Mommy Went To Texas And All She Brought Me Was This Essay On Travel In The Age Of Postmodern Motherhood

March 8, 2011

The other night, I was sitting in a restaurant in San Antonio, sipping a margarita the size of a baby’s head and chatting about balancing motherhood and work and travel with a writer from National Geographic. “It’s hard sometimes,” I said. “I know that my husband finds it challenging when I’m gone one weekend and then again the next weekend and then again the next. But we manage. He does a lot of his work from home.”

“And he doesn’t mind?” she asked.

“Oh, he minds, sometimes. Parenting solo is hard, and it’s even harder when you know that your partner is off somewhere drinking a margarita. But the roles are reversed when his work schedule is busy, and I have to do it all by myself, so it balances out, mostly.”

“I hope that you know how lucky you are,” she said. “Because you are. You’re very lucky to be married to someone so understanding and supportive. You’re very lucky that you can be a mom and do this, too.”

We clinked glasses. “Of course I know,” I said. “I’m very lucky. I know.”

I am lucky, if by lucky you mean, recognized what a phenomenal man my husband is when I first met him and and actively determined to grab on to him and never let go and also have a husband who recognizes that marriage and family and parenthood are a joint enterprise and maybe also am willing to just sometimes go ‘sorry dude, your turn.’ I mean, he’s lucky too, of course, but I recognize that I’m especially lucky that he’s able and willing to bend his life around so that I can go to San Antonio and drink margaritas. But when I went to bed that night – in an obscenely plush king bed with a plate of chocolate at my side but nonetheless alone – I thought, that luck is kind of complicated.

I am lucky to have my husband, who is so willing to take on the mantle of Parent In Charge as often as he does, so that I can pursue this work that I love, work that involves going to San Antonio to research the Missions and see the Alamo and drink margaritas under murals of Bill Clinton, but is nonetheless work, margaritas and murals notwithstanding. This is work that is, no question, less onerous than getting up at dawn with cranky toddlers and changing diapers and soothing savage tempers when favorite Spiderman snowboots go missing and figuring out the exact correct proportions of tomato sauce to spaghetti noodles so that picky eaters will consume said noodles and washing tomato sauce out of Hello Kitty t-shirts that must, must be worn to kindergarten the next day, and I am lucky to be able to do it. But it’s also work that requires that I forgo, for a few days at a time, hugs and kisses and cuddles and giggles and the sort of memory-making that is just, you know, different in kind from the sort that I do on my own on trips like these.

This work, the work that I do that sometimes takes me away – literally, as when I travel, and figuratively, as when I lock myself in my office and shut everything and everyone out in order to write for hours – is work that takes me out of the story of my children’s lives (a story, I should say, that I am deeply and intensely involved in when I am the Parent In Charge, which is often). It is work that redirects the narrative arc of my own story such that it diverges from those of my children, my husband, my family, and proceeds along its own solitary path. And that’s wonderful, in some ways, ways that involve me getting to think my own thoughts and do my own thing and – in the case of travel – eat chocolate without having to share and sleep through the night without small hands grabbing my hair. But it’s also sort of counter-wonderful, in some ways, ways that involve not thinking constantly about the people that I love and not doing things together and not having anyone to share my chocolate with and sleeping all alone. Because it’s the memories of those latter things – the story that contains such things as tiny faces smeared with chocolate and the feel of small hands in my hair – that I know I will cling to most tightly, more tightly than I will those of the way the sun looked rising over the Alamo or the sound of the mariachi band at the Mass at Mission Concepcion or the taste of that margarita under that particularly awesome mural of – have I mentioned this yet? – Bill Clinton.


Seven-plus feet of Bill Clinton, sparkle-garland, and awesome.

So I am lucky, yes, but it’s a luck that has nuances and complications and that involves compromises and and trade-offs and sometimes I wish, just a little, that life were simpler and Kyle were, say, an insurance agent or accountant and worked standard office hours and I stayed at home and participated in every single moment of my children’s lives and didn’t ever miss a thing.

But then again, maybe not.

