Before I had Mia I heard moms whining about leaving their one, two and even three years olds for the first time for a night and I rolled my eyes so hard it hurt the frontal lobe of my brain.
The kid is three for pete’s sake, get a grip.
And then, like so many things in life, I had Mia and I became one of them.
I agreed to this work trip when I was still pregnant, woefully unprepared for motherhood and classically ignorant about all things mommy. I did the math in my head, figured out that Mia would be a little over a year when the work trip rolled around – and eagerly agreed to go. She would be done breastfeeding (she’s not), she would be sleeping through the night (only sometimes), and I would be so excited for a little break from the chaos.
The only thing I was right about was being excited for a little escape – but what I completely didn’t take into account was how incredibly, heart-wrenchingly difficult it would be to leave my baby for 3 full nights. Three bedtimes with no kisses. Three mornings with no nursing. Three full days without hearing her sweet little voice cooing for mama and dada.
The trip in question was admittedly a pretty awesome one. A work trip to Bar Harbor to host a bunch of nutrition bloggers and teach them about Wild Blueberries. It was pretty much a paid vacation. But the separation from Mia was awful.
As the trip approached I became increasingly panicked. I cried, I decided to cancel, I called my mom and told her I wasn’t going to go. I couldn’t believe how pathetic I was acting. Especially because I knew I DID NOT want to be one of those codependent moms who can’t or won’t carry on a life outside of their kids. And I knew I didn’t want Mia to be one of those kids.
And that’s why I had to go.
Not because I didn’t want to be “one of those moms” but because I didn’t want Mia to be “one of those kids.”
I want her to go cheerfully, and confidently to sleepovers. I want her to be soothed by her daddy in the same way she’s soothed by her mom. I want her to get her own apartment when she’s older and cook her own food and kill her own spiders. I want her to know how to change a tire and tile a bathroom. How to manage an investment account and navigate an airport. And she won’t do any of those things if 1. I don’t let her and 2. I don’t show her that she can.
I realize that going on a 3-day work trip is not going to teach Mia how to manage an investment account, or even prepare her for a sleepover. But it did show her that she doesn’t need to be nursed to fall asleep. That she can count on her daddy to comfort her when her new teeth are hurting. That she can be Mia without Mama. This trip taught me that I am strong and independent enough to spend time away, and that she’s strong and independent enough to be fine without me. We are deeply connected, but we are two separate people.
I’ve always believed the best relationships are between people who love each other but don’t need each other. I think the same goes for motherhood. I want Mia to want me in her life – but if I do my job right, she won’t need me forever.
As mothers we often pride ourselves on giving everything to our children. But sometimes, I think the best gift we can give is to hold onto to our own identity too. Because before we were mothers we were daughters, and wives and best friends and employees and rock climbers and mud runners – and those people are worth fighting for, too.