“Mom, I hate your new job.”
I’m tucking my kids in, saying goodnight to them face to face one more time before I leave early the next morning, and we won’t see each other for two weeks. I have to fly home because I can’t afford to take two weeks off for my new job. They are staying behind with their father, my husband who I also won’t see for two weeks, to visit family.
No matter how many different ways I try to explain it, I can’t get my kids to understand that I’m leaving because I am trying to make a better life for our family, place us on more financially secure footing, to hopefully allow us to pay off our debts, and maybe even (gasp) save for their college educations. All my kids understand is that they won’t get to see me for two weeks.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to leave them for work for an extended period of time. Exactly five years ago to the day, I got on another plane, this time for ten days, to finish up the job that I was leaving, while my husband started his new job. My son was only eight months old at this point, and I pumped religiously while we were apart, hoping he would still want to nurse when we were reunited. He didn’t, but we both survived.
Family first. We’ve always tried to put our family first. While for some, that means that I would still be with them, or rather we never would have taken a trip to begin with, not if I couldn’t be there. My work, my career, and my husband’s work and career, are important because it allows us to provide for our family, to give them opportunities that we didn’t have. It will hopefully mean that they won’t have to take out as much in student loans as we did, spending 20+ years paying them back.
That they will never have to worry about the lights getting turned off or rent not being paid. That they know they can rely on us, rather than us relying on them, to make ends meet.
I turned out “just fine”, as did my husband, but we carry these scars around with us into our adult lives. I know my kids won’t emerge out of childhood and into adulthood unscathed, and they will have their own scars that they will carry with them, I am sure, but these are the ones I want to protect them from (among others), because I know exactly how they hurt, and how long the pain can linger.
What my kids didn’t recognize is that, for the four days we were able to spend all together as a family, I didn’t do any work. At all. I didn’t check my email. I didn’t have to take care of anything work-related, and nor did I feel compelled or guilty spending all my time focused exclusively on my family. And, my kids also don’t see how lucky they are to be able to travel to spent time with their extended family, as well as quality time with their father.
Two weeks feels like forever right now. But it’s a small cut that will heal.