I love my work, the writing and the thinking and the social media’ing and the traveling and everything in between. I love that it allows me to work at home – to stay home and spend so much time with my children – and also that it allows me to leave home – to go out into the world and do my own thing and live my own story, whether that story involves drinking margaritas underneath a mural of Bill Clinton or tittering at Marcus Aurelius’ compromised nethers or having my heart burst over the awesomeness of an amusement park designed to empower special needs families (more on this tomorrow) or attending Mass for the first time in over a decade or all of the above. I love that it allows me to come back, to have the experience of return, to cherish and relish anew the way that it feels when my family wraps me in their messy, sticky, sweet embrace. I love that it gives me the opportunity to miss them. I love the pang in my heart when I curl up alone in a big soft bed, miles from home, knowing that I won’t be woken by the soft patter of little feet running into my bedroom and that I won’t feel small hands in my hair and that I won’t wake in the morning in a tangle of arms and legs and blankets and sunshine and love. I love it in a complicated way, because it hurts, but I do love it, I do, because it reminds me that I am a mother first, and everything else second, and that I am lucky to have a life that is full to overflowing with the riches of both, because each makes the other – the motherness, and the everything-else-ness – more satisfying. I love it, because it reminds me of how really very lucky I am.

That, and because it affords me the opportunity to drink margaritas uninterrupted, but don’t tell my husband that.

Do you want an opportunity to go away and have margaritas and be reminded of how really very lucky you are? The San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, who hosted my trip to San Antonio, are offering the same trip to one of you, which you can do as an ‘I’m so lucky I’m going to take a few days off with a friend’ getaway or as a ‘I’m so lucky and I totally don’t need an escape so I’ll bring my family with me’ holiday. It’s totally up to you. Leave a comment sometime this week telling me how or why a getaway enriches your parentness or your everything-else-ness – or both – or if you’re not a parent, your you-ness – and you could win a two-night voucher for the Emily Morgan Hotel, vouchers for dinner for four at two of San Antonio’s most awesome restaurants, a $1000 Visa gift card to cover airfare, and passes to some of San Antonio’s most fun attractions, including Sea World and Six Flags Fiesta Texas and the Witte Museum and more. Trust me, you want to go. San Antonio is an awesome place to indulge both your parentness and your everything-else-ness. Or neither, as the case may be. The important thing is, the margaritas there are bigger than a baby’s head.

Aaaand… we have a winner! Congratulations to Fickle Feline. You are going to drink margaritas in San Antonio!

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    { 128 comments }

    Kristen March 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    My husband has a full-time job, but he also works part-time as a tax-preparer (and also part-time to clean the floors of a car dealership three nights a week so that he can pay off student loans required to get the degree required to get said full-time job). And he never once complains when he gets up in the middle of the night to comfort a sick child. He hasn’t once asked to give up his share of the housework. He even made me a freakin’ scavenger hunt for Valentine’s Day this year–and it was HIS birthday!

    I’d want to go to San Antonio for him. Because as much as it would be a wonderful way for ME to recharge my stay-at-home-parenting and doula-ing and dissertating batteries, it would really be a way to thank my husband: for he’s what truly inspires me to be a better parent.

    Meagan Dennison March 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    A getaway to San Antonio? Yes PLEASE!!! I have a 3 and 5 yr old boys, and we have another baby on the way. A few days away would be awesomely refreshing!!

    Megan C. March 13, 2011 at 1:20 am

    I felt like this when my huz took the kids to Costco for an hour today! ;) I’d bring them along, but mostly because the littlest little needs my body for food! We are SO due for a trip though! I’d love this!

    Hilary March 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I KNOW that pang. I just got a book deal that requires me to travel a good bit this year, and I have an almost-two-year-old at home…who is old enough to say things like, “Mommy? Home?” when I get her on the phone. (Like daggers to my heart.) I know the pang of slipping into a strange bed alone a thousand miles from home and laughing at how desperately I wanted that aloneness just a few days ago when I couldn’t eat my own meal (“Mommy? Share?”) without a little person climbing on me…and how lovely it is to sleep without waking up when she cries out in her sleep…and realizing, really, that when I get one thing I think I want (time to be a grown-up), I trade in something else I want (time to be with my little girl, even if she’s eating my spaghetti with her fingers).

    Brandy R. March 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Agreed.

