Occasionally, someone will ask me if I ever stayed home with my kids, or a stay at home mom will tell me how she wishes she had a career, but she really feels like she needs to be home for her kids now, or that they can't go out of town because they need to be there when their kid gets off the bus. These are all subtle but real ways that we tell women that it isn't OK to leave their children with others to pursue their own interests. Let me be clear at the outset: if you choose to stay home with your kids because you want to, because you have found that you enjoy it or that it integrates well with the pursuit of your interests, that is excellent and if you have to stay home because you can't afford childcare, that sucks.
Here is the thing though: there is no one right way to be a mother. There is no one right way to feel. Do I miss my kids when I'm gone? Yes. Am I hearbroken? No. Do I think about them all the time? Honestly, no. I enjoy traveling by myself. I get to do things I don't usually do at home. It is a nice change of pace to set my own schedule, not to have to negotiate for a few days. But I don't rejoice either. I am usually too caught up in the details of what I'm doing to worry much about anything else.
Sometimes it can seem like as mothers we're expectd to feel as if our hearts are breaking when we're away from our children. Sometimes it seems like we're supposed bo be martyrs when we're with them, never getting a moment to ourselves. It can seem like an endless competition: who can be the most selfless and enduring. Time alone then is to be treasured, a luxury for which we should be grateful.
I don't believe any of that. My bond to my family is strong. Time away is good for all of us, but in the end, we don't think much about it at all. The family is simply a constant, steady presence to which we all return. We are here, right where we are meant to be.