reckles Dugan was deaf, dumb and blind before she left this world. But she never lost her sixth sense for out-of-town travel. She could sniff out a trip the way a baggage claim German shepherd uncovers heroin. Maybe it was the scent of the suitcase. Or picking up on travel-induced anxiety. Whatever the case, Freckles did not like it when her family went away.
I recently discovered that my oldest son shares a bond with my dead spaniel. Though Oedipus (not his real name) did not chase his tail while incessantly yelping, he did bite me when he saw my carry-on bags (something Freckles never did).
I was scheduled to go to the U.S. for business and pleasure and really looking forward to it. Really. Knowing that this was our first time being apart, I was knew the week wouldn’t be easy for him. Unlike the baby, I guessed my first-born would struggle with the absence of a transatlantic umbilical chord. I assured him that I would be back soon. And I bribed him. Which seemed effective.
When the moment (and my cab) arrived, I managed to escape the cries of my children but not the ones in my head that howled, “You are a terrible mother. You are scarring your children!” My eyes welled up and panic crept in to my breathing. I tried reasoning with myself. Women leave their kids all the time. I knew this would be hard for the boys but why was this so damned difficult for me?
And then it struck me. I was dependent on my dependents. I was addicted to being a mother.
Mothering was a drug I had been inhaling, injecting and ingesting non-stop for three and half years. It was an intoxicating potion on good days. A hallucinogenic powerhouse after days of sleep deprivation. It was like an eight ball of cocaine with a heroin bump, an all-consuming temptress…. Okay. Stop. That last metaphor was just me trying to show my street cred. I don’t have street cred.
Being a mother was a 24-hour habit and now I was going cold turkey for a week. As I checked in, I was shaking, sweating and nauseous — detoxing, if you will. As I entered airport security, I stripped myself of a jacket, shoes, belt and parental responsibilities. As I boarded the plane I also embarked on a sobering solo experience. “They will be fine,” I told myself. “They are with their father. Their father can take care of them.”
I breathed and thought again. “Oh God… they are with their father! Can he take care of them?”
When I arrived in Washington, I craved a fix. So I called home using my computer and video conferencing. Big mistake. The baby started screaming and crying “Mama! Mama!” Oedi said, “Mommy I want to go with you. I want to go inside the computer with you.”
Ouch. All I’d wanted was a little something, a pick me up, a “Hi Mommy!” What I got instead was a relapse in the 12-step program.
Admitting my addiction had rendered me powerless (step 1). I arrived in Los Angeles reciting the serenity prayer. I was feeling weak. So I decided to look seek solace in step 2 and search for a “power greater than myself to restore my sanity.” I chose Target. And Bloomingdales. And Barneys. A calm came over me. Shopping not only helped me, but it also aided the devastated California economy. I was helping myself and Governor Arnold one retailer at a time! Slowly, I stopped obsessing about my kids and started thinking about me. What did I want to eat tonight? What film did I want to see? Did I want to hike with a friend or do yoga? I felt like me again. Without the Mommy part.
Turns out, the week apart was great for everyone. Oedi and his brother loved being waited on by their Italian grandparents. My husband Marco got to see how hard it is raising kids full time. And after my mommy jag I got a week that was all about me.
The best part (aside from In-n-Out Burger), was coming home to my three men and knowing that I could leave again without suffering from withdrawal. We all survived nicely.
For the sake of recovery, where can I escape to next?