I stood in a conference room with about 2,000 other moms as the speaker instructed us to raise our right hand and repeat after her: “Cap’n Crunch is a perfectly acceptable dinner.”
We were being asked to trust that while we were hundreds and thousands of miles away from our families, our husbands and other caregivers could care for our children. Maybe not the same way we would, but it was ok. Actually, it was good. This was the first step in a process of really letting go of control, letting go of the thought that my way was the only way and letting go of the belief that my children needed me…all of the time. My two oldest children are teenagers now and through their years of growing up I have traveled at least once or twice a year without them, being gone for at least a few days at a time. Typically my husband cared for them while I was gone.
My children have benefited from my occasional absence.
Sure, dad might feed them Goldfish crackers for dinner and let them stay up to watch a movie past bedtime, on a school night. He may not know that I always paired the pink princess shirt with the purple leggings and denim skirt. Heck, he might not wash their hair for three days! But does any of this really matter for a few days? Is Mom’s way the only right way? As I’ve learned to let go of control (an ongoing process), my children have been enriched by the time spent alone with Dad. When it comes to the day to day care of the kids my husband and I are on the same page about bedtime, nutrition, discipline. But when Mom is away for a few days, the reigns are loosened and memories are made.
It is good for them to see me leave…and come back. As equal to the pain of saying goodbye for a few days is the joy of coming home. Saying goodbye can be a mess, the kids are crying because they don’t think they can live without me, I’m crying because I don’t think I can live without them (actually I just can’t wait to get out the door), and Daddy is trying to look confident but he’s not sure he will survive for more than three hours. It is hard to part, but the excitement and hugs and kisses on return are sweeter than ever.
And the children have learned some valuable lessons. Daddy loves them as much as I do and is capable. And I always come back.
They have learned to become more independent. I will admit that I can be a bit of a control freak. Ok, slightly more than a bit. I like everything to have a place and a use. I probably have done more for my kids than I should have. In my absence, they are able to find things for themselves, do things for themselves and they just grow.
My children have seen me take care of myself and my needs.
Whether I was away for a church retreat, a ladies weekend, to run a race or time away with my husband, my children have learned that there is more to who I am than being their mother.
While I LOVE being a mom, it is not the whole of me and I don’t want to forget who I am and what I like to do. I don’t want my girls to ever forget their individuality either as they grow to become women who may someday be wives and mothers. I also benefit greatly from retreating from life for a while. I come back refreshed, energized, and desperate to hug my family.
It has not always been easy to leave, to retreat and trust the care of my precious ones with someone other than myself, but I believe they have learned and grown and created wonderful memories in my absence. It is always exciting to return and hear of their adventures. I am so thankful to my husband and other family and friends for giving my children those adventures while I take time for my own.