This weekend I took a whirlwind trip out of town to support a very important event for my aunt. I left my husband and my two girls at home, hopped on a plane, and spent several hours with my parents, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I even (finally!) got to meet my niece, who was born during the pandemic. While certainly everyone there wished I had brought my own family along, my husband and I had agreed that the less-than 48-hour trip would be a million times more stressful with the kids in tow, and it would be easier for me to go by myself.
And ultimately, I really needed this trip for ME.
My husband and I don’t live near any family, so we don’t often get time for just the two of us, let alone time for ourselves. Date nights require planning and babysitters. Doing something for myself requires checking in with the husband’s plans and needs first, and he does the same for me. There are no grandparents nearby to take the kids for the night and there are never any spontaneous activities. Raising kids with no family nearby to offer breaks or support is exhausting, and this year especially, we have had to face a number of struggles with no one to lean on for immediate support.
Simply put, I’ve been desperately in need of a break, and this trip was amazing for me because it gave me a breather from the constant demands of my life. For a brief moment, I got to just be me. Not someone’s mom, or wife, or teacher – just me. And it was so nice.
During my flights and while I waited in the airports, I read more than 200 pages in a book I’ve been wanting to read (not one I had to teach!) – a feat I haven’t accomplished in some time because there are always more pressing needs that prevent me from shutting the world out to read a good book. Over the course of the weekend, I had numerous conversations with other adults without interruption! And while I was more than happy to hold my niece’s hand when she requested it, it was nice to not be constantly needed by others for just a little while.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my family, and I love my job, but I think, like many moms, I have a tendency to get so wrapped up in who I am to others, that I forget who I am at heart. And I don’t just mean that I’m so busy taking care of others that I forget to take care of myself. I mean that I get so focused on taking care of my kids and so overwhelmed with all the things I have to do and remember as a mom that I forget that the reason I wanted to have a family in the first place. This weekend reminded me that it was growing up with my dad’s big Catholic family and having so many aunts, uncles, and cousins in my life that made me want to have my own big family (though ultimately, we decided the two kids was plenty!). And sometimes I get so focused on being a good teacher and taking care of all of the administrative duties of my job that I forget the whole reason I became an English teacher is because I have such a passion for the beauty and power of language, and I love getting lost in a good book.
It was nice, for a short time, to find that girl I used to know. It gave me the reset I needed after many months of struggle and overwhelm. And as I drove home from the airport, back to family and work responsibilities, I listened to my favorite music from middle school and reminded myself that that girl is still there. She might get shoved in a corner and forgotten when life gets a little crazy, but she hasn’t lost who she is or the things that bring her the greatest joy, and she quietly guides my thoughts and choices even in the most overwhelming moments.