Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Struggle

"Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection." ~Lawrence Durrell

Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI

As many of you know from following us on Facebook, Scott & I were able to take a trip to the Caribbean this month by ourselves.  This is only the second time that we have done so since our honeymoon back in 1997.  We took our first trip alone together last year about this same time, which I did not publicize for reasons I will explain later.  We went 16.5 years without taking one single trip away, just the two of us.  I have no regrets about this whatsoever.  The time was just not right until last year.  I was 100% in Mommy Mode that first 16 years... literally knowing that where I wanted to be was AT HOME with our kids.  I didn't think it was necessary or important for me to be leaving my kids for any length of time to get away with my husband.  It felt selfish and like a luxury I didn't need.  We chose to have three kids & even though our situation is different than most, we still shouldn't "need" that type of break.  Not to mention that there was physically NO WAY to get away even if we wanted to.  We didn't have babysitters, nurses or anyone else who would want to take up residence at Da Hooligan House for a week, get no sleep, care 24/7 for our 3 kiddos, and literally run *my life* while I gallivanted around the islands. The whole idea seemed more like a dream than anything.  

It wasn't until early last year that Scott & I looked at each other in our unbelievably sleep-deprived frustration & cried, "THIS YEAR WE ARE GOING SOMEWHERE.  JUST US.  NO QUESTION. LET'S BOOK THE MOTHERFUCKIN' TRIP BEFORE WE CHANGE OUR MINDS!!!!!!!"  And we did.  And it was wonderful.  And it was possible because we now have an amazing "team" in place to help us with the girls both day & night. I don't know what I'd do without them... they are FAMILY & we are SOOOOOO blessed that they are part of our lives!!!! 

It was so wonderful last year that we booked another trip this year.  We returned earlier this week from 10 days in the Virgin Islands.  Just us.  Alone.  For only the third time in 17+ years of marriage.

You might think this is where the story ends, with me sharing breathtaking beach pictures & recounting tales of wild nights in paradise as Gwen & Scott finally unwind after years of being cooped up in boring old, landlocked Kansas.  But you would be wrong.

Please understand -- and I have no idea why I feel the need to preface this with a disclaimer, but I just don't want anyone thinking I'm a prima donna or some ungrateful bitch who doesn't realize the gifts that I have both at home & while away travelling -- but I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF BEING GONE.  I loved being in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I loved the warm weather (unlike the wind chill of 1 degree that we came home to!), sunny skies, palm trees, & pristine beaches.  I loved the one-on-one time I had with my husband.  I loved how free I felt being able to go to bed whenever I wanted or get out of the car without a 15 minute scramble to be sure I didn't forget burp rags or diapers or wipes or the spoon or bib or baby food or back-up outfits in case one of the girls pees/pukes on their clothes.  I loved having no responsibilities.  I loved feeling like newlyweds again.  I loved being able to do things we couldn't do in Kansas.  I loved being able to do things we are not able to do when our kids are with us (get your minds out of the gutters, ya' pervs! OK, maybe not.  I might mean that too!  LOL).  I loved having tropical drinks with my dinner.  I loved jamming out to reggae & island beats in our rented Jeep on a faraway island, exploring to our heart's content without having to worry about anyone else's needs but our own.  I loved the rush of snorkeling for six hours straight with stingrays, sea turtles, tropical fish, squid, octopus, huge tarpon, and 2 sharks!!!  I loved surfing in the most turquoise water in the pouring rain and getting up on the first try.  I loved sleeping in.  I loved sleeping in general!  I loved relaxing swings in the hammock overlooking the islands.  I loved being able to get ready to go out for the night in 20 minutes.  I loved dancing in the pouring rain in the middle of the street BECAUSE I COULD.  I loved EVERY MOMENT I spent there. Wholeheartedly.  Like every single day was one of the best days of my life, next to my wedding day & the three days my children were born.  I can barely put it into words what this trip -- these two trips -- have meant to me without tearing up because it was so beautiful & perfect & NEEDED, start to finish. (Too late... tears already rolling...can barely see the screen)

And therein lies the struggle... Knowing I needed this trip more than just about anything else in life, but feeling SO FUCKING POWERLESS the entire time I was there because of how intensely I missed my life here. Not to mention the immeasurable guilt I felt for LIKING all of the things I mentioned above, most of which involved me feeling FREEDOM from the stressors of life here at home.  What kind of mother am I for ENJOYING being away from my kids?  For wanting to stay for ten days, thousands of miles away from my kids while countless others have to pick up the slack for me at home?  For 6 days not being enough this time?  For being so disconnected from my kids - - they are my WORLD! - - and LIKING how that feels because I have zero responsibilities?  Do you know what a betrayal that feels like to my kids??? 

