On good days I am a chef, a concierge, an interior decorator and a fashion stylist.
Here's my most recent article for the American Mag (I've included it in the text):
Freckles Dugan was deaf, dumb and blind before she left this world. But she never lost her sixth sense for out of town travel. She could sniff out a trip the way a jonesing german shepherd at JFK’s baggage claim discovers heroin. Maybe it was the scent of the suitcase… maybe she picked up on the travel-induced anxiety. Whatever the case, she did not like it when her family went away.
This past week, I discovered that either my oldest son is my dead springer spaniel incarnate or that they share some similar stressors. Though Oedipus (not his real name) did not chase his tail while incessantly yelping, he did bite me in protest once he saw my carry-on and discovered that I was leaving without him (something Freckles never did).
I was scheduled to go to the US for business and pleasure and REALLY looking forward to it. REALLY. Knowing that this was our first time being apart, I was certain that this week would not be easy for him. The baby would be fine, but my first-born would struggle with the invisible umbilical chord that would not reach across the Atlantic. I assured him that I would be back soon. And I bribed him. Which seemed effective.
When the moment (and my cab) arrived, I ran out the door trying to escape the cries of my children. But I couldn’t escape the cries in my own head, “You are a terrible mother. You are scarring your children!” My eyes welled up with tears and panic crept in to my breathing. I tried to reason with myself. Women leave their kids all the time. I knew this would be hard for the boys but why was this so damned difficult for me?
And then it struck me. I was dependent on my dependents. I was addicted to being a mother.
Mothering was a drug I had been inhaling, injecting and ingesting non-stop for three and half years. It was an intoxicating potion on good days. A hallucinogenic powerhouse after days of sleep deprivation. It was like an eight ball of cocaine with a heroin bump, an all-consuming temptress…. Okay. Stop. That last metaphor is just me trying to show my street cred (I have no street cred).
Being a mother was a 24-hour habit and now I was going cold turkey for a week. As I checked in to my flight, I was shaking, sweating and nauseous- detoxing, if you will. As I entered airport security, I stripped myself of a jacket, shoes, belt and parental responsibilities. As I boarded the plane I also embarked on a sobering solo experience. “They will be fine. They are with their father. Their father can take care of them.” I breathed and thought again, “Oh God… they are with their father! Can he take care of them?”
When I arrived in Washington, I craved a fix. So I called home using my computer and video conferencing. As soon as we were connected- I realized my grave error. The baby started screaming and crying “Mama! Mama!” And Oedi said, “Mommy I want to go with you. I want to go inside the computer with you.” Ouch. I just wanted a little something… a pick me up, a “hi Mommy!” And what I got instead was what they refer to as a relapse in a twelve –step program.
Admitting my addiction had rendered me powerless (step 1)… I arrived in Los Angeles reciting the serenity prayer. I was feeling weak. So I decided to look to step two and search for a ‘power greater than myself to restore my sanity.’ I chose Target. And Bloomingdales. And Barneys. A calm came over me. Shopping not only helped me, but it also aided the devastated California economy. I was helping myself and Governor Schwarzenegger one retailer at a time! This twelve-step thing was so effective- I only needed two of them. Slowly I stopped obsessing about my kids and started thinking about me. “What did I want to eat tonight? What film did I want to see? Did I want to hike with a friend or do yoga?” I felt like me again. Without the Mommy part.
Turns out, the week apart was great for everyone. Oedi and his brother loved being waited on by their Italian grandparents, Marco got to see how difficult a job it is raising kids full time, and after I got off my mommy jag… I had a glorious week that was all about me. The best part (aside from In-n-Out Burger), was coming home to my three men and knowing that I could leave again without suffering from withdrawal. We all survived nicely.
For the sake of recovery… where can I escape to next?
*** And yesterday my friend Jen sent me this: http://www.slate.com/id/2274721/ Great minds think alike.