Last week I found myself thinking about my friend, also named Jenny, who is an Army wife and preparing to move to Germany in the next month or so. Jenny and I were fast friends when we met in grad school in Hawaii. She is a spunky, firey redhead with an Alabama accent, and we share a mutual disdain for stupidity. She is perfectly snarky and sarcastic, and upon meeting her I knew she was my spirit animal. We spent most weekends (and many night classes) together for the entirety of our grad school program, and our husbands ended up being good buddies too. When I think of my time in Hawaii, she is one of the best memories I take away.
Of course, as a military wife, you quickly learn that even the best friendships are forced to separate in just a few short years. We moved to Washington, and she moved to the desert of California with her husband, and had a baby boy a couple years before I had Claire. Anyway, we always stayed in touch and talked about meeting up somewhere in the country ever since we moved apart from one another. This last Christmas, we did end up meeting her and her family in Orlando for a quick but wonderful Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios. The park was great and our inner Harry Potter nerds were sufficiently pleased by the trip, but the best part was reuniting with our friends, babies in tow, and picking up right where we left off, as if we hadn’t not seen each other in almost four years. Those are the kind of friendships you know will last.
Flash forward to last week, as I was thinking about Jenny moving, and a wild and crazy idea popped into my head. As they are currently stationed in upstate New York for another month or so, I texted her late at night asking if she’d be free for a girls’ weekend in New York City – one last hurrah – before her big move. I have a TON of airline miles burning a hole in our bank account. The more I thought about how amazing a weekend like that would be – no kids, plenty of time for girl talk, leisurely meals at fabulous restaurants, no toddlers trying to run free around the place or nap times to worry about – the more excited I became. I waited almost a whole day in agony before she texted me back and accepted my proposal!
So in two weeks’ time, I will get to fly (in a plane….by myself) to the Big Apple, see a Broadway show, eat at delicious restaurants, and walk and shop the city with one of my best friends. I am absolutely ecstatic. Sean volunteered to take a day off of work, and will stay home with Claire so I can have an escape, and I am so grateful. I know he would love a few days in New York too, but he knows what a hard time I’ve been having lately, all the sadness I’ve been working through, and I just feel so lucky to have a compassionate and supportive husband… who is going to let me go party in the big city without him!
This will be my first time away from both my husband and my daughter since… well, since my daughter was born. I know I am SO ready for some time away, but I also know I will miss them both. I’m just not good at being away from Claire. Do you know any moms who seem to be so good at being away from their kids? Who don’t ever seem to have a single worry when they are apart from their little ones, and can let loose and be themselves? I envy those moms. I don’t have that gene (yet).
Don’t get me wrong, I love nap time – it’s my favorite time of day – and I have a lot of interests and hobbies I try to indulge in when I have time to myself, but as for being able to be away for days on end, or even daycare situations, I haven’t gotten good at relinquishing her to the care of others. I worry. And I feel guilty. And I count the hours until I can pick her up. And I convince myself it’s good for her, even if she cries and I feel terrible. Which, for the record, I know it is good for her, but I still feel terrible about leaving her in someone else’s care when she cries for me as I walk away. Does that ever get easier??
I ran into a mom friend last week who has a daughter a month younger than Claire. We were talking about the Mother’s Morning Out program that I’ve written about before, and she asked me if I had enrolled Claire in the pre-(pre?) school program for next school year. I just looked at her blankly and said no, I had no idea what she was talking about. It’s basically a preschool for two year-olds a few days per week. I walked away from that conversation feeling kind of stupid for not knowing that Claire should be in preschool already, and confused as to why she should be in preschool already because she is only 20 months old! For crying out loud.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was definitely not ready to put Claire in anything remotely resembling a “school.” While the alone time would be nice, I can still use the Mother’s Morning Out program without having to enroll her in a school at two years old. If I am going to stay home with my daughter while she is so little, I want her to be home with me for most of that time at least. There is so much time ahead of her where she will have to be in school, probably even starting the following year, that I can’t bring myself to be ready for that stage yet. She’s still my baby.
Motherhood is a constant inner struggle of feeling guilty for literally everything, wanting freedom and your old life back, and also wanting to keep your babies close to and dependent on you, forever. I’m always tired and confused and wanting “me time,” and then when I have it, I miss my baby. The old me would not recognize the new me, I am sure of that. But I’m also cool with that, because despite the exhaustion and constant struggle, motherhood is simply the greatest gift.
So, in two weeks when my inner Big City Girl is basking in the one true Big City, I will remind myself of the gift that this free time is, and force myself not to feel too guilty. Life has been a bitch lately, and I deserve some rooftop cocktails and shopping in Soho. Hell, I may not ever come back. 🙂