Getting with the program

by singlemomseeking on August 27, 2009

“I think I did really well, don’t you?”

That was the first thing I said to LG after sending M off on her week-long adventure — without me. With a quick hug and kiss at the balmy Lihue airport 10 days ago, she was on her way. And I was on mine.

LG nodded his head and smiled. I took a deep breath. This was it. My daughter was off with her friend’s grandparents to Hanalei Beach for five nights and six days.

If M was nervous, she sure hadn’t shown it. Twenty minutes ago, she’d jumped into her car and waved me off. Her mind seemed to be on her first destination: the pool! (I later found out that she jumped in with her friend, first thing, with their clothes on!).

As we headed in the opposite direction — to hike on the southern side of Kauai — I was proud. See, I’d kept my emotions in check. I hadn’t shed a tear. Everything was perfect: I was in Hawaii with a man whom I loved. We could do anything we wanted to: swim in the Pacific Ocean, eat fish tacos and drink beer, walk on the sand barefoot…. So, why did I feel so empty? Why couldn’t I just smile and get with the program?

LG reached out and held my hand. “Are you okay?”

I was fine, just fine. “Yeah! I’m great!”

But he could tell that I wasn’t. (Later, he’d use the word “sulky” to describe me.) Maybe I was just hungry; or tired; or hot. Maybe I needed some time to adjust to the climate. But I was in Hawaii! What the heck was wrong with me?

“I could tell that you missed M,” LG told me later. “But I was afraid that if I said something, you’d snap.”

The truth is: I felt anxious. But I was too darn ashamed to admit it. Clearly, my kid was fine with a week apart. Why couldn’t I just sit back, have a Mai Tai, and enjoy this island life?

LG didn’t hide how psyched he was: after dating for six months, we’d only had a handful of occasional kid-free nights together. And those were just 24-hour slots. Now we had six whole days!

As we headed down along the highway, LG asked what I wanted to do first. “I don’t know,” I said.

Humph. I always know what I want to do. If there’s one trait I’m proud of, it’s my decisiveness. Why couldn’t I just “woman up” and have fun? Admitting that I was “M sick” was just too embarrassing.

Looking back now — after a good cry that first day — I see what was happening. Almost a decade into single motherhood, being a mom was such a huge part of who I was. Ask me anything about my life, and the first thing you’ll hear is: “I’m a mom.”

But I didn’t know how to be ME anymore. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Please tell me you’ve had a similar identity crisis before. Even if it was just for two minutes.

Hawaii snorkel 09

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon Smith September 4, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Your post made me cry. I totally get it. I’m like that when he goes to stay the night with a friend for one night. You’d think I’d go out. Have some me time. Nope I sit at home tearing up and wishing he was here. I can’t imagine going a week. I know I need to though. Thanks for showing me it can be done. 😉
.-= Shannon Smith´s last blog ..Tell Me Thursday =-.


GLSD August 30, 2009 at 10:48 am

Rachel, It happens to all moms. When I first got married I moved from NY to CA. Every time I went to visit my mom, we cried together when I got there (excitement, happiness) and we cried when it was time to go again (sadness that I had to leave her behind).


Bobbi Janay August 29, 2009 at 11:34 am

Don’t feel bad when I moved away when I was 20 my mom had the same crisis.


SDMktg August 29, 2009 at 10:20 am

I miss my kids whenever they’re with their mom. Even more so when they go on a trip with her. I’ve only been on a couple of short weekend trips without them and it is hard to totally let go and enjoy the trip because I wonder how they’re doing and I can’t help but wish they were with me. Work trips are different. I only go when I have to and I just focus on the tasks at hand and try hard not to think about them. By the end of the trip I can’t wait to be home. I know they miss me too. We’re very close.


wandamd22 August 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I think this all depends on the dynamic you have with a. your child and b. with your child’s father. I am in a situation where for the past 2 years my 4 year old spends 2 nights/days a week with her Daddy. Him and I didn’t marry and have been friends longer than we ever were a couple. Some times we do stuff together but sometimes I need alone time and I don’t feel like because I am capable of spending a night away from my little one should it elicit “sympathy” from someone. Twice a year she goes with her Daddy for 10 days to visit his family; yes after a few days I am DYING to see/talk to her but my philosophy is if she is happy then I should just relax and not allow it to offer up such a dose of anxiety.


MindyMom/Single Mom Says... August 28, 2009 at 9:19 am

I lOVE the pic!

Yes, missing your kid is normal! For me it’s usually a touch in the beginning but toward the end – and then especially the day I will see them again – it just can’t come fast enough. The seperation is good for both of you though. And I think it shows in that picture!


Linsey August 28, 2009 at 6:26 am

I went from senior year of college, living with 3 friends. and having a handful of other friends within a 2 miles (i.e. living in a collegiate bubble)… to graduating, working full-time, living in a 1 bedroom apartment (alone)… and all of my friends seemed to have moved home and away from our college town. I was left by myself in the big, bad world.

