• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Travel and Separation

Jet lag and emotion.

January 26, 2014

Last week, Bill, Ben and I left our hotel in Shanghai at 5:30 AM China time (13 hours ahead of Eastern US time). Our second plane landed at JFK at around 2PM, half an hour late.. The second flight, from Beijng to New York, was difficult — the seats were cramped, even for a smallish person like me. Bill and Ben, on either side of me, were eating their knees, and of course spilled over into my space. When the passengers in front of us reclined, our tray tables were forced into my chest/their midsections. I am usually a good plane sleeper, but sleep wasn't an option on this trip.

By the time we had retrieved our luggage and cleared customs, it was after 3 and we had been on the go for almost 24 hours. Bill and I were so tired we could barely walk.

Ben, however, had a to catch a 4:30 flight to California, where his band was recording an album (I don't think that is what you call it anymore, but essentially that is what they have been doing). (I also know it doesn't make logical sense for him to have traveled to NY only to double back, but this is the logic of the airlines and was the only affordable option for us.) We raced to the domestic terminal where he checked in, then left him at the security line. A few minutes later, he texted us that he had made it onto the plane with time to spare. I heaved a sigh of relief and then burst into tears.

He has been gone for 10 days. This is the longest we have ever been separated. I know we are lucky that he is still living at home, but I think his absence has been more difficult because of the previous 10 days of intense togetherness. (Exhaustion and jet lag play their role in emotional vulnerability as well!)

He has had a marvelous time. He is finding his way as a professional and in their off hours he and his friends are navigating a new city on their own. I am proud of him and excited for him.

And I haven't been sitting around crying. I went back to work the day after our return. I have done some interesting film work, started a new class, seen old friends and practiced with my sketch group. We text every day, sometimes every few minutes. I'm fine.

But he is coming back tonight, and both Bill and I have been smiling all day.

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Susan O'Doherty

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