every microdetail managed. I keep mental checklists, written checklists, and am a little hypercompetent in managing and preparing. God love my husband, who is so great at so many things, but detail-oriented is not his gift. Last trip I returned home to learn that each day he sent them to camp missing something, and the kids thought the most egregious one was forgetting the thermos. Which, considering it's 114 degrees here, is pretty bad, but you know, camp has contingencies for that lol. So they were fine.)
When I travel, people ask me who cares for the children. This would be a logical question if I was a single mother, but I'm not. I'm married to the children's father, who, by the way, has always been a full partner co-parent. He has done a stint as a stay at home dad, I have done a stint as stay at home mom, and since I'm working full-time, as is he, we have to break parenting responsibilities as much as possible between us as fairly as possible. We usually attend school performances, activities, teacher conferences, etc together.
When I am gone I am fine. I am usually very busy so lack time to ponder absence in a maudlin way, but also, I'm initially overwhelmed by this curious lightness.
When I wake up, it's on my schedule. My only demand is to get myself ready, which I am able to do quickly without interruptions. Breakfast is served to me, cleaned up after me, in a restaurant.
I have thinking time, reading time, can watch TV in bed without bothering anyone, and can even turn it on again if I wake up at 2 a.m., agitated in a bed other than my own.
I can set my toiletries out in my hotel room and nobody gets into them. I leave the bathroom and do not return to find toothpaste coating the counter, my blusher shattered on the floor, or my toothpaste missing. I can leave my work papers on the hotel desk and nobody draws on them.
I do not have to distinguish telling from tattling, implore the children to let it go and stop bickering, beg them to quit torturing the cats (seriously, there is such a thing as too much love, and no, cats are not fashionistas), keep a tight rein on my temper as theirs explode into outbursts of, "You're so mean!" and "I wish I had another family!"
When I deliver my work, the results of my effort, my clients express appreciation and, if more needs to be done, we discuss it reasonably and constructively. They have never snapped at me that it's not good enough, asked why I haven't done more, whined, or made me feel a tidal wave of frustration that what I do never meets expectations, is never enough, no matter what. And if they did, we might opt out of working together again.
When I call home in the evenings, just after bed time, sometimes my husband and I sit and chat in ways we often do not when at home, where so many things call to our attention.
I have come upon mothers crying, missing their kids, when they travel. I have listened to sentimental cravings, understood that powerless sense of missing something vital.
I call my children, to catch up with them, to tell them goodnight.
But I am okay. And so are they.
I don't think this is a measurement of love, that, in our case, falls short.
I do think this is a measure of our strong, independent, personal core, that for me is well-developed, and shows signs of becoming well-developed in my children.
I have a vested interest in my children, who I love, but I am not invested in them so that our identities merge in a way that causes me to feel as if a piece of me is missing when we are apart.
I don't think that the other mothers, the ones who feel sad, are unhealthy in anyway.
I do think that they feel the world differently than I do, and that's okay.
When I travel, people ask me if I miss my children. I do, but not in a painful way. I revel in the time of being myself, unencumbered. It is easy to revel in that time, you see, because it's not my state of being. It's like playing hooky. I know I get to go back, and be surrounded by family. I may feel annoyed when I see my expensive mints strewn up the stairs and down the hall as "breadcrumbs" for the "gingerbread game," but I feel indescribable joy when a warm yawny little body cuddles next to me in the morning to wake.
When I return, my husband is overjoyed to see me, as are the kids, and I feel a sense of importance and validation that often is missing in the every day. Sometimes I think I bear the heaviest household burden, but when I travel and return home and my husband has kept up with the tidying and dishes, I realize how much he does and I feel grateful.