I almost didn't want to like it as much as I did. I half expected we'd go last year & it would be "enough" to tide us over for another 5+ years.  Why do you think I didn't publicize that we went last year?  BECAUSE I WAS EMBARRASSED WE WERE LEAVING THE GIRLS.  There, I said it.  It hurt me then & it hurts me still to admit that we needed this break.  It hurts me to admit how hard it is sometimes to care for two children with special needs.  It hurts me to admit that others can care for the girls just like I can.  It hurts me that I felt enough disconnect with my husband to need this trip.  It hurts me that I felt some burnout about being a caregiver 24/7.  It hurts me to admit that we now have 7 nights a week of nursing care for Lola & that I couldn't survive one more day getting less than 2 hours of sleep a night.  It hurts me to admit that part of the reason I feel guilty about leaving the girls especially is because I don't want to waste precious time I do have with them while they are still here.

But WHY??? Why are these things so difficult for me to say and accept?  And why am I beating myself up over wanting a break from my life?  (But promise me you guys won't ever for one second think that I don't completely love my life!!!!!  Because I do.  But I just cannot understand why if I love my life so much - as I do! - that I would even need a break from it at all?!?!?  I wish I could just admit that life is hard sometimes, breaks are OK because they recharge me, & I am no less of a Mom for wanting to get away once a year. Damn this Mommy guilt!!!!)

I feel a sense of weight lifting off my shoulders as I type this.  (Wish that weight was lifting off my thighs or ass instead, dammit!)  It just feels so good to process through this & really to be blogging at all, as I pretty much took a two month hiatus so I wouldn't have to "go there" with all these emotions.  I just couldn't... or I likely would've cashed in that trip insurance & stayed the F home! Trust me, I was looking for reasons to not go!  This internal guilt shit is for the birds!!!!

(For the record, the girls & Cal had ZERO problems while I was gone, aside from their usual antics. :)

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be back home.  I have so missed THIS.  

Will someone tell me why certain 15 year old boys refuse to participate in selfies with their Mamas?!?!?
Me, Cal & Cam at the WSU game last night (Only 2 of us apparently give a shit!!!  LOL)

Stand up, baby girl!  I AM SO PROUD OF YOU, CLAIRE!!!!!!!


"A man travels the world over in search of what he
needs and returns home to find it." ~George A. Moore



Anonymous said...

Good for you and your husband! Everyone deserves a break from reality every now and then. Sometimes we have to step back and breath so we can discover or remember that we are so much more than our day to day life. If you don't it's so easy to lose yourself. Then what good are you too everyone else. ....

Cindy Harrell said...

Awesome, truthful blog! I understood every word and emotion you spoke about! It IS OK to take a break!!! Don't feel guilty for that!!! Everyone needs recharging and most people can't even relate to your situation at home...the immense responsibility day in and day out! We are on our 5th hospitalization in two months with our precious Millie. I, the GiGi, takes turns with my daughter at the hospital...days and she can still be a wife to her husband who is battling cancer and mother to her almost 4 year old. Be thankful for the help you have that made your trip possible...wish I could hug you right now and kiss you on the forehead :-)

Darci said...

I truly believe that you are a better mommy, wife and person for taking the time away with your spouse. Life is hard with a SN child, let alone two. You deserve a moment or two or ten, just as any mother does to reconnect with themselves and spouse. I give you props for having the balls to reveal your intermost thoughts on this blog and to open up and say gosh darn it I needed a break. Kuddos
Have a great rest of the year and enjoy your holidays with the ones that love and need you the mostest.

grayhairedsurfwalker said...

I think Mom guilt is a normal thing of us all when we take a break from the Mama job.
I am happy you got away but totally understand the guilt.

Rhonda Morrison said...

Gwen- You are so entitled to have all those feelings. I agree Mother's Guilt is the worst part of the whole Motherhood gig--more so when you have a special needs child. I totally understand the getting away together thing as I think there's only been 3 nights in 10 years that Kirk and I have been gone together! Craziness! I need to take a lesson from you and just do it! So glad you had a totally awesome and renewing trip! Rhonda

Topher said...

I'm thrilled that you two had a great time! Kudos to your team for holding down the fort so you guys can focus on you guys.

Glad you're back safe and sound!

Anonymous said...

You are all inspirations to me! Beautifully, simply, and honestly worded posts are what set you a million miles above and beyond so many bloggers. Much love from Missouri :)

Anonymous said...

My husband and I raised 4 kids-my sister and 3 of our own. Boy we needed a break from them from time to time. We all need a break, doesn't mean we don't love our lives, just we need to take care of ourselves, so we will be strong for things we have to do. You and your husband are wonderful parents to three beautiful children. Love your humor and style of blog. I have laughed my ass off, and cried my eyes out reading your blog. Claire looks so beautiful sitting in her chair, and tiny Lola is a cutie.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I raised 4 kids-my sister and 3 of our own. Boy we needed a break from them from time to time. We all need a break, doesn't mean we don't love our lives, just we need to take care of ourselves, so we will be strong for things we have to do. You and your husband are wonderful parents to three beautiful children. Love your humor and style of blog. I have laughed my ass off, and cried my eyes out reading your blog. Claire looks so beautiful sitting in her chair, and tiny Lola is a cutie.

