01 August 2007

Illegitimate Day Tripping

Somehow whenever I'm able to leave town without my children (which is not often) I feel as if I have committed a breach of contract. Some invisible contract that stipulates my presence at all times. The consequence of this breach is that there always seems to be some kind of crisis that accompanies my departure. It is the price I must pay for some time alone in which to feel guilty about taking time alone. Right. Because that makes sense. I'm not even Catholic! Where does this guilt even come from?

Last week I was able to join my father and brother for one day at Lake George during New York Yearly Meeting (I was raised Quaker). I was deliciously sans-children for the entire day, during which I kayaked, swam, and read Harry Potter with only the occasional adult disruption. But as I was leaving the house, literally as we were walking out the door, Steve twisted his ankle and it instantly exploded into a kind of soon-to-be-purple balloon ankle. Why, you ask? Because I was leaving, that's why.

Two days ago I was all set to leave home yet again to help my dear friend Riva find an apartment in Boston. Amazing, I know, I am rapidly filling my quota of mom vacation days for the year, but this trip had been planned for over a month. Steve was scheduled to pick up a group of kids from the airport the same day (a work thing), and return home in plenty of time for me to catch my train. Then their flight was delayed. No problem, minor inconvenience, I'd still have time. Steve took off for LaGuardia (a 3 hr drive), and I packed up my things, humming a happy tune.

Turns out my train was going to be almost three hours late. I changed my itinerary to leave first thing in the morning. Better to get in at 10 am alive, than at midnight as a zombie.

Then their flight was canceled. After Steve had already arrived in New York City. He called me from the airport near midnight, exhausted, with no idea what was to become of him. He promised to call me back when it had been sorted out, but he never did. It got too late.

I woke up at 5:30 to call my mother and tell her not to come get me, I would have to put off my trip yet again. But my father is one of those, we'll-make-it-happen-just-tell-us-what-you-need sorts of people. He's good under pressure, maybe a little too good. He and my mother would watch the girls, and don't worry it'll be fine. So I let him talk me into leaving anyway, despite having no idea what had happened to Steve.

Eventually I got in touch with Steve, who came back and picked up the girls from my parent's house late yesterday afternoon. He sounded a little harried on the phone and I tried not to let that make me feel even guiltier, but it did. Sometimes my mental powers of self-persuasion work perfectly, other time I feel disabled by my inability to change my perspective.

Now I'm in Somerville, in Lauren's apartment, wondering how Steve is holding up and feeling guilty when I should be reveling in my solitude. I seriously doubt that Steve felt this kind of guilt when he was in Peru for two weeks and all hell was breaking loose. Not that I'm blaming him. I'm not. I'm just saying.

What is the matter with me? Clearly the only answer is to do this more often. Right? And tell me, because I want to know, do other mothers feel this way? Knowing that they shouldn't and that they have just as much right (maybe more) to be "away" without the pitter-patter of little feet all over the place? It's not just me, is it?

And while we're on this topic, shouldn't guilt be one of those shared parental responsibilities? Like diapers and making peanut butter sandwiches? Isn't this what women have fought for all these years? Feminism, why have you betrayed me thus!

10 comments:

Annie said...

Oh, Nell! Enjoy Somerville and your friend to the max. If there were ever a Mom for whom guilt ought to be a forbidden concept, it is you, Ms.WonderMom.
Get. Over. It.

Brillig said...

My husband is a good, dedicated father who does nearly as much "mothering" as I do. That said, he does NOT have to deal with the guilt inherent in motherhood. Something comes up and he gets to go away? Woohoo! For me, I drag that, "am I even ALLOWED to be doing this" feeling with me the whole time. Anyway, I agree with Annie. Live it up and enjoy your time!

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Yep, I know all about this phenomenon and the associated guilt for having time to ourselves.

Sometimes alone time is not worth the hassle.

SilliGirl said...

I like to believe I am above the trappings of societal conditioning (please let me believe that!) but oh my goodness how the mother-guilt sneaks up! It's ridiculous!

P.S. My dad is a Quaker, too!

Cathy said...

The guilt. Yes. I know it well.

And I felt those pangs the whole week I was away from my kids, especially after The Phone Call informing me that my daughter had cut off all her hair.

I just knew I was being punished.

Andrea said...

Nell, please tell my sister to walk you down to the Thirsty Scholar and buy you a few Guiness. Tell her to mention you that you too had a sprained ankle while watching the girls on your own, and a broken toe. Remind her to remind you that you muscled through it because your a Great Mom and Steve will muscle through this too cause he's a Great Dad. And then tell her that maybe she needs to buy you some shots too (You know i would if i were there.)

Absolutely Bananas said...

amen sistah... it is too true, what you say.

andi said...

I've said it before elsewhere - why is there no such thing as Daddy Guilt? And why is it that when I was pregnant, no one at my husband's office asked him if he was coming back or "staying at home with the kids". Grrr! Don't even get me started.

And yes, you should go out and try to have as much guilt-free you-time as possible. You so deserve it.

Ewokmama said...

I was 15 minutes late in getting home from work today, on Joe's day to watch Jack, and I had to struggle not to have a panic attack about my neglect of my son. Crap, why do we do this to ourselves?

Stepherz said...

I'm feelin' your pain, Sista. I think we've been programmed with some kind of guilt software. Not a single day goes by without me feeling guilty for something I did/didn't do.

Go have some fun!