This Sunday, I am leaving my child.
I will travel nearly two thousand miles from Houston to L.A. for a week-long writers’ conference.
Though I am honored beyond belief to have been accepted into this year’s Lambda Literary Foundation retreat, I am torn: The writer in me is excited, thrilled, really, at the opportunity I’ve been awarded; the mother in me, which encompasses ALL of me, really, is heartbroken.
The writer in me yearns for the constructive feedback of fellow scribes and jumps at the chance to hone my craft, a craft long-neglected in favor of earning money through more lucrative means. Spending more than twenty minutes at a time immersed in and singularly focused on creating my own work is a luxury I ceased to enjoy when my daughter, Alina, arrived three years ago. I am– dare I admit it?– selfishly anticipating this unfettered artist’s time, shamefully but secretly joyous at the prospect of one week sans client demands, proposal submissions, housecleaning, and, mostly, embarrassingly, caregiving. I’ll write, eat, talk, sleep, and drive … without interruption. This is, after all, a week for me.
Yet the mother in me immediately saddened when I read my acceptance e-mail; my celebration was tempered by tears in a truly maddening confluence of mixed emotions. Honestly, I never thought I’d get in. But once I did, my mind erupted. How, I wondered, could I survive a week without my baby? Without her starfish hands, princess costumes, sweetly uttered manners (“Thank you, Mama. I love you”, she says when I hand her a cup)? Without her daredevil monkey climbing, devil-may-care dancing, and sticky ketchup kisses? How?
Our financial circumstances are such that I have to attend this conference alone. No traveling au pair or well-meaning family member here. And, truth be told, my partner and I are scrimping just to afford my portion of this trip. Though this separation will be among the most emotionally difficult periods I’ve yet to endure, both the writer and mother in me agree that this conference is a door-opening opportunity that can only serve to benefit my professional– and therefore– personal and family situations. At least, on that we agree.
And at the risk of sounding whiny, I do realize that scores of other parents are separated from their children, often for much longer periods. Military parents are the noblest examples of this; they must, I am convinced, possess some kind of amazing fortitude. I know my daughter will be in the most capable of hands during my absence, those of her other mother’s and her grandparents’. I know she will be fine and that she will not (I hope) sustain any long-term emotional scarring. (Of course, the irrational worrywart in me fears a manifestation of abandonment issues and immediately pictured a grown-up Alina lying on some shrink’s couch, spending thousands on therapy, the moment I knew I was leaving!) I know that my darling partner, whom I’ll also terribly miss, will ease our daughters’ fears and sail beautifully through the week even as she juggles home, family, and work alone. I know I have nothing to fear.
Except– I already miss my baby.
How on Earth do parents do this?
by Elisa Garcia