I speedwalked through the airport on Thursday, the wheels of my tiny carry-on suitcase buzzing along the floor as I wove around the other passengers. My baby girl was waiting in baggage claim, and I hadn’t seen her in five long days.
Which was kind of the point, actually.
For fifteen months, I’ve never spent more than half a day or so away from Natalie. With no family nearby and the astronomical cost of babysitters in the Boston area, it seems selfish to hire someone to watch Natalie for anything other than date night with Will (which also happens far too rarely).
A few weeks ago Will and I decided that I needed a break, so I packed my tiny suitcase and went to Tennessee BY MYSELF to visit my parents and sister for five days.
I fantasized about the trip almost every day before I left. You mean I can walk through the airport by myself and make my 55-minute connection effortlessly, with time leftover to use the ladies’ room by myself and eat a sandwich without having to share it? I can sit on the plane by myself, without a baby crawling over my lap or kicking the seat of the person in front of me? I can fit all my things in a single bag and not have to worry about snacks or milk or blankies or books or quiet toys that only hold a baby’s attention for two seconds?
You know you really need a vacation when air travel is the most relaxing thing you can think of.
I was nervous, though. I felt horribly conflicted because even though I so obviously, completely, 100% needed this trip, it still felt selfish. Was I taking too much time? Would Will and Natalie be ok? Would I be ok? Being a stay-at-home mom is my job and I love Natalie more than anything in the world; am I a terrible mother for wanting to go?
Nope. Nope nope nope.
Taking time for yourself is NOT selfish. It’s the exact opposite of selfish, because it’s what keeps you sane. Does that always mean a 5-day trip somewhere by yourself? No. But when you ignore your own need for a break for as long as I did, it might take a bit longer to reset.
And a reset is exactly what I needed. Of course, everything was fine. Will was fine and Natalie was fine and I was GREAT. I managed not to cry after they dropped me off at the airport, and quite frankly, it’s miraculous that I managed to hold myself together. But we talked on the phone multiple times a day, Will sent me adorable photos and videos of Natalie every day, and nobody grabbed any razor blades or had to go to urgent care! YAY!
I didn’t do anything terribly exciting in Tennessee. I went for a run, took brisk walks with my mom, and curled up in an adirondack chair by the fire pit my dad built. I ate a warm Krispy Kreme donut for the first time in my life, spent a day with my sister hitting up every thrift store in a 10-mile radius, and ate takeout lunch lakeside. In November. Without freezing to death. WOAH.
I had hemmed and hawed over whether the trip I was taking too much time and should shorten it by a day. Pretty much everyone in my life said NOPE, don’t change a thing, so I didn’t. And it was perfect; not too short and not too long. I know this because by the time Thursday morning rolled around, my need to hold Natalie in my arms and squeeze her in a great big hug was a physical ache, and I teared up any time I saw a toddler of roughly her size in the airport.
Our final descent into Logan seemed agonizingly slow, and we taxied round and round the airport for what felt like an hour while we waited for our gate to open up. When we finally spilled off the plane in a jumble of backpacks and rolling suitcases, all I could think of was the enormous smile on Natalie’s face and the joyful reunion we’d have.
I turned the last corner, and there they were. Will beamed when he saw me and excitedly pointed me out to Natalie. Her eyes slid over my face…
…and just kept going. No eye contact. She wouldn’t even look at me.
I lifted her out of Will’s arms and held her close and smelled her hair, told her how much I love her and how much I’d missed her. She stared resolutely over my shoulder. I’m sorry; who are you again? MAMA IS DEAD TO ME.
Well…it’s still good to be home, despite the frosty reception.