Next week, I’m taking a trip with my best friend. I have a confession, though. I’m not going to miss my kid at all.
We will be gone for four days and four nights, have our own beds, take long, hot showers every single day, and drink coffee while it’s still so hot your face melts from the steam. We will have hours of adult conversation, broken only by periods of natural silence and long, leisurely bike rides and walks in nature. I will go to sleep when I feel ready and wake up as the sun rises, sometime between not-dark-o’clock and whenever-the-hell-I-feel-like-it. I can indulge in that second glass of wine, knowing that the only person I have to be responsible for in the middle of the night is me.
I will have pangs of missing my 2-year-old, mostly around his bedtime, knowing that he is getting cuddly and sleepy and wanting to feel the heavy weight of his tiny, exhausted body in my arms, and our sweet ritual of belly laughs and songs before sleep.
But that’s it.
I’m totally serious.
From the moment I got pregnant, I couldn’t wait to let someone else hold my baby and share the onus of sustaining life. I didn’t want to abdicate total responsibility, but I sure as hell wanted a partner in it with me. (His dad is a great co-parent, BTW. Like, the freaking Alton Brown of fathers.)
We experienced an intense newborn period with my son. He suffered a stroke shortly after birth, and he spent the first week of his life in the NICU. I pumped every three hours, around the clock, and sat vigil for 20 hours a day by his tiny bed in a wooden chair, watching helplessly as he fought for his life and won. Elated to finally have him home after six days in that wretched hospital, I didn’t take my eyes off of him, much less my hands. But less than 48 hours later, I started itching to have some space to myself. I pumped some milk, put him down for a nap, and left him in the care of my husband for the next three hours. I only went home because my boobs felt like bombs waiting to detonate, and my pump was the only way to diffuse the impending milk explosion.
Seven months later, E was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies. We were homebound for most of the day, and I was racked with debilitating anxiety. I counted the minutes until my husband came home or bedtime (whichever came first) so I could leave the house, free to be alone in the city for a couple of hours before I had to return home to pump and feed my little love again.
Even though my 2-year-old is now thriving and recovering from his early trauma and life is decidedly less stressful, I still need breaks. I need space. Space to process. Space to think. Space to not be fucking attached to anyone or anything for an hour; a day; a week. Those moments are few and far between now, but I still need some distance to wrap my brain and heart around life.
I fight hard to reject the I’m-failing-at-this-whole-motherhood gig because I know so many moms who hate leaving their babies, their younger kids, and even their older kids.
I can’t relate.
Being a mom cannot be all-consuming for me. It’s too much. And do you know what else?
I need more.
I said it. The thing moms are never ever supposed to say. I NEED MORE. I need people — but not too many, because I get overwhelmed in crowds. I need time alone in order to be an engaged mother — but not too much, because I will turn into a hermit. I need to put him in regular rotation with the rest of the planets in my universe. He’s Venus, but he cannot be my Sun. And if I’m incredibly honest with myself, leaving my son is how I reconnect with my desire to stay. Full stop. Maybe that makes me a super-shitty mom. Maybe it makes me selfish. But mostly it makes me sane.
So I’ll bask in vats of hot coffee and long walks and kid-free vibes, knowing that, when I come home, I can be the grounded, engaging, and present mom my little Venus needs. And with a full heart, I can stay.