When the first of two alarms gently nudged me awake this morning, I took a moment to orient. Do you have any idea how long it's been since I've set an alarm clock? Hell, I don't even have one on my night table at home because I have two in the bedrooms next to mine; they are named Jack and Oliver. So to be awakened by a briiing into which I opted and to then have a leisurely amount of time to style my hair and get dressed thoughtfully to then have time to go out for breakfast and coffee before heading into the Library of Virginia to use my entire, or least what felt entire, brain for uninterrupted learning has felt like a dip in the lap of luxury. Let me simply say that I am happy to be here.
The day consisted of panel discussions about what editors want to see, how the best-written recipes are structured, ways in which we can all better manage social media and a tiny master class I registered for before it filled. I feel tired in a much different way that I usually do this time of day. Yes, the boys did just call me to mediate a situation from afar, but that was brief and distant. I'm tired in the way one is after focusing and contemplating and learning and networking, and that feels really good. And, I'm still a little bit high about the master class instructor, Todd Kliman (dining editor of The Washingtonian), saying about a couple sentences from my piece, "Damn that's good. Beautiful."
I think many stay-at-home parents desire and benefit from experiences like these, times where we take time and space for ourselves. When I hugged the boys goodbye yesterday afternoon, we all felt sad, and they asked why I was leaving. I said, "Sweeties, everyone deserves the opportunity to follow through on their passions, to take some time for themselves, learn something new, meet new people. I will miss you but I'm really excited about this chance, and it will be good for me."
As important as maintaining a sense of self distinct from Mom is modeling that for my children. I want them to see a woman who is a great mother, one who is loving and engaged and there for them every step of the way but who also prioritizes and takes care of herself. I want them to see that their father is fully on board with that, happy to support me and to make my short absence work. I want the boys to expect that their spouses will want to and should be supported in doing the same (if they so choose) and to know that pursuing education and personal fulfillment can be lifelong ventures that enrich them every step of the way.