On the days when being a working Mama pretty much sucks

The night before  a 3-day work trip, R1 (the 5 yr. old) overheard me telling a friend I hadn’t packed yet.  “Packed for what?!” he said, sounding like a dejected husband.  I apologized for not telling him sooner than 9pm the night before an early morning drive to the other side of the state.

In the past R1 has cared very little whether I’m on a work trip or not.  After all, I’ve been doing it since he was 4 months old.  He’s used to it.  Not only that, my time away has meant an explosion of time for him & Daddy.  Daddy who has ADD and goes into SUPER-FOCUS mode while playing Thomas the Tank Engine.  For R1, my trips come with three guarantees: pizza for dinner, moonballs for dessert and 3-4 hour Daddy-only play sessions.

As you can surmise, when R2 (the 1 yr. old) was born, a lot of that changed.  R2 took up a lot of my time and I dare to say, R1 got sick of so much Daddy time and just wanted a bit more of Mama around.

(I mean, really —who can blame him? =)

Though he’s learning to express disappointment about my frequent trips (generally 1-2 trips a month for 2-4 days + 1 weekend), he gets over it very quickly, always anticipating his “surprise” gift from me when I get home.  All in all, I generally haven’t made a habit of telling him until the morning I am leaving.

That has to end.

The other night I apologized because I could tell he was upset.  Very upset.  He went on, “you have ANOTHER trip?  Why are you always going on trips?”  I try to explain but he cuts me off in a huff, “I am getting tired with your trips!”

Oh boy.

His bed-time routine consisted of plenty of cuddling while I told him how part of Mama’s job means that every so often I’ll need to be gone for a few days at a time, but it does not mean that I don’t love and miss he and R2 very, very much.  He sat and listened for a long time.  Finally, he broke the silence.

“Mama.  You should know that when your gone, God is always with you.  And I am always with you.”

Something about his response got me all teary up in this mug!  After that, we talked for another 10 minutes about God, about our family and about what to do when we are sad.

The next morning I was, of course, running late.  I was able to see him off to pre-school and he again reminded me that God is always with me while I’m gone.  I reminded him that he could always tell God how much he missed me if he felt sad.

He was delighted to see me last night when I got home.  But this morning he asked 7 different times if he could stay home from pre-school today.  At one point, he asked if I would still be here when he got back.  He lamented that we couldn’t spend the morning together.

Another staff colleague of mine used to tell me that travel was so much harder when your kids got a little older and you could see the sadness on their face.  Of course, he was a man so I didn’t listen.  After all, what did he know about how hard it is to sit on the floor in a crusty airport bathroom pumping your breasts and crying as it drains down the sink never to be used?  What did he know about how hard it is to travel alone with an infant and the ridiculous amount of unpacking you must do going through security with a -finally- sleeping infant?

On top of all that, R1 never had any separation anxiety.  I came and went freely with him smiling all the way.   Bitter cold truth?

My male colleague was and is right: It REALLY is much harder now then it ever was when all I had to deal with was my own sadness.

R1′s sadness this morning deeply saddened me.  I don’t want him to grow up feeling that he didn’t get enough of his Mama, though I’m home with him 14 hrs. out of the work week, nights & weekends.  I am thrilled to say, this summer I have NO TRIPS except for the ones we all go to.  I’m fully planning to cherish my time with him before Kindergarten in the Fall!

I’ve talked a lot on my blog about how hard it’s been to work part-time and be at home with the kids part-time, but I’ve also talked a lot about how much I love my career and how rewarding it is.  Not only that but, my salary is needed!  And I’ve also talked about how I enjoy my days with the kids but know that I couldn’t do it full time as a stay-at-home Mama.  One more thing… I love how family-friendly IV is.  R1 has come with us on many work trips.  All in all, I’ve “got it all.”

But all that gets thrown into question on days like today.

It’s tough, y’all.

It’s tough today hearing him ask for nothing more than “all day with Mama.”

And it’s tough knowing I have a BUSY work-week ahead and a weekend trip.  Fortunately, the whole family is attending this trip and while I’m working my boo-tay off they’ll be frolicking in the hotel pool.  R1 is very excited about that. =)

My friend & colleague, Jessica who is a Mommy herself and has a very similar traveling role in InterVarsity was on the same team this past week.

She’s in the middle of a great 4-part series on being a working/traveling Mommy on her blog, www.sidewalktheologian.com.

For any other Mum’s out there juggling the insanity, what are your best tips and tricks for dealing with the sadness of kids old enough to articulate it?

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