In less than a week, I am going to travel to South Africa to see assorted friends and family members. I will escape the dreary November weather and get an extra month of summer in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I will spend lazy days with my mom and my brother, hang out with the woman who has been my best friend since we were ten, and meet someone who, until now, has been my friend in the online world only.
It will be fantastic. I haven’t seen the folks “back home” for almost four years, and as small as the world has become thanks to the wonders of technology, there’s just nothing quite like being in the same room as a parent, a sibling, a friend. In any case, I am desperate for the break. Events of the summer have well and truly hammered me, and I am exhausted. I have worked myself into a state of near-collapse, and I am looking forward to just stopping.
There’s just one thing. I am not taking my husband or kids with me. I recognize that this month away will be good not only for me, but for the kids from a life-learning perspective. But the thought that I will kiss my family goodbye and then turn and walk away from them makes my heart twist.
I haven’t even started packing yet, and already I am tearing up as I think of them going to bed on the night of my departure without their goodnight kiss from Mommy.
The thing is, I am not used to going anywhere without my husband and kids. Although I have been to South Africa by myself twice since the kids were born, both trips were prompted by deaths in the family. This is the first time I am going away by myself for an extended period, for the sole purpose of having fun. No one has died. I do not have to attend a funeral or pick up ashes from a crematorium. I don’t have to visit a lawyer to hear a will read, or deal with the bizarre amount of admin generated by the death of a family member.
Like most moms, I have succeeded in turning the concept of guilt into an art form. I feel guilty when I sneak out of the house for a quick solo trip to the convenience store, never mind getting onto a plane to travel to the other side of the world. But for the sake of my own sanity, I have had to put a lid on the guilt – otherwise I wouldn’t even get as far as the boarding gate.
I have to constantly remind myself that the boys will be OK – and I know they will be. I have been preparing them for my departure without making too big a deal of it. I have promised them that I will bring them a really cool gift from Africa. I am making a countdown calendar for my autism boy. Teachers at both of their schools have promised to look out for them and make extra allowances for them. We have started planning fun activities to do together after I get back.
It is not lost on me that I am fortunate to have such a supportive husband. I don’t feel that I need his permission for this trip, but I do know that many moms wanting to undertake a similar venture would face resistance, or even downright refusal.
My husband wants me to go, and he wants me to have a good time. I suspect that he and the kids are looking forward to spending some “boy time” together.
There will be a tricky moment at the airport when I will have to fight the urge to cry in public. After my husband and children have said their goodbyes and left, I will have to duck into a stall in the washroom to let some tears flow. And then I will board the plane and fly to South Africa to spend time in the land of my birth, with loved ones I haven’t seen for a long time.
When I come back to my adopted country, the Canada I am so proud to be a citizen of, I will be refreshed and rested, ready to take on real life, and excited to be in the warm embrace of my husband and sons.
Would your family be supportive of you taking a long trip without them? What strategies have you used to help your kids, both before and during your travel?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Canada. Photo credit to the author.