Motherhood is complicated–for all involved. Being a mother, having a mother, not having a mother, losing a mother. Parenthood is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. It’s not so much a marathon as the Ironman of Ironmen. All of it is complicated and emotional. It’s chaotic and messy. It’s cloudy days and monsoons sprinkled with rainbows and sunshine. It’s full of ups and down, highs and lows, laughs and tears.
I have permanent knots in my trapezius muscles from decades of clacking away on a keyboard and hunching toward a computer monitor. My massage therapist, bless his soul, has pounded away at them with admirable (and tippable) but futile effort. My eyesight is getting noticeably worse as the years pass by from long workdays staring at a screen. But my lower-back muscles are tightened by years of child-rearing. The daily struggle of raising responsible, kind, intelligent little people and putting other lives before my own has taken its toll on my body.
Every day, I feel there isn’t enough time. There is always something left undone and untouched by the time I collapse face-down into bed at night. I feel guilty. I kind of envy people who have religion to turn to. Those people seem to have built up an inner peace based on the complete and utter trust of a higher power having a grand plan for this and for them.
As I recently discovered, you can leave the country and your precious children in the tender, loving care of family (specifically, tag-teaming grandparents) and still the pulse of motherhood will not leave your veins. To celebrate a decade of marriage, my devoted husband and I treated ourselves to an Italian vacation. Eleven days, just the two of us traveling and embarking upon one adventure after another. After nearly six years of life with our twin sons, you can imagine how much we were looking forward to a break from daily parenting.
It was wildly enjoyable to take a hiatus from running the mother ship. I could relax. I could breathe. I could have personal space and (fairly) uninterrupted thoughts. I could enjoy spending time with my husband and being one of a party of two. We could give each other undivided attention. We didn’t have to worry about feeding always-hungry mouths and constantly cleaning. Homework and haircuts. Playdates with the flavor of the week and wellness visits. Sufficient fiber? Sufficient vitamins? Sufficient physical and intellectual activity? We didn’t have to stress out about getting out the door on time so we weren’t late for school and work and dealing with rush-hour traffic.
On vacation, I felt youthful again and playful. My guard was down, the guard that I feel I need up during my normal life. Not once did I notice the knots in my traps or the soreness in my lower back.
And yet, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I would find myself regularly checking my watch, subtracting the hours of the time difference between here and home, and imagining what the flesh of my flesh and the blood of my blood would be doing during their day. I would search my phone for my favorite pictures of their squishy, little faces and count down the days until I could feel their enthusiastic hugs and kisses. I would entrench myself in a cup of gelato and wonder how thrilled they would be if they were there to eat it with me. I wanted them to see the Mediterranean and look for shells with us on the beach.
I have a friend whose own son is a mere month younger than mine. She maintains she couldn’t ever leave him for longer than a day or a night. I might have imploded had I not left them for the duration of our trip. I felt refreshed and back in touch with what I love (apart from those chubby-cheeked faces) and who I am. I felt like more than a mother.
A break from motherhood, parenthood, and those daily responsibilities is lovely. I highly encourage anyone with the means and will to do it to take the plunge. Leave the kids! Eat the cannoli! Don’t otherthink it. Life is short, and as far as I know, you only get to do this once. But it’s never really not a part of you. It’s in your pulse, in your breath, in your being. You can put thousands of miles between you physically, but those children will always be with you. And isn’t that the reason we had them in the first place?