When Mom Goes Outta Town

Indulge me by reading my fave phrase of 2015 so far: “Please remain seated while we prepare for take-off.”

I went on an 11 day work trip earlier this month (11 days!!) and this is the 4th year in a row I’ve taken this same trip. WHAT!?

Before you jump to any quick conclusions about me, just picture for a moment these things that do not happen when you’re gone:

You don’t unload the dishwasher EVEN ONE TIME

You do not drive carpool AT ALL

Someone makes your bed for you EVERYDAY

No grocery list making

No sweeping

No counter wiping

No menu planning

No laundry

No dog feeding or poop scooping

No argument refereeing

No crock-potting (can that be a verb? I think SO)

So I think I’ve made a solid case for this fact: It is a good thing when you get to go out of town without your family. But any way you slice it, there are benefits for the whole fam.

Team HARRELL all together!! (photo courtesy of katie brase photography)

Team HARRELL all together!! (photo courtesy of katie brase photography)

For one thing, kids need their moms to step out of the picture. They need to understand that the things don’t just happen in their lives by some magic trick. Mom being gone helps them understand that their routine is good because they begin to miss it when it's different temporarily.

For another thing, moms need to see and know that other wonderful, considerate, helpful, INCREDIBLE family or friends are able to step into the mix (I’m talking about you Marvin Harrell, David and Kristin Blankinship). Moms need to know that they’re not indispensable parts of their children’s lives. Someone else can monitor friend drama at school (like how many best friend bracelets she should hand out) or ask about the current girl-crush "situation." Being away helps your kids see that reality.

But consider the value of dad being solo and in charge of everything. A couple of years ago, the New York Times published an article about this issue. Read it here. It's basic premise is meant to lay out practical tricks and tools moms use with their families when they go on a business trip.  But you'd be astounded at the 77 comments beneath the article 99% of which are snarky retorts to the double standard the article seems to expound upon. Example of said snark-factor: "Wow. I want to be reincarnated as a father. Apparently they don't have to contribute anything to running a family. What a deal!" See what I mean? Mercy. Dad's need this chance to run the show and kids need to see him in action. And for heaven's sake, if you are a single mom and you leave town, others you trust can make the decisions for a bit, dontchathink?

Now I’m back and things returned to normal fairly rapidly. This quote by Erma Bombeck is one that I have muttered under my breath more than once since I’ve been essentially “digging out”:

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?” (#thankserma)

Mess and laundry piles aside, ultimately, it’s the best feeling to be back together as Team Harrell again. The basketball games and the soccer practices, the counter wiping, the meal prep, etc. etc. just keep right on happening – and I’m so thankful for it – and probably more appreciative somehow, truth be told.

What about you? What’s the longest period of time you have ever been out of town without your family? What about any of you out there that have never left your family for even one overnight? Are you appalled with me? I want to hear it! Let's discuss it together. 

Megan's Take:  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!  I appreciate how unapologetic you are about the refresher it is to get away every once in a while.  And you were working, for the love!  You weren't "getting away."  But even if you were -- good on ya.  I agree with everything you've just said.  It's right on, humbling and convicting.  I think motherhood has a sneaky way of brain-washing you into believing you're the "only one" who really knows your kids.  Who really knows how to make it all run.  Make everything alright.  That somehow being a 'mom' is your new, primary identity.  While motherhood is a sincere privilege and joy (at least most of the time!) it is also just one of the many facets of a woman.  I've had to learn that the long and hard way sometimes.   When I take time for myself -- to work or play or really do anything that helps me become more of the complicated, layered woman God created me to be, I know my family is WAY better for it. It doesn't always come naturally, however. I've learned I need to not shrink away from my own needs.  Just like I teach my kids,  I also need to advocate for myself.  Not to mention, as an adoptive Mom, I am profoundly humbled to know moms are a wonderful gift, and the original design for raising kids, but there are many others He can use along the way.  "It takes a village," is not just a trite cliche.  It is the truth.  PS -- I'm still daydreaming about retiring my referee jersey.  I look better in other clothes....

Holly's Take:

I used to get away for ski weekends with friends, or a piano conference, or a church retreat and have no guilt what-so-ever.  I never prepared a pre-made dish or left a note of any kind.  Dave was beyond capable of handling it all.  In fact, he would usually take everyone camping or skiing or something I would never dream of doing alone (at least back then).  Now, leaving feels so different.  I definitely have that, "I'm the only one that knows how to make it all run," complex.  Back in October, I took my first real trip away, since Dave died.  I'm positive it was a good thing for me, and I know it was a good thing for my kids, too.  Sometimes, I forget the other side of the coin.  When I'm not here, my kids learn that they can exist without me, like Christina said.  They can sleep, even when I'm not near them.  It's like a little training warm up for overnight summer camp.  It is a little step in them growing up, to not have a parent with them at all times.  Wow.  I'm convincing myself that I need to give my kids some more space to grow up.  Someone send me to Hawaii for a couple weeks!