I always thought being a parent was like riding a bicycle.
Once you learn how, it’s hard to forget the motions.
Until I found myself 10,000 miles away from doctor’s appointments, new school shoes and fights over who yelled “UNO” first.
As the oceans faded into clouds and I found myself closer to childhood memories and further from child rearing, there was no denying the freedom felt, shedding responsibilities one continent at a time.
On the one hand, flying home alone to Australia, having not visited for six years, seemed absurd. The anxiety increased as the occasion neared.
What am I doing this for?
My whole life is here.
How can I just jump ship for two weeks?
Who will make lunches?
Attend the science fair?
Make organic sugar-free brownies for Shabbos morning?
(No one. NO one made these, and suffice to say everyone survived).
Aside from revisiting a world I had left long ago, there was, of course, my family who I was dying to see, together.
Reality hit when I wheeled my cart out of Sydney’s baggage claim to find an emotional mother and excited sister holding a balloon that read welcome home. It was just like back in the day, returning from birthright, albeit a few pounds heavier, completely sober and less concerned about my oily hair.
That was how an unfathomable, somewhat dreaded trip, turned into a rejuvenating retreat.
Perhaps it was being pampered by a mother more excited to have her daughter home than a kid sorting their loot the morning after Purim. Let’s just say that diet recommended by the naturopath six months ago was actually put into action. Makeup? It made its way to my face daily. And sleep? Well, I don’t want to make anyone jealous.
But more than physical pampering and having time to make sure my shoes matched every morning, was the emotional fulfillment of adult conversations, uninterrupted. Better yet, having them with old friends who knew you before sleep training became your area of expertise and how to handle tantrums was the first topic in your google search bar.
There was the old-time family humor. The type that will have you cramping from laughing so hard, but is usually curbed by the reality of making sure the baby doesn’t put Lego in her mouth, and ensuring to yell “HOLD THE RAILING” intermittently.
Of course, none of this would have been made possible without a husband who met my calls home with a reassuring “everything is fine, go enjoy yourself.” Despite loud bangs and yells of “It's my turn!” in the background, his confident smile made disconnecting all the more easy. Which at the time was great, but also made returning that much harder…
Being a parent teaches you to be selfless. And being away from your kids will un-teach this faster than a mom driving out of carpool the morning after summer break is over. Walking into the house, I was beyond excited to see my kids.
But I’m not exactly sure how to describe my feelings when I saw that everything was just fine, (maybe better?), without me. At a time when I’m usually on the couch exhausted and counting the minutes till bedtime, my husband was playing hide and seek with all three offspring. Hide and Seek. At 5 PM.
The house was not trashed. The children were fed, clothed and bathed. Heck, even homework was done. And after three hours of sleep in the past 24 hours, there were numerous confusing feelings running through my head. Was I confused? Disappointed? impressed? Thankful? Hopeless? Tired? Probably a mix of all the above.
Before I could regroup, take off my sheitel and have some water (as I had selfishly grown accustomed to doing while away), my husband had to take a call OUTSIDE and I was stuck alone, with three children vying for my attention.
Short of a moment to ponder how exactly such calls were handled in my absence, the mounting reality of demands for presents and catching up on every detail from the past two weeks headed my way.
Perhaps you are a better person than I and such an event would leave you thrilled to be basking in the comfort of your adorable children again. But I was NOT ready for this.
In fact, readapting to #momlife was a real challenge. Being away reminded me that I have thoughts, feelings and an appetite outside the triage of milk bottles at 3 a.m. mediating music choices in the car and consuming leftover fish fingers for dinner.
Over time, I found empty cereal boxes and disorganized Tupperware drawers that satisfied my yearning to be needed.
But more than that, I came to see that the kids really missed me. That person that I was reminded of back home in my comfort zone free from the responsibilities of adult life. That was still the same person that came back on that treacherous flight home, void of sleeping pills, in contrast to pretty much every other passenger on the plane.
Sure, that person is often tired and bogged down by real life, but that person is still their mom. And that is who they were excited to see come back. Perhaps they won’t recognize the effort that goes into making doctors appointments, preparing mishloach manot from the other side of the world and running to extracurricular activities daily.
And perhaps I will never come to LOVE doing these things either.
But seeing first hand that it was my company they missed above all else, that person I dug up from the trenches back home, makes it all worth it.
That, and an annual trip home all by my very own self.