Every time I start packing for a trip away from my kids, the worries begin.
They aren’t the usual concerns about plane crashes and lost luggage, or catching the flu in a strange city. It’s the knowledge of what will be waiting for me when I return. (Spoiler alert! It’s a grimy house that smells of feet, fried chicken, and farts.)
I need to get ahold of myself, right? I should be happy to have the opportunity to escape on a little mom vacation, yes? I know, I know. And believe me, while I’m away from the house and the kids and my responsibilities, I take full advantage of the time alone. I’m an excellent addition to any girls’ trip, because every time I think about what will be waiting for me when I go back home, I order a cocktail.
I spend the days leading up to my departure in a frenzy, cleaning the house and making lists: “This is who to contact if his rash flares up again! Here’s the phone number to our pharmacy! Don’t forget to put that cream on her right elbow!” And stocking the cupboards and filling the fridge with prepackaged food that involves absolutely zero thought and can be eaten mindlessly for several days in a row without causing gastrointestinal distress, because I think we all know that whatever they eat while I’m gone will, in one way or another, become my problem when I return home.
I move the boxes of raisins and other super foods to the front of the cabinet where small hands can reach them, and label drinking cups with the appropriate names. I leave lists. I buy apples. No one is going to eat them, but at least I can leave town knowing that I tried. So why do I bust my ass to do this stuff, when I know that the minute I walk out the door it’s all going to shit? It’s just an illusion, and much like my determination to convince my family to enjoy kale, it’s nothing short of futile.
I’m doing all these things in an attempt to make things easier on myself several days from now, because I know that the minute I leave, my husband will proceed to space out in front of an old Jackie Chan movie as the kids beat each other with our fancy feather throw pillows. I imagine that they have a Yoo-hoo poppin’, scrambled eggs ground into cushions, amazingly fun time without me home, and I’m pretty sure it involves a lot of wrestling and throwing of things that should never be thrown…like each other.
As I enjoy a night out with friends, I try not to think about how the carpet I just vacuumed will be littered with Goldfish crackers. When I order sangria with lunch, I force myself not to wonder if the kids will remember to brush their teeth, and how high the laundry must be piled by now, because it’s not my problem. Yet.
And the socks — oh, the socks. They’re going to be so. fucked. up. My socks will be in my husband’s drawer, my daughter’s socks will be in my drawer, and many pairs will be missing completely, because sock washing is apparently really, really hard — like, so hard that grown men can’t even master it.
I sleep in when I’m away from home. I get ready in peace. No one touches my makeup brushes without permission. Everything stays just where I left it, and quite frankly, it’s amazing. But I do start to miss my family when I’m gone. After all, I’m not completely heartless.
My family greets me in pajamas — possibly the very same ones they had on when I left three days prior — and all of them look wild, like they’ve seen some shit. Everything is sticky. Things that shouldn’t be sticky, like clothes hangers, are oddly adhesive. Just when I think I’ve located and wiped away all of the mysterious goo, I’ll walk down the hall and find more.
Weird things will be underneath the beds — things that don’t belong, like spatulas. I’ll find Cheerios dust under pillows, sticks of butter in the cabinets, Barbie dolls in the dryer, and there might be a random kid or two hanging around like they think they live here now.
Re-entry is A BITCH.
The secret to returning, I’ve decided, is to have as much fun as possible when I’m away, so that when I am on my hands and knees searching for my daughter’s lost lovey after I’ve returned home, I can still call up my friend and say with total honesty, “That was so worth it.”
Immediately followed by, “When’s our next trip?!”