Tim is in Norway this week, attending a conference where – after nearly a full day of travel – he’ll give a 5 (yes, FIVE) minute conference talk. (To my knowledge, this is probably the shortest invited talk in the history of invited talks.) Seems a long way to travel for such a short presentation, but it’s an excellent opportunity for networking, and a wonderful excuse to travel that close to the arctic circle in the peak (literally) of summer. On our 15 minute morning Skype call yesterday he told us that when it went to bed at 10:30 it was still light and when he woke up at 4:00 it was still light.
Tim and I have done our fair share of traveling; mostly pre-kids and much of it, for Tim anyway, was even pre-us. For the most part, these trips were preceded by considerable excitement: we bought travel guides, planned routes (or purposefully didn’t plan routes), stocked up on necessary gear, and packed and repacked our rucksacks. As we got older, our trips changed a little (fewer hostels), but there was still a bubbly feeling of anticipation that came from purchasing a ticket and getting on a plane.
Then we had kids.
I don’t mean to suggest that we don’t get excited about traveling anymore, because we do. But we haven’t done it alone (just the two of us) since Eleanor was born (over 4 years ago!), it’s far more involved (as anyone who has flown with kids will attest to), requires a significantly greater amount of planning (no more winging it when it comes to finding the perfect lunch spot when it’s toddler lunch and nap time), and if we are in a situation where one of us is traveling sans family there is a considerable amount of guilt that comes from knowing you’re leaving your partner at home alone. Still, we do it – and will continue to do it with the kids – because we value the experience so much.
This trip, however, has brought an entirely new experience for me as the parent who stayed home. For the first time, I’ve experienced an entirely different kind of guilt: the guilt of telling people that Tim is gone. Knowing that I have three little ones at home, I have received numerous offers for dinner, invitations to playgrounds and play dates, and message of moral support from friends. While I appreciate these gestures it leaves me needing to tell people that I actually don’t need anything. I have to tell them that I have two different women coming over each day – one in the morning one in the evening – to help entertain the kids, clean up from meals, and help make bedtime routines go smoothly. It feels incredibly self-indulgent to have this much help (hence the guilt) and at the same time it feels incredibly necessary. The reality of this week has actually been that although I’m a single parent, I am not flying solo. Not by a long shot.
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