    I relish the days away. I relish them and sometimes feel immense guilt for NEEDING them. My head is cleared and my spirit is renewed from the crushing everyday life can bring.. And my faith that I can do this- all of this- is renewed, too. I need that.

    But truth be told, I NEED my dear child, too. Those long nights & long talks & tall drinks have got nothing on her!

    Alisha March 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    An amazing giveaway! With kids or without!!

    Cate March 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    A trip to San Antonio as a family, especially one with margaritas, would make us feel very lucky indeed. We are blessed with a 2 year old who travels really well and we want to take advantage of it while it lasts. And San Antonio is where my husband went to Tech school in his Air Force days, I’m sure he’d love to stroll down memory lane with us.

    Ro March 13, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    A trip anywhere would be wonderful! I was just asking to my boss (thank goodness she is a mom herself!) “Remember the days when TGIF actually meant something?” Nowadays, pagers and smartphones have made 9to5 jobs, 24-7 jobs…how (why) did we let that happen? I would love a trip to San Antonio so I could turn off my cellphone, leave my laptop behind, and pretend I’m back in the days when TGIF actually meant something!!!!

    Kris March 14, 2011 at 10:39 am

    My “parent-ness” is always helped (and not hindered) by a little time away. I was destined for a business trip to North Carolina that was unexpectedly canceled. My family breathed a huge sigh of relief. No schedules would be altered at the expense of a business trip. I was relieved as well – but also a little sad. I suppose I can still find a margarita the size of a baby’s head locally, can’t I?

    Amy March 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Is it too late? Even if it is, I’ll answer anyway.

    I’m a single mom of two boys. I work full-time. I’m a grad student and a writer.

    A weekend away would mean time to recharge. Time to remember who I am inside and maybe even have a chance to start that great novel I dream of. Perhaps it will be set in San Antonio!

    Shelly March 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I’m not a parent, but sometimes I feel like I’m parenting life in general. Employees at work, family members, etc. I have been really feeling the winter blues, and I think a nice San Antonio trip with my guy is just what I need. Time to figure out if I’m even on the right path…

    Lyndy March 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    I would LOVE a getaway! Hell, I would love to be able to go to the grocery store by myself every once in a while! I am a full time paralegal, full time wife, and full time mother to a toddler. Time away is what makes the times together so much more precious. My daughter is almost 2 and I have only spent 1 night away from her. (Saints game, ya’ll!).

    Lyndy March 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    By the way, Bill Clinton is my hero! We have an autographed picture of him front and center on our fridge at home…. Along with some JFK pictures of course. :)

    Kathleen March 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I’m married to a pilot, which means that I used to spend 2/3 of my month alone while he was off flying, and I honestly loved it – I love him, but I enjoyed the solitude and the independence. Now? I spend 2/3 of the month as a “functional single parent” and I’m sort of between points moving from academia to teaching, and thus low on events that I *need*, in a justifiable way, to go away for. I fantasize about alone time, just me – but I have yet to enforce it, because in the end, I miss those two warm bodies. So… while I dream about it, I think I’d stick to my current plan of sending the boys off to my inlaws at some point and having the house to myself, and use a trip to somewhere that we don’t know anyone (a rarity in a pilot’s family) to go experience a new place as US instead.

    I’m amused that you acknowledge your luck (true), but not what I sometimes feel is the back message – who tells fathers that THEY’re lucky someone is willing to stay home with the kids? Not many people, because that’s just a mama’s job. I hate how well I’m fulfilling that sometimes!

    Kristin March 15, 2011 at 1:37 am

    I took my first getaway in 4 years a few weeks ago. I left my boys, ages 7 and 2, with my husband and fled the Minnesota winter to visit my parents on the Gulf Coast. The first couple of days I almost felt jittery – silence and relaxation had become strange to me! Then I finally sank into it, and reveled in the freedom to sleep late, carry on an uninterrupted conversation, spend one-on-one time with my mom and my dad, and just be ME – not Mom. I had almost forgotten what that felt like.

    The best part, though, was that by the time my five days of freedom were up, I missed my kids and husband fiercely, and couldn’t wait to get home to them. That huge family hug at the airport was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had! :)

    Shelly Ok March 15, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Well, my husband really wants to move to Texas (he is from a much warmer continent and after 5 years still hates winter in Minnesota), so I know he would jump at the opportunity to spend time in Texas.

