On my last trip to New York, I flew to Toronto for some Big Bang Theory publicity for one day of our trip. I left our hotel in Manhattan at 5:30 am after nursing our almost 3 year old one last time, and I returned at 10 pm that night.
It was very hard being away from him and his older brother that long; I don’t know if I have ever been away from them for that long, ever. I started to cry as the plane took off; feeling the string that connected us was being stretched maybe a little bit too far.
That being said, here are the awesome things about that day:
1) Walking to get a bagel across 44th street without a 35 pound toddler strapped to my back and a 5 1/2 year old tugging at my arm is infinitely better than walking to get a bagel with a 35 pound toddler strapped to my back and a 5 1/2 year old tugging at my arm.
2) I can get orange juice with as much pulp as I want when I am alone. No one will scrunch up his tiny face like he just ate a lemon, spitting out pulp along the sidewalk in disgust as I contemplate telling him about my grandparents’ childhoods in Eastern Europe where orange juice in a carton with too much pulp was the last thing they were worried about.
3) I do not need to carry a handkerchief because there is no one’s nose or grimy sticky hands to be wiped.
4) People recognize me far more when I am alone, since when people see kids, they usually look at them.
5) I can actually hold a complete conversation with a start, middle, and ending without being interrupted with requests to go potty, or to look at the cute dog, or look at the policeman, or, “Look at the gum stuck to my shoe, mama!”
As I experienced each of these revelations, I rejoiced for the possibility of someday (soon perhaps!?) reclaiming the person I was before I became “the woman who is a mother.” I also got surges of panic: what if? What if I never want to go back to that hotel? What if the lures of not being tied down overtake me and I become that woman who left her family to pretend she is single again? What if it’s not enough anymore to be a mother all day all the time with no breaks and no end in sight? What if?
Yeah, pretty scary stuff.
When my feet hit the carpeted hallway of our hotel at 10 that night, after a day of publicity and meetings and Toronto seen only from the window of a town car, I started crying. The clash of my worlds felt overwhelming. How could I miss those boys so much and also not miss them so much? I nursed my sweet Fred into the darkness and instantly returned to the life most prominently assigned to me now. It was as if–poof!–Cinderella became her old self again after a night at the ball with the Prince. Back to tired overwhelmed underappreciated mama.
Someday I will have more freedom, and someday I will see what it’s like to be the me I was before I became the me I am now. For now, it’s hard. And I don’t always understand the conflict or what to do with it. So I sit with it. I forgive myself for feeling longing for that other existence, and I remember that there is only one life we get to live this time around. I am blessed to have two sons whose little souls are so pure and who bring me so much joy, and their love will see me through my struggle and my conflict. It has to. Because there is no other way.