This picture will forever make me laugh. It was taken two years ago, on a crazy-long (over 24 hours) trip back to the US. It was our yearly winter visit, and for some reason everything on this trip went wrong: flat tires, delayed flights, missed flights, you name it. But what’s so funny about this picture (besides my sad/disgusted/hilarious expression) is that my then-20-month-old daughter is sleeping soundly under the airport chairs.
Yep. Her sweet, healthy, clean little body is laying on the floor under the nasty, dirty, I-don’t-even-want-to-know-what’s-under-there, airport waiting chairs. I remember resorting to this after she had been awake for some ridiculous number of hours, and this was the only way we could make a dark enough environment for her to fall asleep.
I laugh because this picture captures what travel seems to do to our family. For some reason, time stops, reality stops, and a strange survival mentality of ‘anything goes’ starts to emerge. By around hour eighteen I find myself saying things like, “sure honey, go ahead and eat the raisin that dropped on the airplane floor, that’s fine” or “just let her sleep on the floor” or “I say we buy one of those oversized M&Ms bags for $20 and eat it in one sitting.” Gross, right? I’m actually a very clean and organized mom, but for some reason when the stresses of travel start to wear on me, I seem to slip into a strange ‘anything goes’ mode.
Have you ever felt like this? A season where time just stops and it seems your idea of ‘normal’ life is on hold?
I remember reading an article on the pressures of a being a ‘caregiver’ to someone, either as a family member or as a career. What struck me about the article was that the best caregivers were the ones who don’t put their own lives on hold in order to care for the life of the other. It’s one thing (and such a incredible sacrifice) to give up everything for a sick family member and become their carer every waking moment. But I suppose it’s another thing (and incredibly hard) to care for someone constantly, while at the same time trying to maintain a healthy sense of one’s own life as well. I think I face the second kind of struggle with parenting. And similarly, I’m convinced that I’m a better mother to my daughter when I set aside time to take care of myself, or to be involved in areas of interest outside our family circle –basically, when I don’t wear my ‘mom hat’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I feel like we’ve touched on this topic on TGW a few times, but as the new term is kicking off and we have some new readers, I just want to encourage you not to let time stop while your spouse or partner is in graduate school. It’s a strange, isolating, and sometimes confusing time, but don’t give up your entire life in supporting your partner in his or hers. If you’ve made career sacrifices by moving to a new place, start work as soon as you are able, or volunteer or take some classes on a new or old hobby. Over and again, people have shared with me that a part of their dreams died when they signed on to be a supporter through grad school for their significant other. Don’t do it! Let the dreams take new shapes and avenues, but don’t let them die, and don’t put them on hold too long.
And don’t ever buy the $20 bag of M&Ms – it’s so not worth it! :)