Last spring I wrote about leaving my nursing toddler to attend a writer’s conference. Clara was just 13 months old, and I had never left a baby that age for anywhere near that long before. My unease developed into a regular anxiety attack as I worried that Clara wouldn’t be able to sleep or eat or LIVE without me, and that something awful would happen to me while on the trip as “punishment” for leaving my children. As I said in the post:
“What if the plane crashes and I leave Clara motherless? (Well, I suppose if the plane crashes I’d really rather she wasn’t on it…) What if she wants me at night? (Chances are good that she will, but she is also attached to Daddy, and he’s good at getting her back to sleep). What if she starves? (Not likely.) What if we get stuck on the tarmac for hours and my pump is in the luggage section and my boobs explode? (I’ll carry it on). What if I get mugged? (What does that have to do with anything?)”
As it turned out, the trip went really well. Clara didn’t lose it while I was gone, she didn’t wean, and she didn’t hate me when I came home (though she was a bit standoffish for a few minutes.) I didn’t explode, crash, get mugged or wander aimlessly around New York City, crying because I missed my children. And, surprisingly, I didn’t feel guilty, which I explored in this post: “Is Mom Guilt False Guilt?”
It went so well, in fact, that with my husband’s encouragement I attended several more events throughout the summer and fall, writing about my resolution to embrace a bit of selfishness after I returned from the BlogHer Conference.
While a lot of “leaving the kids” angst is natural and biological, I believe there are often other things holding us back: maybe a little bit of ego (no one else can do as good a job as me!) or fear of judgment (I’m dying to get away, but I’m afraid my eagerness to have a break will make me look like a Bad Mom!) And sometimes we hide behind concern for our children when really, we’re afraid: of the plane ride, of hobnobbing with strangers, of being outside our comfort zones. Sometimes we even sabotage ourselves–“forgetting” to book a hotel room, or fixating on a sniffle that we’re just sure will turn into full-blown pneumonia so we probably shouldn’t go…
Over the next few days, I’m going to publish a series of posts that all have to do with leaving your kids: how to distinguish fear from worry from false guilt from real guilt; how to work through those feelings, and strategies to make your absence easier on everyone. If you’re the mom at home saying “Ugh, I’m so SICK of hearing about this conference!” don’t worry–there will be a post just for you, too, all about coming to terms with the knowledge that, for whatever the reason, now is not the right time to leave.
Will you be traveling without your children soon? Are you feeling anxious, guilty, or sad about it? Is your anxiety manifesting in bizarre fears or self-sabotage? Tell us about it!