For eighteen years I’ve yearned for time alone – a furtive and infrequent event in these child-rearing years. It was hard enough when I had a partner to take the baby so I could shower without playing peek-a-boo through the shower curtain or would stay with the napping toddler while I ran to the little store down the block. But when, more than a decade ago, I became the one and only parent to a one- and a six-year-old, the time alone was both more imperative and more complicated.

[bctt tweet=”For eighteen years I’ve yearned for time alone… #TravelingMom” username=”dadtography”]

Babysitters were expensive; friends and family weren’t always available. Somehow I carved out little notches of time throughout the years, but now that my kids are 18 and 13, I can leave them at home for Saturday morning writing sessions at the coffee shop or for evenings watching grown-up movies with friends. But those hours without my kids are never completely alone. The autonomy is invariably interrupted by the ringing of my phone, the buzz of a text message.

“Mom, When are you coming back?”

“Mom, what is there to eat?”

“Mom, my sister won’t leave me alone.”

The kids can’t seem to leave me alone.

I can’t blame them, though. For nearly twelve years, it’s been just the three of us and they’ve had no one else to lean on. So I get the texts and calls, and my time is never really all mine.

But that’s about to change. At 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, I board a plane to Belize. For two weeks, it will be just me, my best friend and a few changes of clothes. No cell phone. No e-mail.  And loads of sunshine and silence.

…my time is never really all mine.

I am thrilled, but at the same time, it scares the bejeezus out of me.

What if my daughter breaks her arm? What if my son needs a ride home? What if there isn’t enough food to last him two weeks? How is she going to entertain herself at her grandparents? What if, what if, what if?

When my friend and I bought our tickets back in March, it was spur of the moment and I didn’t even contemplate the what-ifs when I handed over the debit card. Things will work out, I figure. They always do.

As the days count down to departure, I wonder if I am being selfish. Maybe what I’ve always wanted isn’t what I’m supposed to have. The kids might hate me by the time I come back. What if something terrible happens to me while I’m gone? Who’ll finish raising the 13-year-old? My mind swirls with possibilities and all of them negative, traumatic, deadly.

[bctt tweet=”Things will work out, I figure. They always do. #Parenting” username=”dadtography”]

Really though, the logical part of my brain knows that it’s good for me, healthy for body and soul, to take time away from the hustle and bustle stress of 24/7/365 parenting. The times when I can step away from the onslaught of maternal obligations, are the moments when I get a better perspective on my children and on our lives together.

I love my kids, more than anything or anyone, but for all of our sakes I have to trust that my parents will take care of my daughter, that my son will be responsible and that sometimes time away is necessary–for them and, no less importantly, for me.

Teresa Coates is the mother and textile maker. You can connect with Teresa on her website and on Instagram (@teresacoates).

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