I recently returned from a trip to Boston for a good friend’s baby shower. I got to reminisce with friends I hadn’t seen in years as we cheered on our beloved Michigan Wolverines football team over beers and takeout, just as we did in grad school. And although all the togetherness and nostalgia was wonderful, can I tell you what I enjoyed most about my trip? The flight.
I have no particular love for flying. But since I became a parent few years ago, I’ve discovered the sheer bliss of being on a plane without my children. I’ve even half-joked to my husband that someday, when I really need a break, I’m going to buy the cheapest airline ticket I can find, just to indulge in the experience of flying alone. “I can come right home as soon as I get there,” I tell him, “all I need is the flight.”
Both my children are in daycare, so it’s not as if I lack time away from them. But that time is usually spent working, doing chores around the house, running errands–or, on the occasions when I allow myself some leisure time, feeling guilty that I’m not doing one of the above.
The beauty of a plane ride is that I can’t do any of those things. (The pitiful size of the tray table, not to mention the fact that my neighbor is practically sitting in my lap, make working nearly impossible.) There is little to do but read a book or magazine, nothing too cerebral, since real work, as just explained, is impossible on a plane–or close my eyes and savor a few delicious minutes of sleep.
A flight with young children is, of course, the polar opposite, its own special form of hell. If you are on a plane with your children, there is little else to do but attend to them and their never-ending, ever-changing needs. My 4-year-old son has at least reached the point where he can partially entertain himself watching videos on the iPad, staring dreamily out the window, or, to our great amusement, poring over the safety card in his seat-back pocket (I swear, he has the thing memorized. In the event of an emergency landing, I’m following him.)
But my 18-month-old daughter is at the absolute worst age for air travel. Too old to fall asleep easily, and too young to find her own entertainment, she easily gets bored. And when she gets bored, she screams. So I do everything I can to keep her ennui at bay. I dole out Cheerios one by one. I read Goodnight Moon and sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” about 20 times each. These tactics usually get us through takeoff.
I realize that, on some level, the problem isn’t my kids–it’s me. I shouldn’t have to get on a plane by myself to feel free; I should be able to recreate that feeling, if not on a daily basis, then at least semi-regularly. I should be able to go for a cup of coffee, flip through People magazine (my mindless reading material of choice), and not feel guilty about it. Every mother deserves some time to recharge. The chores and errands can wait an hour or two.
I know all that. But I need to work on truly believing it. In the meantime, I’m going to go online and see if I can find a cheap flight to Cleveland…