Distance Mothering

When you’re a working mom, sometimes the easiest things are a struggle. And the hard things? They can feel impossible.

This has been shown to be true again this week. I’m out of town for work, and when I am out of town, nothing is easy.

Excuse me while I vent about how hard my life is. You can skip the rest if you want to avoid the whining… 

In order to even consider going on a trip, I have to plan ahead. Actually, any change in my schedule requires advance planning, but the amount of work required to prepare for a trip out of town becomes overwhelming.

First I have to figure out where the toddler should go. You see, I work part time, so I don’t work every day. If I need to travel on a day I am not scheduled to work, I have to arrange someone to watch him for that day.

Then I have to figure out how to transport this toddler to and from said babysitter. My husband is unable to take him in the morning, so I have to resort to recruiting the sitter (usually my mom) to come out to our house early in the morning. This way she is there before he has to head to work. This week I even had to ask Grandma to keep the toddler overnight, because there wasn’t a good way to transport him between her house and our house while I was gone.

Usually my husband can take the older boys to school. But sometimes, he has early morning meetings, and so then I have to recruit someone to come even earlier to our house before he leaves (like 6 am) and help get the boys on the school bus. Luckily that is usually only once a week.

But next, I have to figure out where my two older boys should go after school. You see, I work a compressed schedule so that I can be home each evening when they get off the bus. If I can’t be there, I have to figure out who I can bribe ask to meet them after school. This usually involves asking family members to be at our house after school.

Once I have figured out what to do with the boys after school, then I have to check and see what other activities we might have going on. Is there soccer practice one night? Do I need to make sure that any special school projects are done? Does my oldest know where his library book is?

By the time I’ve made all these arrangements, I’m mentally exhausted. And I still haven’t even thought about my trip. Many times I’ve done so much to figure out how to cover my absence that I no longer want to go on the trip.

That’s what happened this week. A week ago, I was convinced that I shouldn’t be gone. The stress of figuring out how to get everyone in the right place, at the right time, with adult supervision, was overwhelming.

But, after a gentle nudge from my boss and assurances from my mom that we were covered, I decided to go ahead and make the trip. And a few hours in, I was already regretting it. Honestly, about 20 minutes into the 6 hour drive, when I realized the rental car had no cruise control, I should have realized that was the first sign that this trip was not going to be “normal.” (whatever that is…)

Two days in and I had already had two crises at home. They were minor crises, nothing that required me to head home, but crises nonetheless. First, I spent 30 minutes on the phone when I should have been enjoying a baseball game. I won’t get into why I was on the phone, because that’s personal. But I can say that I definitely felt awkward having that conversation behind a major league baseball stadium, within earshot of all the smokers, as I tried not to cry and failed.

Then the next day, my meetings were interrupted by a phone call from my husband – my oldest son had been in trouble at school. It’s not an easy task, trying to parent from 425 miles away. I’m in the hallway trying to have a conversation with my 7-year-old, explaining how disappointed I am in him, while he sobs into the phone. So there I am, trying hard not to cry (and failing…there’s nothing quite like hearing your child cry and not being able to even put your arm around him).

Given all this emotional drama, I have been drained of energy. Last night, everyone else was going out for drinks, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and go to bed. So, that’s basically what I did.

I’m sure that all of this would not feel quite so stressful if I had been running regularly the last few weeks. Running always helps balance out my world, my mental state. It keeps me sane and gives me that time alone to work through my thoughts and emotions. But when I get stressed, all I really want to do is sleep. If I ever start complaining about being so very tired, chances are I am exhausted from stress.

So this week I have been extremely tired. The TV in the hotel room hasn’t come on. Nope, not once. I haven’t opened the book I brought. I haven’t even worked on the hat I’m knitting for my son. I have done nothing productive in this hotel room. All I’ve done is sleep.

Couple my stressed-out-tired-state-of-mind with this week’s conference schedule, and you can bet that I haven’t hit that hotel treadmill. In fact, I haven’t run at all since Saturday. Last week wasn’t exactly a great training week. And if you remember right, I have a half marathon on Sunday, so I’m kind of freaking out about that…

But in the end, I am not trying to win this weekend. I’m just running to have fun. So I don’t really care what my time is, as long as I enjoy myself. And to me, that’s the most important part: that I have fun. Someone remind me of that at mile 10, please?

Luckily, tonight I was able to go out with a few coworkers and have a little fun. I enjoyed some good beer (and no, it wasn’t Coors Light!), and I even got a few free t-shirts from a local sports radio station.

So, I’m more than ready to go home tomorrow. It’s only been a few days, but I miss my boys. I want to sleep in my own bed and wake up next to my husband. Right now, I wouldn’t even mind my youngest waking me up at 3:30 am. I was able to video chat with the boys tonight and all I wanted to do was scoop the little one up and snuggle with him. Every night I rock him before bed. Every night when I’m tucking in the older boys, I talk with them about the best parts of their day. I love hearing what they think was “awesome” that day. These are just a few of the little things I miss when I’m gone.

Luckily, tomorrow I will be able to do all these things, and I am already so grateful for that.


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