October 8, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
Regular readers of this blog will know that a couple of weeks ago I did something I’ve never done before: I left the children home for the weekend with my father-in-law as my husband and I went out of town for a business trip. The idea of going on the trip filled me with trepidation; I’d never left my babies like this before. While I had no doubt they would be safe and well-fed and well-taken-care of while we were gone, I still felt a hiccup in my heart whenever I thought of leaving them.
And then I went on the trip. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Once we landed and got to the hotel, I didn’t feel guilty for going. And I didn’t feel guilty for leaving the girls.
But the biggest thing for me comes in the fact that I don’t feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Since we’ve come back home, I haven’t felt a dragging of my conscience that I had fun. That my husband and I got to travel without the kids for the first time since we’ve had them. My heart hasn’t poked me with the admonition that I am a mother first and foremost and I shouldn’t even consider stepping out of the house without looking toward Six and Four.
As I explained in the Growth Chart from the third week of September (the Fifty-Seventh Chart found here the-fifty-seventh-chart,) because I grew up with a certain set of cultural norms I always assumed I’d raise my children according to that protocol. I never knew that changes in generations and professions and living arrangements could challenge one’s circumstances and bring a person to do what one had sworn one never would.
Truth to tell I’ve always viewed with a bit of disdain those parents who habitually leave their children and travel on their own. What’s the point of having a family if you’re not going to spend time with them? While I could see the value in my own marriage of date nights—something my parents never went on—I never thought I’d travel without my kids.
And now I have. I had a great time—and I’m comfortable with saying it as well as embracing the idea.
That’s not to say that I’ll be jetting off to far-flung places every chance I get now. I don’t know where our future will take us and what other situations will occur where my husband and I will travel together once again. But I’m taking my own experience and using it now to remind other domestic engineers that once in a while it’s okay to think about yourselves.
We spend the majority of our days planning for and thinking of others. Packing lunches, doing laundry, chasing down school supplies, making doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, cleaning the house, cooking meals, dropping off children, picking up children, troubleshooting technology—on and on and on. Even before we went on the trip, I spent a lot of time arranging and cooking and explaining and teaching Six and Four some basic things that extended slightly beyond our normal routine so my father-in-law wouldn’t have too much trouble with them.
But on the trip, the two of us had conversations and could go to Starbucks in the early evenings because we felt like it. On the last morning we were there, my husband went to a meeting alone and I slept in. While sleeping in isn’t exactly an unknown luxury for me—my family is sweet enough to let me do it most weekends—once I woke up I didn’t have to think about kid-friendly lunches or how much time I needed to convince Six that she should take a nap in the afternoon. I could just get up, take a long hot shower, surf the web, and explore on my own.
Most people applaud the actors onstage or onscreen; few think about the production crew behind the scenes. And while Oscars and Golden Globes are handed out every year for Best Sound Effects or Best Editing, let’s get real: the majority of people who watch the awards shows don’t really care about those awards. They don’t care about the minute details that go into making those movies and TV shows a success. But without those production crews, those movies and shows wouldn’t even get made.
Choosing the life of a domestic engineer means choosing a life in the shadows. For any woman this can become a difficult undertaking—spending one’s entire life working and running and thinking and planning so that everyone else can succeed. My family makes it a point to thank me and show me their appreciation, but on those days when I’m incredibly tired or the kids are cranky or my husband and I have a tiff about something it’s hard to remember those moments of gratitude.
Which is why trips like the one I took can function like a booster shot. Granted, I worked hard before the trip to make sure everything would run smoothly while we were gone, and I think the work I did contributed to the success of the weekend. But once the weekend started, I found myself relaxed and able to have fun.
And it’s nice to remember how to do that: how to have fun.