Facing Fears I Never Had Before I Became a Mom

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It has been 9 years since I’ve been at an airport without my kids in tow. Nine years since I’ve flown alone. Nine years since I’ve been away from them for any significant length of time, aside from the odd sleepover. I know this is a shocking confession in our culture of “me time,” but it’s true. Until very recently, I have never wanted -- or “needed” -- to leave them. I spend enough time away from them at work. And they spend enough time away from me at school, their activities and with friends.

But the real reason I haven’t left them is because of something that happened when my first-born, now 10, was just 18 months. Back then, I left him -- succumbing to heavy pressure from friends and family -- for a weekend away in New York City. But visiting friends and book readings wasn’t the fun-filled weekend I had hoped. There was no heavy partying or getting back in touch with my old pre-mom self. Nope. I was miserable and in tears, spending most of the weekend in a hot shower relieving my aching breasts. I was both horrified and ashamed that I’d left my baby, half-weaned, with my poor husband who had to cope with 3 days straight of screaming. It was such a disaster I vowed never to do it again. Until now.

I had waited until I felt comfortable to leave them and now that they are 10 and 7, I knew they’d survive the weekend without me, without tears. So here I am at the airport, oddly jubilant and simultaneously teary, at the prospect of leaving. Having spent most of my 20s traveling solo around the world as a journalist, it is strange to feel so out of practice, so bereft of accoutrements like diaper bags and strollers and bags of toys, so completely alone.

This time, I make sure to enjoy my free time, watching movies on the plane, reading, breathing and thinking without interruptions. Going out late for drinks and dinner with long-lost friends. Attending an amazingly intimate and inspiring writers festival. (Thank you northwords.org.)

Airplane over ocean.

But what I appreciate most is the time to think -- to really look at all of my parentally-induced fears and anxieties and how they are so at-odds with the person I was before becoming a mother. One of the many reasons I haven’t been ready to leave my kids is because I was afraid of dying in a plane crash. Really. I didn’t think a girl’s weekend would be worth that. I’ve also had a long-held fear of being caught in a different part of the city -- just in case there was an earthquake and I wouldn’t be able to cross the water to get back to my kids.

I know what you’re thinking. As a close friend recently asked, “Have you ever thought of seeing someone about this?” Of course, I have. But I am determined to work through it myself. I faced my fears and went on that plane and it was great. I regularly drive over the bridge to West Vancouver for meetings and the earthquakes so far -- fingers crossed -- have stayed away. I try to think positive thoughts when my children go in school buses to far off field trips. I am trying to let go of my fear, and my need to control things so that they don’t fall apart.

It’s working, but it’s not easy.

Do any of you have fears like this? Or am I totally insane?


Cori Howard is an award-winning journalist and the founder of The Momoir Project, www.themomoirproject.com, a series of online, memoir writing classes for moms around the world. 

Photo Credit: colleen-lane.


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