The career I have requires travel. Usually I am only gone one night a week which does not disturb the Siwinski universe a whole lot. In fact there have been a few times when I don’t think anyone noticed I was gone. Case in point, one evening I received a phone call from Dillin asking me if I could bring him a heating pad. “Well…I can tell you where it is, but I am not home right now.” There was a brief silence and then “Oh…sorry mom…I thought you were upstairs somewhere….ummm…where ARE you?” My reply: “Well…right now it feels like I am in an episode of the Twilight Zone, but you could probably look at the family calendar and tell me where I am SUPPOSED to be.”
But recently I had to be out of town for an entire week to participate in a convention. When I wheeled my giant suitcase (in lieu of the small one) into the kitchen on Monday morning a few of the kids gasped. “Where are you going mom?” I glanced at the calendar where giant words in blue marker saying “MOM GONE ALL WEEK” had been for at least four months. “Well…remember last night when I was packing and you asked me the same question and I told you where I was going? Today is the day that I go do that. The laundry is all done and your dad will feed you, he is best at that anyway, so you probably wont miss me too much. See you all Friday.” And with that, after touching Mitchel’s lucky bracelet, putting 26 kisses in his pocket for later, hugging everyone who needed a hug, knuckle bumping the others, and strategically placing love letters for all six kids and husband in the clean laundry baskets, my big suitcase and I left for the week.
Moms and dads who are able to stay home with their kids may gasp at my seemingly callous attitude. But as a mom who has worked inside and outside the home for as long as I’ve been a mom, I have learned, as a survival tactic, to detach myself from the painful mom/child separation anxiety that could bring me permanently to my knees if I let it.
In fact on my drive away that morning I tried to come up with reasons why my family would miss me, aside from laundry services, half-assed clothing mending, take-out food when it was my night to cook, and my giant purse that contained useful emergency items like band-aids, hand warmers, the magic eight ball (for immediate argument solving) and a flask full of Fireball (for stressed out adults in the family) well…I could not come up with a single reason for them to do so. I thought “I am a convenience who yells a lot, nothing more.” So with my “all-about-me drama queen” thinking, I started pondering all the reasons why I would not miss THEM:
- Tooth-paste spit globs in the sink (do they ever actually get any on their teeth?)
- Knife in the sink with peanut butter all over it, EVERY single morning (which always makes me wonder what is more wasteful, the hot water it takes to dissolve peanut butter or a paper towel used to wipe it off…real solution: wipe the damn knife CLEAN on the bread!)
- Moldy half eaten sandwiches in baggies under beds. Really.
- Open pop cans, half empty, left in places where pop isn’t allowed
- Dirty socks stuffed in the couch cushions
You see…when I am in detached mother mode, it is very easy to focus on all the annoying business aspects of being a mom and make them so much more important than they really are…and I was therefore able to place myself in a comfortable state of indignation without a drop of guilt and dive head first into my long week of work.
But half way through the week my indignation began to fade some and I found myself purposefully leaving toothpaste globs in the sink for weird comfort and I joyfully left dirty towels on the bathroom floor in the hotel. And I was nearly done in when I found out I missed some serious excitement at home. It seems that the icky weird growth behind Duke’s left ear finally fell off when Dillin was petting him. Apparently the dog was quite relieved and the kids were enthralled with the disgusting, hair encrusted, shriveled up acorn piece of yuck and were all gathered around it in awe, that is until Duke tried to eat it, which caused a few kids (and Grant) to gag and others to shriek loudly, almost making the poor dog pee himself. Thank goodness for technology…someone sent me a picture of it so I wouldn’t feel left out.
And this got me to thinking about how different things are now compared to when Duncan was a tiny boy and I had to leave him at day care…there were no cell phones then, at least ones that didn’t weigh five pounds…the only thing I could do was leave lipstick kiss marks on the day care window…and try not to cry when I left his sweet, sad face…every single morning…and pray he would be okay without me.
But now all day long, no matter where I am, I receive phone calls, texts and pictures from my children and husband…
”Where is the tyenol?”
“I love you mom but I wish you wouldn’t have taken the sparkly headband with you when you left.”
“When are you coming home…it’s total mayhem here and dad seems to be a little edgy. See attached picture of dad and judge for yourself.”
“Hi mom, this is Dan on Dad’s phone, can I have the last pudding?”
One night, I was sitting at dinner with a couple of clients and actually received a VIDEO from Maria. She had recorded the outfit she was planning on wearing the next day to school and wanted my opinion, ASAP. I texted quickly: “I love it! You look so pretty! But…wait…is that my SKIRT?” Her reply: “Why yes it is. Is that my sparkly headband you are wearing?”
…so really it’s mostly like I am there, right in the middle of things, when I am gone…only with less noise.
But I cannot decide if this technology is a good or bad thing. While I do not want my children to dwell on the idea that someday I will be gone permanently and be unable to (except possibly through a Ouija board) tell them where the heating pad is (and I absolutely refuse to linger for even a nano-second on the idea that any one of them could leave me first) I do wonder if we all take for granted the constant availability we have to each other via texting, phone calls, Facebook, etc. Has it allowed us to detach from each other so that we don’t have to face the worry of loss or has it created a way for us to better and more continuously bond to each other, making each moment count?
When I returned home Friday night and most of us were gathered in the living room, all kind of schlumpy (that is not a word) and tired from the week, I asked a couple of the kids if they missed me and why. Mitchel immediately said yes, but couldn’t say why. I think eight year olds just miss their moms all the time, especially when the extra pocket kisses get used up. Smart aleck David said it just seemed wrong to not be yelled at all week over his messy room and I made myself a mental note to make him a recording of my obnoxious ‘get your room clean’ yelling voice next time I left for more than a night. Maria said she missed my fashion advice…and the sparkly headband. (Females have such are hard time letting things go, don’t you think?) Dan looked up from his iPod, said “You were gone?” and grinned. Grant sent me a text “Oh I missed you alright. Meet me in the laundry room and I’ll show you just how much. Wink, wink, nod, nod.”
So yeah, we use technology to show our love and to hide from it. We take each other for granted because, thank God, we can. Should there be a time when we truly have to understand why we really miss one of us, well the list will be infinite and painful. But for now, I think we have a nice schlumpy (if I use this enough, it will become a real word in H Street spell check) kind of comfy (note rhyme) love for each other. And yeah, when I am gone, I miss being in the middle of it all: the good, the bad, the funny and the icky. But as of right now, I’m not really gone, whether I am here or not. I have the pictures, videos and texts to prove it. That’s why they don’t really miss me, nor I them. And this is so good! It makes things feel less schlumpy.