• Laura

A Year Abroad Side Effect: We're Stay at Home Parents (Weeks 23-24 Recap, March 4, March 11, 2019)

I write this as I’m doing something I’ve done only a few times before: leaving WP overnight. I did it first when she was four months old, and I have to say I enjoyed it. I was sick of waking up all night, sick of breastfeeding all the time (though pumping wasn’t much better), and sick of being cried at. I was headed to a conference that a bunch of my work-friend-support-network folks would be at. I had a prominent speaking role. I was reasserting my independence and identity.

The second time I left WP overnight was just a couple months ago, right after she turned one. I spent two nights in a hotel with two girlfriends from college. When we planned the trip, I was still breastfeeding once a day, and I didn’t bring the pump on this trip (see my post on packing “light”), so I felt kinda awkward about this forced weening so I could get an uninterrupted mani-pedi, but in the end WP self-weened a few weeks before, erasing the conflict.

The separation was more meaningful because WP was older and understood the concept of me as her mother distinct from my boobs. But it was still only two nights, and we’d be just a short cab ride away, one side of London to the other.

This time is different. I’ve left the country. Mike and WP (and Mike’s mom – hooray!) are in Marrakech, and I’m en route to Zurich for a very annoying overnight layover en route to Washington, DC. I’m going for a speaking gig that I’m looking forward to but that I might not have accepted if I realized I’d still be in Morocco at the time, since it means 48 hours of travel for 48 hours on the ground. But I get to see my 95-year-old grandmother and a bunch of friends, plus I am building my post-Code2040 corporate speaking repertoire, so I’m looking on the bright side.

But it feels weird to be flying away from WP when we normally spend nearly every waking hour together. I marvel at the fact that if we hadn’t decided to take this trip – which Mike and I chose to do for completely self-indulgent reasons, with WP simply along for the ride – I’d be away from her for 60+ hours per week every week minus family vacations.

Instead, our schedule in Marrakech has developed its own easy routine. Each morning we wake up around 8am, bring WP from her room into ours to play, get dressed, and have breakfast all together around 9am. We go out for two hours – a museum, a walk, shopping, sightseeing – then we come back by noon. WP eats lunch while one or both of us sits with her, then goes down for a nap. I work. Mike and I eat together around 2pm. I work some more. WP wakes up around 3pm, and we go on another excursion, or up to the terrace to play. Perhaps we leave her with the housekeeper for a couple hours to do something on our own. But we're back by 5pm. We have dinner together around 7pm. She goes to sleep at 8pm. I work, or read, or we watch a bit of TV. Bed around 11pm. Repeat.

We spend almost all her waking hours with her, at least one of us. It’s been this weird side effect of this trip that we are basically stay at home parents. We fret about WP not getting enough time with kids her age, but we’re so aware of how privileged we are to watch her development and how privileged she is to get our attention (plus that of our housekeeper, visitors, babysitters, and myriad waiters and shopkeepers).

The other day I was out and didn’t see WP from 12pm one day til she woke up the following morning. It was strange. As I prepared mentally for this trip, where I’ll be gone Monday afternoon til Friday late morning, I remind myself that is is TYPICAL. That the intense time we spend together, though I enjoy it (mostly), is never what I expected or intended when I became a mother.

And I’m completely sure that if I had stayed in my last role, or jumped to a new one, I’d have been on several business trips before this one, and have spent multiple nights away from WP.

So put all in perspective, this trip is not a big deal. But it still feels weird. And it’s the weirdness that is unsettling – because this won’t be weird in a few months when we’re back in the US, with jobs, and regular lives. Have we spoiled ourselves beyond redeem in some way with this chance to spend so much time together as a family?

Not that it’s universally amazing to spend all your time with the same two people, one of whom can’t talk much. But it’s an extreme that highlights the opposite extreme of how divergent our lives tend to be in a given day from our loved ones. Which is not a bad thing, it’s just really different than our experience right now.

So those are my recent musings in Marrakech. I’m really looking forward to getting back. I miss the sun, the food, Mike, WP, and I can’t wait to spend time with Mike’s mom and then my parents who come next week. It’s our last stretch in Morocco and while we haven’t made any concrete plans yet (nothing is booked past April 1!) we’re thinking we will head over to Spain…

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