Normally, I’m the crazy one writing about taking my toddler on business trips and vacations as a widowed mom. Before I became a widow, my husband and baby daughter came with me every time I traveled for work, and we loved it. We both loved to travel, even if it was for short trips, and I loved having them with me. I wouldn’t say I never missed drinks with colleagues after an event, because I was running back to the room to meet Shah and Zoya, but it was always better to have them here and I hoped Shah would never have a job that would prevent us from traveling together.
Before I got married, I knew how to travel on my own. I remember the first time I went to a business conference, just out of law school, and learned to enjoy it. At first, as a 25 year old, the thought of a week on the beach by myself made me feel like a lonely looser, but I survived that first trip and learned to love these work trips on my own. Even if the meetings I was attending lasted all day, there was always the travel to and from, early mornings to go for a walk, and evenings to explore new restaurants.
Maybe in some ways as I start to travel on my own again, I am more fortunate that other widows who never learned to enjoy life as a single person. Maybe I’m less fortunate, because I never got tired of traveling with my husband. The excitement never wore off. There is nothing new about me being on my own. I didn’t meet Shah until I was in my 30s.
I’m getting a little off track, because this post is actually about some recent travel without Zoya. After Shah died I continued to take Zoya with me as I traveled. Sometimes my sister came with me. Other times a friend in the city I was traveling to watched Zoya while I presented at a conference and had meetings. Zoya has flown on planes twice as many times as she has been to a mall, and I don’t hate the mall.
leaving her behind
I didn’t bring her to Puerto Rico, because I just couldn’t. I had no idea how the travel would go, and I needed to be networking any moment I was not presenting. I stayed one extra night after the conference to explore and I sold myself on doing that with the excuse that I was scouting for a future trip with my daughter.
This week was the first time I traveled without Zoya by choice. I had a child care option for the time I was presenting, so I totally could have done my widow mom/working parent/single parent thing. But I realized she would have more fun with a special few days with Nana, and my through the roof stressed self needed to pay attention to how close I was getting to the edge.
It took my therapist to talk me through the decision to leave her with her nana to help me see that I didn’t have the capacity to be fully engaged in the conference, while fully working remotely on legislative responsibilities, and be solo caretaker all at the same time. I’m just one person, usually trying to be two people, but completely unable to be three people. It sounds crazy when I write it that way, but it doesn’t feel crazy at the time. It just feels like failure.
surprised by fun
I would probably sound a little dramatic if I said I had forgotten completely about fun, but it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration. As much as I know in my head and have written that recreation is important, I usually cannot think of anything I enjoy doing. My normal rhythm is work hard, engage with Zoya, collapse on the couch. If I have a non-work day, I just up the parenting.
These three days away from home were a blast. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. I used to love solo travel and I always love these people, but it just never occurred to me that in the midst of too many hours of hard work I would have . . . dare I say it . . . fun.
Having fun felt a lot better than I thought it would. It brought hope and joy, and helped me see my reality a little more clearly. It gave me some perspective so I could see some truths that had been eluding me.
Shah and I had talked through and fully agreed that it was important that we continue to prioritize having fun together and doing things without our children. Everyone reminds you that it is important to date your spouse and prioritize you marriage. No one reminds the mom: single, widowed or married, to just go have some fun. We think the moment we make any choice to do something without our child, just because it will be fun, we are being a selfish mother. When we do finally leave the kids, it is because we are at the end of our ropes. We were not created to live in that deficit.
I love traveling with Zoya and I often write about my trips with her, because I want to encourage mothers and solo parents to know they can do it and can enjoy it.
Zoya is my daughter and not my husband. Traveling with her is not the same as traveling with him. She doesn’t replace him. She is her own person. I love my date nights with Zoya, but she cannot replace my date nights with my husband.
So what is my point? 1. Traveling alone was fun. 2. I laughed a lot. 3. Fun is important. 4. I don’t remember when the last time I made a decision based on which thing would be more fun. 5. Choosing fun is not selfish.
Most mothers, working and non-working, spend most of their time doing things to please their children, or collapsed and distracted because they just can’t stand it any longer. I don’t jump on the trampoline with Zoya because I enjoy it. I jump on the trampoline because she enjoys it. Did you know that 1% of your week is over 100 minutes long? If you spent just 1% of your week doing something that you thought was a blast, how much more of the other 99% of your week could you really give you your kids, vs lay on the couch with a screen in front of you because you are depleted?
The fun that really renews, doesn’t have be something without your children, but sometimes it will be. Sometimes you need to say no to the lie of mom-guilt and the pride of thinking your family will fall apart if you aren’t there serving, and you just need to go have some fun.
How do I expect to overcome grief if I don’t start occasionally prioritizing things that I enjoy? How do you expect to keep giving to your kids if you don’t take a break and go have some fun? Are you superman? I’m not.