About eight weeks ago, I was in one of “those moods.” You know the feeling – wondering if anyone would clean the toilets if I didn’t, or if my middle schooler would ever shower if my husband were in charge. Would anyone come looking for clean underpants if I wasn’t here? Can I just get off this freaking treadmill for a minute? I describe this as feeling “tethered to the house,” and my husband knows that when I use these words, he should sit down and listen, which he did.
But this time it was different. This time, I meant business. On that cold night in January, I finally did what I’d been threatening to do for years. I declared that I would travel to London to visit relatives…ALONE.
My wonderful husband, who is not tethered to the house, and manages his schedule pretty much however he pleases, was fully on board with my plan. He’d actually been encouraging me to take a trip like this for years, but I hadn’t felt ready until now, and I couldn’t get it planned fast enough. Within a week, I had purchased a plane ticket, made a hotel reservation for 4 nights in London, and began dreaming about my solo adventure. For the first time since having kids, I would be getting an extended break. This was really happening, and I was absolutely elated.
About a week before the trip, I began to prepare for my upcoming absence. I filled the freezer with chicken nuggets, wrote copious notes about basketball practice and garbage pick-up, gave my twins texting privileges on the iPad, and took out one little suitcase. But then something changed.
I’m not sure how or when it happened, but at some point during that week, my excitement changed to anxiety. Instead of feeling inspired and independent, my heart suddenly ached with thoughts of not seeing the kids off in the morning or kissing them goodnight. Of not being available to chat with my teen daughter, or manage my 12 year old’s Type 1 Diabetes. Somehow, my eagerness to break the tethers that bound me to my house and family was replaced with worry and sadness.
In the hours before the kids came home from school to see me off, I ate lunch twice, and then downed 3 bowls of gluten-free Cocoa Krispies. I tearfully packed my carry-on and vacuumed the family room floor one last time. My heart felt too connected to go, but I knew I was leaving anyway. I held my husband’s hand and cried the entire way to the airport. I chided myself for turning this amazing opportunity into some sort of stressful chore. What was wrong with me? Couldn’t I understand how lucky I was?
As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with me. By the time the plane landed, I had napped and watched two movies without interruption. I was already having so much fun, and my trip hadn’t even started yet. Over the next 4 glorious days, I discovered London and spent quality time with my sister-in-law. I wandered in and out of coffee shops, browsed markets, and explored history. I slept alone in my own hotel room. I went where I wanted, when I wanted. I was untethered.
On the plane ride home, my heart ached for my husband and kids. After 5 days away, I missed them in a way that I had never felt before, but this time, it came from a sweet place deep inside. I couldn’t wait to get home. While I was gone, my middle schooler showered, managed his Diabetes perfectly, and everyone wore clean underpants. They missed me, as I did them, but I now believe that this break may have taught us all some important lessons. My kids now know that Mom needs to get away sometimes, and that Dad knows how to heat up chicken nuggets. My husband learned that he can work full-time and be a stay-at-home dad, for short periods of time at least. I learned that my family can survive a few days without me, and that I actually am the only one who cares about having clean toilets.
Most importantly, I learned that as moms, our connections to our families go far deeper than we realize. Our nurturing of and responsibilities to them become critical parts of our identities, shaping us as women, and as people. So when the timing is right, go take your own break, whether it’s an hour, a day, or a week, and cry if you need to. Your heart is in exactly the right place.
Abby Helman Kelly is a married mom of four living in Simsbury, CT. She is the owner of www.glutenfreeconnecticut.com, the state’s most comprehensive and up-to-date gluten-free resource. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.