Thanks to my job, I travel once every month or two. Most of the time, the trips are short, but sometimes I am gone for a few days. Those trips are hard – being away from my son and husband isn’t easy. Plus, I don’t always have time to call or video chat.
Thankfully, I have a partner that is just that – a true partner. He doesn’t consider caring for our son “women’s work” and is an active and engaged parent. This is something I try very hard to not take for granted. Our family only works because he works. There are times, many times, where I feel like he carries far more of the home responsibilities than I do. Likely because I will let the dishes build to mountain climbing levels before I touch them and he refuses to let them pile up.
This week my husband had to travel to a conference and was gone four nights. For most moms this wouldn’t be a big deal. But for me, it was. I’ve never had to do the morning and night routine solo. My husband typically does the morning and breakfast routine with our son while I get ready. At bedtime, I read him a book and give him kisses while my husband tucks him in. If I am in the room, he will fight sleep and not stay in bed.
When I travel, I always ask my husband if our son asks for me. Usually, the answer is “nope.” I hate this answer. I know it is completely selfish, but I want my son to miss me when I am gone. I want him to want his mama. At first this question and answer would leave me in tears, but then I found comfort in knowing that my husband and my son have an amazing bond … although, it still hurts sometimes.
The first night my husband was gone, he asked about Dada as soon as we got home. He normally does this because he knows Dada always gets home before we do. So, I wasn’t surprised there. At bedtime, he fought sleep a little and even got back out of bed after I left the room. But, a few verses of Hakuna Matata (thank you Lion Guard for the refresher) and a few back rubs later, he fell asleep like a champ.
Until three in the morning when I was awoken by one of his toys singing, “I’m a silly little penguin. Waddling here. Waddling there.” Ugh. I knew that toy was on the opposite end of the room and didn’t just randomly turn on. I threw myself out of bed and walk to his room.
“Hi Mama!” He shouted and waved as I walk in. This energy did not reflect that of a child who just happened out of bed. He was wide awake. I was not.
After a failed attempt to get him back into bed, I brought him into our room. As we lay in the dark, he started talking.
“Dada home? Dada home?” he repeated over and over. I tell him Dada will be home later. He keeps asking. My eyes swelled with tears as I got him back up and tried to rock him to sleep. “Dada home? Dada home?”
He kept asking. His voice small and quiet.
“Just Mama, buddy,” I whispered back to him. “Dada will be home in a few days.”
We played this game for another hour before I gave up and got the day started.
Just Mama. God it killed me to hear him asking for Dada when I knew he rarely asked for me. At three in the morning your brain likes to travel down dark paths that are neither productive or vetted in reality. I wondered if I’d failed him as a mother. I thought all my work travel had made him not miss me when I was gone – oh, Mama? She’s always gone. I again wondered if I was really good enough for him or even just enough. I sobbed as I tried to rub his back to get him to fall asleep again. I hated myself.
But, as the sun came up, my thoughts shifted. Of course he wanted to know where Dada was and why he wasn’t home. He knows when Mama leaves she always comes back. He knows the routine of my travel. For his dada, this was new territory. His routine was thrown off. Dada didn’t read him a story and tuck him in. Dada wasn’t there for breakfast. For over a year and a half, Dada has been there almost every single night at bedtime and then the next morning at breakfast.
This is something that makes me happy and makes me love my husband more every single day. It is also something I far too often just take for granted and do not appreciate as I should.
As soon as we had a video chat with Dada, all was right with his world. He knew Dada, like Mama, was there even when he was not home. The smile on his face when he heard Dada’s voice was worth every insecurity I’d felt the night before.
I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth repeating, Mom Guilt is hard. It infiltrates our brains and makes us think crazy thoughts. It makes the smallest slight feel like world war.