I like business trips, in theory. What I mean by that is that I like the idea of them. I like them until they’re actually happening. And then, when I’m in the car or on the train or boarding the plane, I want nothing more than to be back at home. I actually tend to get choked up, and I have to suppress an urge to turn the car around or run for the exit.
I drove ten and a half hours from Memphis to Grand Rapids Sunday, and as I was crossing the Mississippi River into Arkansas to begin the long trek northward, I got a huge lump in my throat. I thought, “If I turned around now, I could be back home in 30 minutes.” And oh, I wanted so badly to do just that. I gripped the steering wheel like I was warding off an anxiety attack.
But I didn’t turn around. I took a deep breath and quelled my aching heart and kept going, because I’d planned this trip months ago, and my presence was expected. And I have to travel for work. It’s part of my work-from-home deal; I have to spend a week in my Grand Rapids office every quarter, and it’s a positive thing in many ways. It’s good for my collegial relationships; it’s good for me. Plus, I love our Michigan hometown. I love the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to visit the local haunts I love.
I just hate leaving my people behind.
I hate knowing that L misses her mama. I hate leaving E with all the parenting responsibility. I feel pulled between job and family in a way that I usually don’t. No matter when I travel, there is always something going on that I’m missing out on, or that I feel I’m neglecting.
The weekend before last, L had her tonsils removed, which required an overnight stay in the hospital – traumatic for her, exhausting for me. She’s still on soft foods, and the scabs in the back of her throat haven’t yet fallen off. As well, she’s suddenly experiencing night terrors, which are not uncommon but are definitely unsettling. On top of that, E hasn’t been feeling 100 percent – he seems to be fighting off some kind of bug. Leaving him to deal with the aftermath of surgery and the freshest phase of toddler hell on his own made me feel terrible. Last night on the phone, I found myself apologizing all over the place. I felt sick about not being there.
“It’s okay,” E said reassuringly. “I’ve got it covered.”
And you know what? He does. My husband is perfectly capable of managing our daughter and taking care of himself for a few days while I take care of our family by fulfilling a travel expectation. But while I know this cerebrally, it’s still hard to accept emotionally.
I think we working moms often wrestle with the notion that working, whether inside or outside the home, is a perfectly valid way of caring for our families. It counts as much as making meals and doing laundry and supervising baths, because it helps pay for the food and the clothes and the hot water and all the other things our families need. But it’s hard for us to really believe that.
Yes, working (and traveling for work) means there are some sacrifices. The kitchen isn’t always perfect. The laundry piles up. I’m not always the one supervising bath time. And sometimes, I miss out altogether.
After talking to E on Sunday, I was agonizing to God about not being home, not being there to comfort L in the night, to make sure E gets some extra rest, to cook dinner and keep the laundry caught up and…
You don’t have to be everything all the time, I heard God say quietly.
And it’s true – I generally do think I have to be everything all the time. But the truth is that whether I’m home or not, I am never successful at being everything. And I don’t have to be. It is okay for me to be imperfect at balancing work and home and marriage and motherhood. And it is okay for me to leave for a few days to work without feeling guilty or anxious.
Because not only does my husband have it covered, God has it covered.
God is the one who loves my family more than I do. I can rely on Him. He won’t let me down.
So this week, I’m working on breathing deeply, on releasing my people to the Lord, on giving myself permission to not be everything all the time.
What about you? Do you give yourself permission to not be everything all the time?