My recurring fantasy after having two babies less than three years apart was exactly like Greta Garbo’s: I want to be alone. The physical and emotional toll of new motherhood is heavy. Like way past ball-and-chain to coyote-anvil heavy. As a lifelong loner, I find the lack of solitude to be one of the hardest things about marriage and motherhood. I think most mothers (writers or not) would love a room of their own, if only to pee in peace.
This past month, my fantasy came true! Husband goes to near- and far-flung places for work and sometimes circumstances allow me to tag along. At the start of les vacances Toussaint, we went to Rome for three days and quickly followed it with a trip to Tokyo. I left a day earlier than he did because weekday flights are cheaper. Also, my best friend once offered this morbid advice: Take separate planes when traveling sans kids. If a plane goes down, at least there’s one parent left. Morbid, but not unsound.
So there’s me in Tokyo with an entire day (I landed at 6 am) and evening alone. Luxury! What was I going to do with all the time?
Nap. Curse the hotel’s draggy wifi. Eat by myself. Get lost in Shinjuku. Eat by myself some more. Write a little. FaceTime the kids. Watch Netflix. Stay up all night from jet lag and feel sorry for myself. Frankly, I was relieved when my husband showed up in the morning.
I couldn’t understand it. This was everything I wanted. A hotel room in an exciting new city. A rare moment to answer to no one but me. Yet I was out of sorts. The next twelve days left me unsettled, mainly because I was so far from my home, my kids, for what felt like far too long.
Having children is both prosaic and profound. It’s a bunch of poop wrapped in a tiny miracle. For someone like me, who’s never been truly tethered to a place or a person, the concept of roots is new. I left the country I was born in before I turned two. I left the country I grew up in almost eight years ago. My own parents moved 7,000 miles away when I was eighteen and I’ve seen them sporadically since. The anchor of my children is substantial and burdensome but grounding in a good way. They tie me to this earth, to Paris, to someone who has to be a little better and a lot less selfish than she used to be. They insist — loudly — that I’m not alone. Not anymore.
Solo time is essential for women, especially mothers. We need a break from the constant demands of parenting and partnership. We have to remind ourselves of who we were before we went loco and decided babies were an awesome idea. (Kidding. Mostly.) I have friends who’ve never been apart from their kids, maybe a night at the most, and I always want to say, “You need it! You deserve it! Pack your bags.”
But I now understand the hesitation to leave, especially for an extended period of time. When I finally saw my children after nearly two weeks apart, they jumped on me, showering me with kisses and “I love you’s,” their eyes shining.
Why would I ever want to get away from this?
What’s the longest you’ve spent away from your kids? Do you dream of alone time or are you afraid to leave your little one for longer than a few hours? Tell us in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Please sign up for our newsletter because we’re asking nicely and we love you!