Several months ago, I had a “brilliant” idea. I work for an amazing company, and I have a home office. This gives me the freedom to work from anywhere. I talked to my boss, and I got the okay to work from “home” at my parents’ home in Texas for a week so my kids could spend some truly quality time with my family. I had this vision in my head – the open road with three kids, fun, sun and sand, and time to bond on my own with my kiddos after a really long few months of work, travel, and chaos of school-year ending.
The challenge is the trip is upon me and I’m terrified. I’m terrified because it will just be my parents and I with the kids. I have tons of aunts and uncles and cousins who will help too, but I’ve never truly had to “own” being the sole parent for an extended period of time. My husband helps – with a lot – but he can’t join us because he has to work. So for over a week, I will be the PIC – parent-in-charge – and I suck at it.
I love my kids more than anything, but I’m not good all the time at being a mom. Honestly, I think part of why I love my job is because I get to travel semi-often. I need my space. I need my quiet moments.
Little hands touching me all the time is hard. High voices crying “Momma” every thirty seconds is tough. And fighting, tattling, pretend punching screams between a 7- and 9-year old are like nails on a chalkboard. The inability to pee with the door closed, partly because every closed door seems to be an engineering challenge to my three-year old. Simple snuggling, when I’m wiped at the end of the day and just want to read, can be almost feel like torture. I know that I sound horrible, but please don’t judge too much.
The simple truth is that it is hard for me to be needed all the time. I have always been incredibly independent. I am the most introverted extrovert you can imagine. Ironically, as I’ve gotten older, I have started recognizing that about myself and seeing my behavior mirror the behavior of others that I love in my life but who were impossibly hard to understand as I grew up.
With three kids, work and a husband, it is so hard to find me. Most days, especially since the kids have been off on Summer Break, I’ve felt a lot like Lois with Stewie on Family Guy when he was going through the “Mommy” phase.
So why did I suggest this trip?
I suggested this trip for a million different reasons, but some days in the last week, I couldn’t think of one. Yet today, as my mom and I are about to embark on a 1,300 mile road trip with three kids under 10, I can remember.
I suggested this trip because I knew it would be hard. I suggested this trip because I want to be a better mom to my kids. I suggested this trip because I want my kids to remember me the way I often remember my parents – silly and strange, singing ridiculous songs, exploring the world, and learning that new is okay.
Often, professionally, I am absolutely fearless. That’s why I am good at what I do. But as a wife and a mother, I’m withdrawn. Some times, many times, it just feels overwhelming.
I look at my friends’ Facebook feeds and feel like such a failure. They have their shit together, and I’m floundering to manage bedtime on my own.
I know that their perfect lives aren’t all real. I know they a Facebook “real,” but as any one of us parents can understand, seeing perfect moments immortalized on social media for other families can’t help but make you feel like you’re not doing enough sometimes.
I know that every one navigates their challenges. I know that every one sucks at being a parent sometime. I know that raising kids is almost impossibly hard, and I’m so scared of screwing up and scarring them for life.
But I also know that I’ll never be the mom that I want to be for my kids if I don’t try to fight through my own fears and doubts. I know that they need me, and part of why they are so “needy” is because I push them away and withdraw – sometimes when all they need is a hug or a kind word – because I’m overwhelmed.
I planned this trip because I want them to know my family and my home in the same way that they know my husband’s. I planned this trip because I honestly do want to spend some quality time with my kids when I am not trying to answer emails at night for work, cook dinner, direct behavior, wash laundry, and…. I wanted to slow down a bit with them, get to know them, and let them get to know me again, after a month of trips, conferences and chaos.
So it comes down to one real reason why…
I planned this trip because I see it as part of the journey for me to be the mom for them that they want and need. Perfectly imperfect is okay. They may see me yell, or swear, or cry, but they’ll see me try.
I am scared of this trip but I’m excited too. Because I get the opportunity to rediscover my kids and myself in 1,300 miles and three days. For us the journey won’t end in Texas. I think it will have just begun.