I left town without my two small children last weekend.
It was a three-day, four-night trip, and I was equal parts excited and anxious about it. Excited as I packed my bag full of girly things, like makeup and cute outfits. Excited to take a eight-hour flight and read a book without two wiggly worms crawling around my lap.
But I was anxious as the list of instructions I would leave in my absence grew longer and longer:
Refill your prescription on Thursday, request the 90-day option. Friday is coin day at the school — be sure to send a quarter for Ben! Remember tomorrow is early pickup day for both kids! I’ve preordered the groceries, and they’ll be delivered Saturday at 9 a.m., already tipped.
The list was two pages long, already. Some of the instructions seemed fairly obvious.
“Maybe this is over the top,” I considered. But, no, I’ve left town before without the Life Instruction Pamphlet, and it resulted in 26 phone calls and a late pickup at the preschool. Everyone survived, of course. But it wasn’t pretty.
As I packed the last of my toiletries, I teased my husband that maybe I should write a book on how to manage the entire household in the event that I died while out of town.
“God forbid,” I said. “The toilet paper would stack up to the ceiling, one roll on top of the other.”
“Probably,” my husband winked. “But we’d still be able to wipe our butts.”
I laughed, but had my doubts.
Nevertheless, I left my instruction book on the kitchen counter, said my goodbyes, and escaped for the airport. A few hours later, as I was rolling my suitcase toward the terminal, a strange sensation took over me.
Walking was easier. Breathing was easier.
It was like I’d been running on an inclined treadmill and suddenly stepped off. I felt…weightless.
It was an unfamiliar, albeit pleasant feeling, that was quickly interrupted by mom guilt.
What was wrong with me? Why was I treating this weekend like some sort of a jail break? What kind of mother feels liberated when she escapes her kids?
But, no…that wasn’t it. Not really.
It wasn’t my children whom I was so glad to escape. Even when I’m exhausted, I love being their mama.
The weight I was shedding was something else entirely: It was the weight of being so dang needed.
My partner has a very demanding job, so I take on the role of default parent. I’m the one who knows the nurse’s name at the pediatrician’s office. I’m the one who knows where our family’s prescriptions are refilled. I know when show-and-tell day is, what the letter of the week is at my son’s preschool. I know when each bill is due and how much food the dogs get in the evening.
So when I decide to take a three-day trip, I have to write these ridiculous lists or things simply don’t get done. I realize the fact that my family barely functions when I leave town speaks to how necessary I am in their lives. And I don’t resent that. I relish in motherhood more than anything in this world.
It’s a beautiful burden, this being needed. But the truth is, it’s still a burden.
And that is not something we mothers should feel guilty for acknowledging.
Mamas, we are allowed to love our babies with all of our hearts and still wish we weren’t needed so much. We are allowed to love our families and still wish they weren’t dependent on us for every damn thing. We are allowed to acknowledge that the weight of being necessary to someone’s existence can feel suffocating at times.
Being needed for all of the things, all of the time, by all of the people — that takes it out of a person. Right? It sure as heck takes it out of me.
I don’t have the answer to being “not needed” because that’s not really the answer we are looking for. As moms, we want to be needed by our babies. But, we need a break sometimes. We need to pack our things and spend a few days laughing with our best girlfriends, just long enough to recharge our batteries.
I love my kids, my family, my co-workers. I love my life. But I also wish that, sometimes, I wasn’t needed so damn much.
And I don’t believe that saying that out loud makes me a bad person.
I believe it makes me honest.