Before I had children, I worked three different jobs every single day, for about 19 hours of the day. When I’d accrued enough vacation time from all three, I’d hop in the car and drive. Anywhere. Didn’t matter, really…I had a goal. I was going to see the breadth and width of these United States of America from behind my steering wheel.
And then I had a few babies and, well, you take a stroller unwittingly covered in explosive material through a security checkpoint even once and you’ll understand why I stopped traveling for over a decade.
After ten+ years of more-or-less staying home with my kids, I went back to work full-time-ish, where I perfected the art of the vague introductory sentence. I started with one full-esque-time client, then added on a few other part-timey side-gigs to round out a decent work week plus-or-minus, depending, all from the comforts of my in-home office.
Which means I never, ever left my house.
Shortly after I *completely* lost my mind, moved to the mountains and changed my name to Ted, I started traveling a little for work. That’s the catch with telecommuting…they want to see you eventually. Quarterly trips for one client turned quickly into monthly trips for another and before I knew it, I was spending the past summer living out of a suitcase.
And I wasn’t the least bit sad about it. I didn’t think my kids were, either. Shows you what I know.
Every time I leave for a work trip, we count out the number of sleeps until I get back and we decide what kind of presents they all want from whatever exotic location I’m off to this time (North Carolina *is too* exotic, shut up). I leave them notes on the fridge or the mirrors to read while I’m gone and I let them order all the on-demand movies they want during my time away, because they’re going to do it anyway. I bring the boys home something educational or potentially lethal and my daughter always gets a new stuffy from wherever I am (or the airport kiosk, don’t you judge me). On paper, it’s a pretty good deal for them, depending greatly on the transportability of the corresponding ammunition.
Random aside: You can check all the slingshot pellets you want at the airport, but try getting even one commemorative Gettysburg bullet across the security checkpoint and you’ll have a clear understanding of what it feels like to be a sausage.
I miss them everysinglesolitarysecond that I am gone, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that having some time to do grown up things with other grown ups in a grown up environment that isn’t in my house doesn’t thrill me to the core. I guess I just figured that they were pretty sick of seeing me every single day, too, and that if the babysitter was fun enough (or grandma enough) and that if I Skype’d them regularly, they’d be okay.
And they seemed okay with every trip – the three-day ones, the weekend ones, even the one that lasted threeohmygodweeks. They seemed fine with it until just a few weeks ago, as I was tucking my youngest in the night before I left for China.
She asked how many sleeps until my trip was over. I told her 11. She asked how many sleeps until my trips were done and I asked, “Why, baby?” She said, “Because I have enough stuffies, momma. I just want you.”
And then I realized that even though I am so very ready, they just aren’t yet. That there is no amount of on-demand tv, no quantity of Webkinz, no quota of Gramma’s bakes spaghetti that makes up for what I don’t even realize I give them every day.
The morning after I got back from China, my 13 year old who would rather die that acknowledge my existence on Earth came downstairs, sat beside my, curled up in a ball and laid his head on my shoulder. He didn’t say a single word to me, and I didn’t say one back, but he told me everything I needed to know.
And now I am in a place where I have to choose. I love my job, I love picking up right where I left off so many years ago and seeing
America the world, and I feel like I finally have the chance to do what I never did before and build up the person that I am ultimately going to become. At the same time, I am pretty sure that if you asked my kids, they’d tell you that I am their mom and that is all they need me to be.
Maybe I should just start buying them better presents.