I had to find a new identity and new ways to occupy my time. It’s HUGE going from college to adult life. It definitely helped me grow as a person, but for a year I didn’t feel like I knew myself at all. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going.

In other news… my mom is going through something similar to what you are going through. Except I am 24 and my brother is 27. I never moved back home after I left for college… while he was in college off-and-on (never graduated) and eventually lived at home like a hermit for 3 years before moving in with a girlfriend at the end of 2008. My mom didn’t know what to do with herself after he moved out and constantly offered to do things for my brother (laundry, cook dinner, make doctor appointments, etc). My dad had to sit her down and be like, “cut the apron strings. He is 27.”

Apparently there is a saying that goes, “a son is your son until he finds a wife. Your daughter is your daughter your entire life.”

(…or something like that)


Legal Editor Mom August 28, 2009 at 6:07 am

Apart from leaving my daughter when I’ve had to travel for work, I’ve never been away from her for several days at a time. And there’s no doubt in my mind that I would be nuts, just like you were. It’s totally normal and understandable. Heck I sometimes don’t want to leave her for an evening to go out with my male friend!

And I agree with what Amy Sue said about the parents who can leave their kids TOO easily.


Nicki August 28, 2009 at 3:18 am

When the kids first started visiting their father for the weekends and S and I were on hiatus, I had no idea what to do with myself. I was depressed and lonely and hibernating. At first I would rush to find somewhere to run away to, then I realized I couldn’t always run, I couldn’t always rely on others to make me happy. I had to find this elusive happiness somewhere within myself. I had to be more than someone’s mom or ex-wife or girlfriend.

I’m still doing that self-discovery thing. It has its ups and downs, but it’s a learning experience. And we all need those.


Dental Brandon August 27, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Thank you very much for this post. This made me understand my parents more. I have been living in a different state from them for a couple of years now and my mother is starting to complain that I haven’t seen them since i moved out. I personally did not agree with my mother most of the time, and sometimes I get a bit annoyed with her. So thank you very much for this…


Crazy Computer Dad August 27, 2009 at 7:24 pm

When you have been a part of someone’s life day in and day out for any length of time, you can begin to lose yourself in that bond. When it is suddenly taken away, it is normal to be out of sorts, and we each respond differently. There isn’t a right or wrong response, there is just YOUR response.

I was married for just over 11 years. After that was gone there was a long period of time where I had to rediscover who I really was. It wasn’t easy and I think I’ve only just arrived there.

When my son leaves for the summer, I pack my time with “stuff” and I tend to over do things at first. It takes a while for equilibrium to return…and then I get all dizzy again when he comes back.

And I’ve said it thousands of times…somehow between relationships, parenting, and work I have to find time not to lose myself.


singlemomseeking August 28, 2009 at 11:39 am

@CCD, I thought about you when I wrote this post, remembering how you’ve described your sudden kid-free summers.


T August 27, 2009 at 7:17 pm

First of all, if you were on Kauai, did you drive to the north side to get the best fish tacos in the world?!?! Oh how I wish I could remember the name of the place. Tiny little shack and the guy would go out and catch fresh tuna…

Then we stopped at Secret Beach on the way back to our hotel…

Wow. Ok, so anyway…

Yes honey, this is completely normal. Gosh we do nothing much really but take care of these little ones! Of course you would feel a little… not like yourself. And perhaps because it has ALWAYS been you and only you in her life.

Even though I relish my “me time”, I couldn’t stand when my kids were gone for 12 days. I thought I would go nuts. And yet, they’re supposed to be with the ex for a month every summer. Just not sure I can do that just yet…


Amy Sue Nathan August 27, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I find much more of a problem with parents who can easily detatch. I don’t see a problem with being a mom first, and identifying as such. It’s an adjustment to learn to be away from your kid if you’ve never done it – my daughter is 14 and goes to camp for a month and I don’t like it – but off she goes! I don’t look at motherhood as a lifestyle – it’s my life – and edging in the other bits is important, but what is more important than having that connection? You certainly have your own identity as a woman, Rachel, it’s obvious and evident. You acclimated I’m sure and had a fabulous time.

The parents who fly away or hike away for a week and don’t look back once? I feel bad for them, frankly.

I like my “me” time too — but take it from someone with two teenagers, you’ll have more than enough of it at some point.


Honey August 27, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Oh, wait, I guess it was 2007. I wanted him to meet the BF.


singlemomseeking August 28, 2009 at 8:27 am

@Honey: And how did the meeting with the boyfriend go?

@Amy Sue Nathan: Thanks for that. I hadn’t really considered what it might be like to be on the “other side” and feel completely detached. Hmmm.

@T: Oh, yes, I heard about that Secret Beach….


Honey August 27, 2009 at 4:06 pm

This makes me wonder about how my dad feels…my sister and I both live in different states than he does (I’m completely across the country). I talk to him 4-5 times per year on the phone, maybe as many e-mails, and I haven’t seen him in person since 2006. I think my sister’s stats are similar (though I can’t be sure because I haven’t seen her since waaaaaay before that!).


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