My husband and I were getting ready to leave on a trip. It was the first trip where we’d be away from our kids for longer than a weekend. But it wasn’t a vacation. This was a work trip for my husband, and I was tagging along. Mom and Dad were going alone this time.
Why did I tag along on a work trip? Why not?
It was the opportunity to be away together without the distractions and grind of everyday life and responsibilities.
It was an opportunity to be ourselves, not just our roles as mom and dad.
And it was the opportunity to experience a different city together. (For me, it was the opportunity to write in a different setting which does wonders for creativity!)
It was the opportunity for the kids to spend time with their grandparents for longer than a weekend — something they had never experienced.
It was the opportunity for the grandparents to have the kids all to themselves and do what grandparents do best without input from mom and dad.
And it was the opportunity to realize how lucky my husband and I are to have parents who are more than willing to babysit the kids for us so we can both go away for a few days and know our kids are safe, well-cared for, and loved.
And of course, it was the opportunity for my husband and I to reconnect and feel like we were dating each other all over again — which we did.
But perhaps, this trip also provided an opportunity to recognize the pressure that exists when embarking on a trip with your spouse sans kids.
It’s the feeling of needing to make every little minute count because the kids aren’t around. That pressure that you must make your trip worthwhile. You’re off mom duty so make it count! If not, what’s the point?
What is the point? I let that insidious thought linger in my mind for far too long.
The pressure to experience as many things as I could, to cram in as many activities as I could was looming over me as the trip got nearer. And then of course came the infamous question.
“So, what are you going to do while you’re there?”
Slowly but surely, I felt the fun being sucked out of this trip for me. And in the process, I was probably driving my husband crazy in an attempt to plan things around his work hours which coincided perfectly with the city’s rush hour traffic.
I should do X/Y/Z while my husband was at work from people who would do all of that if they were in my shoes. And the thought occurred — what’s wrong with me that I can’t do X/Y/Z? More importantly, do I even want to do X/Y/Z???
And the answer without hesitation was no. I don’t want to do X/Y/Z.
So why was I torturing myself over this? Because well-intentioned people around me would do so and therefore I ought to do that too. And if I didn’t do that, I’d me missing out somehow on this trip. And no one wants to feel like they are missing out, right?
In our social media world, it’s apparent when you’re missing out and even what you’re missing out on.
This thinking pervaded my thoughts on the long drive up and well into the night, until my husband innocently asked me for the first time. So . . . what are you going to do all day while I’m at work?
I replied, “Does it even matter if I do or don’t do anything while you’re at work?”
Knowing where this conversation may be headed, he had the forethought to follow up with another question . . . “What do you want do while I’m at work?”
What do I want to do?
Six simple words, yet no one (myself included) had asked this until now.
I wanted to spend time writing. I wanted to workout in the gym and hang out in the pool. Yes, I wanted to sit in the lounge and read my book from cover to cover.
And in the evening, I wanted to go out and explore the city and taste the delectable cuisine it had to offer.
I wanted to do the things I chose, instead of being the mom who did what was best for everyone else.
The interesting thing is, once I had vocalized how I wanted to spend my time, a few firsts ended up happening. A few things that while insignificant to anyone else, helped me step out of my comfort zone just a little (which is huge for an introvert like myself).
I went to the gym — for the first time ever. Being a person who regularly works out to DVDs at home (yes, I’m old school), I stepped in a gym.
And then I walked and jogged (also for the first time ever in my life) on a treadmill for an entire hour while Oprah’s words of wisdom played through my phone.
I went to a restaurant by myself. Instead of waking up unnecessarily early so I could eat breakfast with my husband before he headed off for the day, I slept in and got up when I felt well-rested.
Then I went to the restaurant and enjoyed a leisurely (does a mom even know that word?) breakfast of coffee and peanut butter and jam on toast (which wasn’t refined enough to be on the menu). So that meant I had to speak up and order something not on the menu (another first for me).
I spent a good chunk of time writing — in my room, in the restaurant, and in the lounge. In the evening we explored the city together.
I was content. Do you know that feeling?
But more than that, I was also indirectly giving myself a big ol’ encouraging high-five for stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things I’ve never done before. If I can do this, I can do anything.
To which I clarified, what (else) do I want to do?
Not what does everyone say I ought to do? And not even, what else do I think I should do?
Just, what do I want to do?
Six simple words.
Maybe we need to ask ourselves this question more often in life whenever an opportunity presents itself to us, and really listen to our answer and shush out all the noise from everyone else.
Perhaps this was the lesson the universe was trying to teach me when I made the decision to tag along on my husband’s work trip.