Since we sold our house so quickly (predictable in our current real estate market), and since we don’t leave until July 17, we’ve had to make living arrangements for the next month. The beauty in the photo above has been our home for the past week, and will be so for the next two weeks, too. It belongs to my parents, which comes with the added benefit of being parked behind their house, with access to a real kitchen and bathroom, and getting to see them a bunch before we leave–some big benefits!
When I mentioned to a friend that we would be living in a tent trailer for a few weeks, her immediate reaction was to offer us beds and couches in her house. What my friend didn’t yet know is that this is just about the fanciest tent trailer ever made, or at least the fanciest one I’ve ever seen! It has a bathroom, shower, stove, oven, microwave, heater, and A/C. If that ain’t glamping, I don’t know what is! We’re not using most of those features, but there have been a few unseasonably cold nights, and I have to admit the heater has been really nice.
In other developments, the kids said good-bye to their neighborhood friends last week, who they played with constantly. The Entertainer is too young to have friends to miss, but Bird Nerd and The Boss have finally been coming to terms with the idea of leaving behind all of their friends. Add to that, the last day of school was yesterday, with plenty more good-byes there, and I think it’s starting to hit them. Bird Nerd’s been prone to bouts of unexplained moodiness, which isn’t terribly uncommon given that he turns 11 next week, but it seems to happen more intensely after we have an episode of good-byes. The Boss tends to be more in tune with what’s going on within herself, and can recognize her sadness for what it is, which is probably healthier for her, but makes me feel worse (enter parental guilt). It’s a good thing their dad is a therapist. For the kids, I mean. I don’t need a therapist. *cough, cough*
Family good-byes aren’t happening yet, since we’re currently living with one set of parents, and will be living with my mom for the 10 days right before we leave. There’s no sugarcoating or making light of how hard those are going to be. We are used to seeing grandmas and grandpas at least once every week, and there’s a part of me that is harboring some pretty intense guilt for taking my kids away from their grandparents, even temporarily. I hear from other traveling families that this is not uncommon. In fact, I heard an entire podcast by the women at Two Fat Expats dedicated to this guilt. They didn’t really offer up any answers, because I don’t think there are any, but it was nice to hear it verbalized, at least. If you’ve never checked out their podcast, it’s worth a listen even if just for the entertainment value.
As I was trying to “sit with” my guilt, a really fun thing I learned from being married to a therapist, it occurred to me that parents, particularly moms, will always find something, or usually, many somethings, to feel guilty about. I don’t know if this is a modern phenomenon, or something as old as parenting, but I suspect it’s more widespread than in times past. I’ve heard social media blamed for this a lot–the idea that we see everyone’s perfect moments and assume that their whole life is like that, while ours is shit by comparison–but I don’t really buy that. I think we’re smart enough to know that every life has beautiful moments and hard moments. Why don’t we post the hard stuff on Facebook? Because we’re too damn busy trying to survive those moments to snap a photo for Instagram! Anyone who’s had a toddler throwing a 40-minute tantrum in the toothbrush aisle knows the last thing you’re thinking about is taking a picture. You’re too busy desperately trying to calm the kid and ignore the judging stares and comments of other shoppers, all while knowing your efforts are completely in vain, and that the kid will calm down when they’re good and ready, and not one second before. Did I mention parental guilt yet?
I don’t have any suggestions for combatting parental guilt. I know it’s complete crap, so I basically try to ignore it (probably a healthy coping strategy). I expect mine will intensify here in the next several weeks as we say more good-byes, especially to family. But if my friend, Donna, can actively pretend we’re not leaving, I can pretend not to feel guilty. I’ll let you know how that works out.
While I’m floating a river in Egypt (you know…DeNile…denial…sorry, kinda), let’s hear your parental guilt stories. What do you feel guilty about? What do you do with your guilt?
Friend Don a here, the one who is actively ignoring the fact that you’re going to leave. I’m also an expert on parental guilt. I have nothing else. I just wanted you to know I feel guilty every second of every day.
I knew you’d understand. ❤️
I have to wonder if parental guilt stems from our pressure to have it all and do it all All.The.Time. conflicting with the ebb and flow that is Reality.
Maybe it’s combined with a desire to insulate our kids from heartache.
There’s got to be a gem in there somewhere about reframing it into moving some current good things aside to make room in our present for new good things to unfold. Or being able to help the kiddos learn to navigate their heartache and goodbye in a controlled environment rather than after something tragic or unexpected.
It doesn’t make guilt any less comfortable to sit with. Zen practice might indicate that this guilt is attachment to the past and projecting or to control the future. How can you bring your focus to the beauty that is the present?
Most of my best adventures are more memorable when there was an element of adversity. We tend not to remember the moments that were easy because we didn’t grow from them.
…These are the things that I tell myself, anyway. Maybe my delusion will be helpful to yours!
LikeLiked by 1 person
T, thanks for such a thoughtful response! I don’t think my family suffers from the drive to have and do it all, thankfully. If anything, I err too far the other direction, not working hard enough to make time for people in my life. I tend to feel overwhelmed when I have too many things scheduled, and when combined with my introvertedness, can lead me into accidental isolation. This is when it’s helpful to have an extrovert spouse, as I do, who encourages me not to cancel plans and to get out more.
I love your thoughts on helping kids navigate heartache outside of tragedy. That’s a great reframe, and I see the value in that! I am definitely a believer in growth through adversity, as I have experienced the most growth in those times, as well. It didn’t make those periods of life not suck, but I am a stronger and more compassionate person for experiencing them.
I know we are doing the right thing for us, and even though that doesn’t make the guilt go away, writing and talking about it does diminish it. Thanks for being part of the discussion!