The One Hundred-and-Thirty-Seventh Chart

August 15, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Yesterday afternoon I walked through downtown Indianapolis, my computer bag on my back, reading street signs and asking nice-looking strangers for directions. I checked my watch and noted with mild irritation that I would be late for a writing seminar. But I still took the time to appreciate the architecture, the bricked streets, and the lovely late summer weather. Despite the fact that I knew I’d enter the seminar almost halfway through, I also started thinking about lunch.

I didn’t have to hold little hands and look four times to watch the traffic before crossing the street. I didn’t hear any complaining while waiting in line for tickets to the seminars. I certainly didn’t have to drag along any diaper bags. For the first time in a couple of years I am child (and husband) free.

I’ve come to Indy to attend the Writer’s Symposium at GenCon, and my mom came to Illinois to help with the kids. My husband has run away for the week to visit a friend, our trips coinciding in the truest sense of the word. We didn’t plan for them to happen in the same week. But they did. So here I am.

I could write a sweet, sappy piece about missing my children. I could talk about how having children makes me a better writer, because it enriches my life experiences. I could even say that I wish they had made the trip with me.

Some of these things do exist in the recesses of my mind, I suppose, but I also feel compelled to tell the truth: having a couple of days away from the house and kids feels wonderful.

Our society puts a lot of pressure on mothers, I find. Pressure to balance home life and personal desires. Pressure to raise children to become productive members of society while continuing to function as said members themselves. This pressure soon turns inward and starts pushing from the inside out, and we end up convincing ourselves that leaving our children for any length of time ranks at the top of the crime list right along with serial killer.

But traveling alone sets something free inside. It helps us remember that we were people before we became mothers. Yesterday as I walked through downtown Indy, I felt like a graduate student again. My time at Northwestern challenged me in ways I never knew possible, and I remember those 15 months with deep affection and the 20/20 perspective that only hindsight can bring.

When I got married, I thought I’d have to give up that feeling for good. I knew I had embarked on a major life change and responsibility, and I didn’t dare assume that I would ever have the opportunity to make decisions for myself without consulting others first. Yet I did that all day yesterday when I chose where to eat meals or where to sit in the convention center while I waited between sessions. If I couldn’t find a free bench, I just set my laptop bag by an empty wall space and sat on the floor. I didn’t have to pull out crayons and paper or books or surrender my Kindle.

Writers will often post articles with the same point I want to make here, and I’ve read those articles and nodded along. Receiving a tangible reminder of the point provides a different level of reinforcement, though, so I thought I’d pass the reminder to fellow members of the parenting fraternity who needed it. Get away. Don’t feel bad about it. When you come home refreshed and rejuvenated, you’ll have that much more to give your children.

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