“The worst thing,” my five-year-old daughter said between sobs, “is that, in the morning, I can’t see you.”
A knife right in the heart.
I was putting her to bed and saying goodbye, because the next morning I had to catch an early flight for a 2-day work assignment. I only travel a few times a year for work, but when I do, this guilt-inducing scene always plays out. She cries uncontrollably. “Please don’t go mommy. Why do you have to go?”I’ll respond by saying things like, “I’ll be home before you know it! I’ll miss you every minute! I’ll call you!”
The words provide no comfort to either of us.
This time, my daughter asked if I could lay down next to her in her bed and wait for her to fall asleep. Of course I did. She scrunched her eyes shut and wrapped her little arm around me so tight (and clung to her stuffed animals with the other) that I started to silently cry.
As she dozed off, I stared at her and had a dialogue with myself.“Why do I have to go?” I thought. Aren’t she (and her younger brother) the most important things? Why does it feel like I’m abandoning her? Am I working too much? Is she going to look back on her childhood and say “My mom was never around”?
Look at how sweet she is sleeping there, like the little baby girl I cradled in my arms just a few years ago. Maybe I should cancel my trip. What if the plane crashed?
I went on my trip the next morning, of course. But I felt completely awful. This is textbook working and traveling mom guilt, and I’ve learned to live with it over the years. But when I go out of town, it seems to intensify. My brain tries to reason: It’s two days for cryin’ out loud! This is your job! What is the big deal? She is going to be fine!
And she always is.
Traveling moms, is there a better way to do this? An easier and/or better way to say goodbye before you leave on a business trip? Because I don’t think my heart can take much more. Help!