    We work opposite hours, so that one of us is always home with the kids. Great for the kids, not so great for our marriage. So a romantic trip for two would be delightful!

    However, we haven’t truly taken a family trip yet, so that would be great as well. And plus we don’t have anyone who could watch the kids for 5 days…

    If I won, I would have some delicious choices on how to enjoy the prize!

    Kate K. March 15, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Given that my husband is a 1st year resident (ortho doctor) and I am 4 years into my master’s program and we have a 2 1/2 year old (who rocks my face off), I very rarely get any time away or to myself.

    Having said that, I do try to take what time I can to myself even it is just 20 min. at a time because I do think it is incredibly important as a parent to make sure you are taken care of. For some of us that can be a little more difficult than others, but I always encourage my husband and my other friends to take care of themselves. My motto is: when I care for myself I can more for others.

    What am awesome opportunity and thanks for sharing it with one of us! :)

    HPom March 15, 2011 at 9:42 am

    I know I could use a trip! While I was on maternity leave both my husband and I were laid off. It’s been a struggle but we’re getting through it together. My old job was one were I was travelling a lot and it was a big requirement that my new job was in one place. I just don’t want to be apart from my famly that much and I’ve seen enough hotel rooms and eaten dinner alone in fancy restaurants enough that I’m happy to just heat up a can of ravoli or throw on some K-D and play “tickle-monster” with my son all evening.

    Not that I don’t enjoy some time away but I gave a lot to my job and it didn’t give back. That isn’t the case with my little dude.

    thepetrababe March 15, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    I don’t meant this to be negative but I need to say it … In a way You are not “lucky!”
    You have a family unit that actually works properly(PERIOD.)

    I am by far the most envious of all the readers (altho I have not read every comment!!)

    I am a single mother of a seven year old, I attend classes in the morning and work some evenings. I do not get any weekends off for shared custody, and heavily rely on family for free child care.

    All I wanted to say to you : Please enjoy your life! You have made some amazing choices, you have a sincere talent, I envy how you are able grow as a person through your journeys and return to rewarding love.

    “Luck,” is the simpliest way to sum up where your life has taken you … but I think it’s a lot more than that!!

    Siobhan Wolf March 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Oh would Love to take the kiddos to San Antonio! I’m a single mom (widowed) of two girls (one special needs) 11 and 7 years. No family nearby for helping out, so it’s me and a good friend who helps out. My regular sitter of two years just moved out of state (in fact to Austin, TX). We don’t travel and I would so love to be able to show the girls other parts of the U.S. and world. I have always been a big fan of traveling and have done my share before I was a mom. I would love to instill that love in my daughters, they would be better people for seeing places other than where they live.

    Christine March 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    As I was reading this I found myself getting defensive that this woman would say “you’re so lucky.” I was thinking “would she say that if you were a man?” but I calmed down. Because you ARE lucky. And, of course, you aren’t lucky because it ‘shouldn’t’ be that way…like you’re ‘getting away with something’…just because it often ‘isn’t’.

    Susan March 16, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I would love to be able to take my two kiddos to San Antonio. My husband and I love to be able to expose them to what travel we can on a limited budget. Supposed to expand their minds a bit, right? And they travel pretty well so it would still be relaxing for the parents. Maybe. My husband’s mother died while on a business trip to San Antonio, I think he still has bad associations with it.

    Sonya March 17, 2011 at 7:15 am

    After my husband left the Army last year and started grad school,the budget has been limited :) (I’m going to school part time as well) We would love a chance to get away from the school and work and enjoy being married.

    Andreea @Our Journey To USA March 17, 2011 at 10:24 am

    You might have heard of that stupid thing ” Pleasure? Where s the pain? Seems like you have your fair share of both and do are still balanced.

    I m not a mother yet, but I do feel guilty when I enjoy something on my own without my hubs, even it s a simple margarita. Human beeings are just not designed to be 100% happy by themselves.
    One day, your kids will say: ” I remember my mom beeing very busy, but even as an independent women she knew what are our needs and was there no matter how far she went”

    Kat C. March 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    YAY!!!!!!

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