by Jennifer Sey
I am writing this on a plane from Barcelona to San Francisco. Well, I'm really on a plane from Frankfurt to San Francisco but I started the return flight from Barcelona. I was in Europe – Italy and Spain - for a week for work. I attended the European men's apparel trade fair and the Dockers European Sales Launch. Sounds pretty glamorous, I know.
I will get home on a Friday afternoon, having left eight days earlier. Once I am home, I will get as many hugs and snuggles as possible before leaving again for a week in New York. Again, sounds pretty fabulous.
But I have been dreading these two weeks for several months. Don't get me wrong. Florence was beautiful if not a tad too hot. The sites - the Duomo, the Arno, the Ponte Vecchio - were stunning, though somewhat blurry as I buzzed past them on the way to meetings. Barcelona's Gaudi buildings and Las Ramblas were also dazzling. The food and drink – salty meat and cheese, red wine – were delicious in both places. I worked a lot, but enjoyed authentic, luscious meals in between.
At my behest, my oldest learned to send emails while I was away so we communicated regularly with photo attachments and all. (“This is what I saw today,” mommy wrote. “I got to the next level in my game today and daddy had a meeting and I miss you please come home and I will give you a big hug,” wrote Virgil.)
But emails can't bridge the distance. No way to send a hug or smell dirty overgrown little boy hair via email. Furthermore, my husband and I always struggle with the phone. He doesn't like telecommunicating. Not big on communicating in general but I can draw it out of him in person. He loathes small talk which is what I crave when far away. I need the familiarity of dinner conversation that isn't about work and selling more pants. (“El Corte Ingles is the only department store in Spain and represents significant further opportunity for us.” And so on and so on and so on.)
When I fail to re-create the the inane back and forth of husband and wife dinner chatter over the phone, I get mad. Snippy really. And then we fight. Over the phone with me a gazillion miles away. It sucks big time.
Nonetheless, I always get through it. I wonder how long I can keep doing it, being away from my family for work. I wonder this every time I'm gone. But the fact is, I don't do it that much. All told I am probably gone a total of 4 or 5 weeks a year, not in a row. A few days here and there with some big week long chunks in the middle. Completely do-able. But I never fail to question – Why do I do this? I'm missing everything! - when I am away for long stretches.
I think that either way, mothers must endure. My friends who choose to stay home with their young children talk of the excruciating boredom of hours on end at the park, going up and down the slide an endless number of times. The feeling that they've left their hard earned careers behind and may never find their way back. The desperate need for adult conversation that isn't about nap times and food allergies and poop color and potty training. On the other hand, I endure feeling like I'm not around enough, that they will resent me forever for being conspicuously absent from school drop offs and pick ups. I fear, in fact, sometimes, that they won't love me anymore simply because I'm not around enough. I fear that absence won't make their hearts grow fonder rather will make their little hearts forget.
I know this isn't true. My dad worked a lot. And I loved him when I was a girl, as I do now. In many ways I am closer with my dad than my mom. We have an easier time talking to each other despite the fact that I spent far less time with him when I was a child.
Thus I get through the bouts of sadness when I'm out of town knowing that they are well cared for by my husband; that they are having fun at home, albeit without me; that we need my salary for food and shelter and health insurance and for that fun to be had; that I like working (usually); that they love me whether or not I'm present for every waking moment.
Once I get home, all will be right immediately. There will be hugs all around, they'll tell me everything they did while I was away. I'll tell them about the things I saw, give them tee-shirts and Euros and Spanish candy. We'll snuggle and watch a movie – Star Wars or Jurassic Park – for the umpteenth time. And I'll be fine. So I'll do it again.
I'm not going to leave my job over a few weeks a year away from my kids. I am well-suited to the work itself, I enjoy the sense of accomplishment, I like to win, I love being part of a team. I would go mad at home all day. With my kids in school from 9-4, what would I do with myself? I like the pace of working. I need it.
So I'll endure the time away. I'll continue to cry on the flight there and home when I watch any old stupid movie. This time it was “New In Town” with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. That's right, you've never heard of it. No one has. But I watched it and cried. Bawled. I'm still teary actually. I'm wiping my runny nose as I write this. I can't imagine what in this barely watchable movie made me sad. She fell in love. I miss my kids. I'm bickering with my husband. Love made me sad. Renee and Harry weren't bickering.
I'll be home in just a few hours. All will be dandy after some hugs and kisses. Until Saturday when I leave for NY.