Anonymous said...

To have the mental and emotional resources to take care of others, you also have to nurture yourself. Your time away was an investment and ultimately benefits your entire family and your precious girls. :)

Karen Canavan said...

You are human sweetheart. Love your honesty and love YOU to bits x x x

DoRe' said...

You always speak truth, G; loved this post. And, shall I admit hubby and I have never spent even a night away together? (Today's our 15th anniversary!) So you're about 7 steps ahead of me on that one. ;)
Love from Washington. <3

Thread-Head said...

It's a mark of intelligence and care that you recognized the need to take a break. I'm a relatively new reader (came for the ornamental dwarves; stayed for the awesome posts and obvious love in your household), but as I've roamed your archives, I've wondered many times how you've managed to get by on so little sleep. Sleep loss is so debilitating! You feel physical pain, you question every decision and action, and you wonder if you can trust yourself.

From one internet stranger to another, I'm really proud of you for finding a night-time helper and for making time to enjoy your marriage as a couple. You may feel guilty for prioritizing your marriage and mental health over another week at home, but try not to believe that. What you've done is locate and utilize tools to make you a better wife, mother and dwarf wrangler. Be proud of yourself.

Unknown said...

Your story has touched me so deeply. You have such a beautiful family. How blessed are you to have such an amazing support system in place that you could have a little break to refresh and return to do what you were born to do! Your girls are so beautiful.

My own brother has dwarfism, it could be very hard to process the medical side of things as a child.. I can totally relate to your boy, and though I don't know him I am so proud of how great a job he is doing with his sisters, and even with you!!

I hope it's okay that I continue to follow your girls' story. It has made me laugh, and cry, and laugh again.

All my love to you!

Another Lola (Aka Lauren)

The Cute Syndrome said...

Good for you for getting away again. I totally understand your mixed feelings about it--I think most everyone feels the need to step out of their lives now and again no matter what their day-to-day is like. Those of us who are caregivers can love those that we care for and the lives that brought us there and still need a moment of alone time...or a few days of it. I am happy you shared this because I think so many of us do feel guilty, but it is nice to know that others we admire as amazing caregivers also need a break once or twice every 16 years or so.

Unknown said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous sweetheart Gwen. Screen all blurry here as my years run down my cheak in recognition of most of what you share so heartopenly! ! I admire your courage to let it all out. Thank you and Bless you.Yes what i do not recognize in my own life is the Island thing. Much for the very same reasons as yours before you actually ordererd that MF tripp. ..:) ♡♡♡
Huge hugs from a Sister in Sweden to you and your beloved ones.

Anonymous said...

Just as a person loves their career, but goes outside for a lunch break in the middle of the day, and as school children need recess during the day, everyone needs to take a break every so often. A change of scenery and change of activity strengthens the mind. When I used to work in an office, we would take time away from our work to play games and goof off to let our brains rest, which in turn made everyone more productive. Having some time to goof off gives us the chance to continue to grow and develop in many different directions, which makes us happier people. Sounds like you had an amazing vacation, don't feel guilty, the time spent with your husband not only betters both you and him, but your children because you're expanding your mind and filling it with more and more love each time.

Unknown said...

Gwen !!!! You are an amazing parent !!! You are strong, intelligent, and loving. What else could anyone ask for from a person? You have so much to give not only to your family, but to the world as well. The world would be a better place with more people like you. With all the complexities you encounter on a daily basis, you still make life worthwhile with love, compassion, and humor. I see your posts on some of the FB whippet groups (I too have a whippet) and I am in awe. I think to myself, all this she has to do in her daily life and she still has time for animals !! You are truly a special person. I wish you and your family (Cash included) all the best. Keep writing - I love it !!!

Unknown said...

My husband and I have two girls with microcephaly (age 7 and 9) plus three other kids (age 5,11 and 13). After I had an adrenal crash last June, we reached out for support and now have carers coming in for around 25 hours per week. To help my recovery we took a holiday to Thailand for TEN DAYS last November!!!!! The longest we had both been away from the kids ever. A second honeymoon!! I loved every moment too. It was SO worth it. The preparation and planning was intense - spreadsheets of time schedules for five children, with extra consideration for special needs factors. Exhausting. But what an experience. I don't think you should feel any guilt for your holiday AT ALL. We love our kids to bits too. But we needed the break. And we needed it together. And absolutely so do you and your husband. I'm happy for you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your journey. You are an encouragement and blessing! I've joined the blogosphere too, and finding it a good outlet to share the joys, the pain and the humour in the journey.

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